Natalie
Monday June 12th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Mathias modeling his second hat–he’s outgrown the first already.

A young mom I am very fond of is moving away and I very much regret that she is.  Even if I’m happy for her that getting out of our expensive area means that she and her husband will be able to buy their first house for their boys to grow up in.

So there was this cowl…

But I just wasn’t sure about the color. I dithered. I thought about it. At last, I stuffed a half a dozen other possibilities from my stash of finisheds into a ziplock and managed to stuff that into my purse, pleading for help first to G_d before I did that and then to her because *I* couldn’t decide: I asked her to pick one. Including maybe this cashmere one I’d just started.

You know, usually I like to be able to say I made this just for you. But I was just completely helpless this time.

She laughed and chose one (which was not the one I’d just finished) and for her, seeing lots of pretty things and being allowed to pick one out, of being offered that choice–this time, that was what was perfect, and had I known that beforehand I wouldn’t have sweated over it quite so much. Laceweight strands of baby alpaca/silk and of cashmere/silk knitted together in a cheerful blue–it was for her all along, now.

It was just a cowl. And it was everything, all at the same time. She confessed that she hadn’t ever been going to say such a thing, but, she’d really wished she had a knitting memento from me to take with her to her new life. A reminder of that talk I’d given in church a few weeks ago, too. And now she had one! She was so thrilled.

In that talk I had told a story of how knitting someone something had made all the difference both to them and to me.

You know what? I need to knit more.



64F max
Saturday June 10th 2017, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Tomorrow will be a break out the wool sweaters day.

Which also means I can offer a particular someone at church a handknit cowl and it won’t be ridiculous in the heat. And if they come dressed for June rather than the weather report, they’re probably going to really really want that cowl just then.

And so I wove the ends in in happy anticipation.



With a warmth like the musk ox itself
Friday June 09th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Wildlife

The adult Cooper’s hawk stood on the telephone wires just past the fence line. An hour earlier right there at the awning it had flinched in flight at my standing up, both of us realizing a moment late that the other was there. I sat down again as it did an extra little half-loop in surprise before landing but then it took off over the house and away. (Sorry…)

This time I felt a bit watched, looked up, and held still, quietly loving it for being there where I could see it. What a beautiful bird. I blinked repeatedly so it wouldn’t consider me a predator nor threat.

Becoming confident over several minutes in its ownership of that piece of the sky, comfortable with me now, it reached down and preened an itchy feather from its chest, allowing itself to be briefly vulnerable in a way that conveyed that all was right in its world.

Meantime, I’d like to share this postcard. I left the receipt for the headband from Oomingmak with my daughter, so I’m not sure if the person who signed the letter was the artist who’d knitted it or someone at the co-op headquarters in Anchorage, but either way, I’m quite charmed.

She made the knitting personal, and that, not to mention the qiviut, is knitting at its best.



Blink and you’ll miss it
Thursday June 08th 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Politics,Wildlife

While I watched the Comey hearing…(full YouTube video.) There is nothing like observing their faces along with their words and intonations. (What on earth was Cornyn doing with his hands the whole time he was talking?) I kept half-hoping someone would call John McCain an ambulance–he   s  p  o  k  e    in slow motion, made no sense, (the ex-FBI chief is not addressed as President) and looked like he was having a serious medical event like a transient ischemic attack or a diabetic crash.

So. Five (!) hawk sightings today, including one I got to see coming straight towards me, its neck not so white, its chest solid and buff: an adult.

However many there are in its young family, it rules, and the crows and ravens have disappeared from my end of the block as of late.

What’s completely new is a mockingbird that has suddenly decided that the larger scrub jay has no right to my back yard–and the surprise that the bossy overdressed blue corvid loses every time. After being the bully of the bird feeder forever, threatening the songbirds while stealing far more than it needs to or even can eat, it was quite surprised at getting its comeuppance and having to run for it, not casually but for real, with the smaller mocker twirling around in serious chase above the elephant ears. Not learning a thing, the jay had to dash for cover again and again, the other right at its back. A brilliantly-colored tanager on the other side of the fence took courage for the first time and gave it its own “And STAY out!” over there.

Tempted to name the mocker Comey.

Meantime, two days ago when the sun was safely low–the lupus/UV exposure thing–I knocked on the door of the little kids across the street so they could get a chance to come see the doves in the nest. I was sure if we waited a few more days the fledging would be over and I remember how much my kids loved to be lifted up to see the baby birds back in the day.

But the family was probably out in the back yard and didn’t hear me.

Yesterday we had those two doves side-by-side up there, the one no longer attempting to hide from me under momma’s wing, but again no one was home across the street till the sun had sunk altogether.

Today there was no one home on top of that ladder and no dove in sight.

Oh well. Next year.

I looked again shortly after, though, and there the two were, fluttering upwards in no particular alarm at my coming around the corner, rather as a matter of teaching the young What One Does while telling each other about me. (Old enough to fly: check. Good.) One stayed in sight about six feet past the young pear tree and I took its graduation portrait.

And when I blinked, like all good mourning doves it felt compelled to blink back. It’s one of the most charming things about them.



New kid on the block
Wednesday June 07th 2017, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Four, count’em four fly-bys in front of or around the patio, the last one finally snagging a snack. I didn’t ever quite see it head-on and I’m not even sure they were all the same one. But I think the one that got the finch at the fourth go-round had some brown in his upper chest. His neck was definitely a brighter white than our previous Cooper’s hawks–I’d guess those are fresh feathers.

Such a chest would make it a juvenile, and a fairly newly fledged one at this time of year. Cool!

It hunted like it, too. I watched it, thinking, nah, you gave that thing a huge head start, you’re not going to get that one. It didn’t.

It did not find the two doves I’ve been watching nesting under the eaves on the other side of the house and I’m okay with that.

Immediately after I snapped this it took off with its finch at foot. One does not eat where the ravens can see and steal from you (hoping it wasn’t the movements re the camera that scared it off, but if so it’ll learn to mostly ignore that.)

And so the new season begins.

 



Blessed are the peacemakers
Tuesday June 06th 2017, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Politics,Wildlife

Two in sight, for the first time! (Wikipedia on mourning doves, here.) You can only see the two of them from this angle; the smaller one disappears from view in walking around to the other side (where there isn’t anything to step higher onto.)

Meantime…

I thought the concept of the collegiality of the Senate had gone extinct in the last ten years.

But here’s Al Franken, championing that phrase and the whole idea of it, reclaiming it for our common good. In trying to explain it to Trevor Noah as a real thing, he offers an example just past the 15 minute mark of being friends to and befriended in a big way by one’s political opposites.

The wife of then-Senator Jeff Sessions, whose nomination for Attorney General Franken voted against, had knitted a baby blanket for Franken’s new grandchild. He marveled at it: a baby blanket! It was clear he got what a labor of love that was, and he held up the thought to the whole world as an example of how it could be. It had taken time, it had taken thought, it had taken work, though he didn’t quite spell that out in long form.

A baby blanket as a symbol of peace. I’m sure the doves won’t mind having company.



Took him by surprise
Monday June 05th 2017, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I came around the corner. Perfect raspberries, a few thin slices of banana, low-fat vanilla ice cream (so we don’t feel guilty), thick caramel sauce (so we do) and as I handed him his perfect Mel-and-Kris bowl made all the more so his eyes got big. He had not heard me in the kitchen.

And a bowl for me.

No camera was able to race there in time.



Fork it over
Sunday June 04th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Tortes: two delivered and still waiting on the third.

One couple surprised me when I showed up. They’d brought me back these large wooden salad spoon and fork from a trip to Bali. (That is not a small serving bowl.) Beautiful, handcrafted, and absolutely unexpected.

Y’know, it had been bugging me for some time that I hadn’t yet gotten around to knitting anything for her, enough so that I’d already ordered what I think would be just the right yarn. And it’s here now. So let me go fix that.



It all ovens out
Saturday June 03rd 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

(Note to self: do not snitch the random bits of cherry goodness in the middle of the pan when taking the picture unless you smooth over the evidence first.)

So in the last few days I’ve made a cherry pie–and if you don’t have one, get this. Seriously. It’s fast and they come out pretty. Never again hassle with a knife to try to pry those stones out–not to mention the little-kid satisfaction of Hulk! Smash! I don’t love throwing a bunch of dumb kitchen gadgets in every drawer but I can’t praise my cherry pitter enough.

Well maybe sort of I could. To explain: I got the four-cherry version, but six would have been even better, both the number and the fact that a year later I forgot mine only does four, not eight, that the holds-eight base is that way because it’s supposed to flip around to accommodate small vs big cherries. Thus, even though I thought I double-checked every one after I realized my mistake, I missed a pit from the back that Richard found in his first bite of pie. Oops. There are only four pitting rods. I think I will circle the 4 on the box in thick black Sharpie for next year, loudly. (Edit–done.)

And I baked four chocolate tortes and a chocolate hazelnut torte.

I tried something new and it really did work: probably not for a cheesecake, but for a torte, lining the nonstick pan with (buttered) parchment paper that has handles meant I could pull gently on the tabs, then put a (Chinet in this case) plate over the cooled torte, flip it over, peel the tabs away and then the main part and it did the job of a springform pan without the leaks and with a perfectly formed lower (now upper) edge. This parchment paper. These pans. I’ve tried them all and those are definitely the keepers on all counts.

I’d promised a torte to each friend who gave us a ride to or from the airport in the past month. All of them said I didn’t need to. None of them complained when I said I was going to anyway, and I ordered the manufacturing cream to have it ready for pick up the day we got home. (Was that really only Monday?)

Phyllis and her husband said Yes please! when I asked last night if I could drop theirs by.

Jen said she’d be by Sunday for hers.

Karen’s is in the fridge, too.

Kim…got back to me. She has a relative coming into town Sunday who was celiac; was it gluten free?

Hers is now. She assured me her visitor wouldn’t mind if they ate in front of her, but I figure I’m doing this to make people feel good, not to feel left out; after getting the okay, hazelnut (recipe in link) it was.

So suddenly I had an extra. And now I know that if you fold in the sides of the Chinet plate Kim’s first 8″ torte was on, you can slide it into a ziplock gallon size freezer bag for future reference.

Meantime, I’ve still got enough manufacturing cream for two more tortes with all the leftovers after that for summer fruits that we could ask for. Somebody else needs to be made happy here. We’re not done yet.



Amazing grace
Friday June 02nd 2017, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

When did that happen!? How did I not see it?! How did I miss it! I’m…

Well, at a loss is not exactly the right phrase for it.

It was clear to me that I needed a new glasses prescription. I finally went in today. Given my history, the optometrist at the clinic had the backs of my eyes photographed, ready to refer me to the retina specialist like last time. (Or rather, since that guy just retired, whoever his replacement was.)

The retina guy had told me that I didn’t need surgery on that vitreomacular traction yet and that it would likely be awhile.

Just like my early cataracts. Just like my corneas that will someday need replacing. Are you keeping count? That’s six eye surgeries in my future, three for each eye, the first involving a needle through it.

What the VMT did was make any straight lines that are more than a few feet from my face have a funky squiggle in the middle. The letters in a road sign danced–in their proper order but at slash-mark angles leaning towards or away from each other. Did that car in front of me have a dent in the center of its bumper that made the light reflect strangely off it, or was it my eyes? Who could tell? I’d have to get up close to make it hold still. And yet overall my vision was as good as always.

I’m going to chalk it up to seeing Mathias and his parents and Alaska. After we got home from that trip I noticed that the never-ending headache I’d had since my head injury in December had finally, finally gone away.

Okay, back to the eyes. To quote the site:

“Metamorphopsia, when vision is distorted to make a grid of straight lines appear wavy or blank

Some of these symptoms can be mild and develop slowly; however, chronic tractional effects can lead to continued visual loss if left untreated. In some cases, a distortion of a visual picture could be experienced without necessarily having a reduction in sharpness of vision.”

Yup on that last bit.

Now, this part:

“Some cases of VMT may spontaneously resolve.”

Nobody, as far as I heard, had told me that was even remotely a possibility.

As I boggled, the optometrist showed me the back-of-the-eye photos from 21 months ago and today. See this? This one, though. That dip there. That’s normal.

How could….! Well, COOL!!!

Some part of my brain had been trying to get it through my thick skull but I guess it had just been too gradual a process: and now all the way home, I verified it again and again and again. Those squiggles really were gone. Had been gone. I’m crediting getting to see my newborn grandson who arrived safely after such great risk as the reason because, hey, why not? As if all that joy concentrated all of everybody’s prayers for everybody somehow. Whatever, however, I’ll take it.

Anybody who’s had a relapsing/remitting disease understands me when I say this: normal is so normal that even after the extremity we don’t notice the abnormality of the fact that the normal is actually back now. It’s just there, taken for granted like it always was before.

It still boggles me that it’s over. It still boggles me that I didn’t know that it was.

I once was blind, but now I see.



I just need a few more days here
Thursday June 01st 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Looking over at the sour cherry tree, when, Wait–those branches shouldn’t be wiggling when the wind isn’t blowing–Hey! (A sudden scramble of black fur.) OUT!

The birdnetting tent wasn’t enough. So I leaned old metal racks around it and bird spikes, with frost covers stuffing the spaces between and then spritzed the covers in grape Koolaid solution, aiming a bit at each fruit, too, as best I could. With apologies to the birds, whose lungs are irritated by the stuff, but the squirrels don’t like it any more than they do. I don’t mind feeding songbirds. I do mind destructive rampaging that leaves the crop (such as it is on my little tree) on the ground, wrecked and spat out.

Grape and only grape works.

And at that the squirrels’ search for a way in became fruitless.

(Edited the next day to add, well, that didn’t work–those cherries were ripe and they wanted in enough in the morning. So I uncovered the whole thing in the morning and picked all that was left. A pie just came out of the oven (multi-pitter, here.)



Still enough left to make pie
Wednesday May 31st 2017, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Michelle had to fly into town for a work meeting today. She came early and spent the night here–and in the morning surprised me with the news that she had just called Mariani’s and they opened at ten: we could get her to her meeting in San Mateo on time if we hurried. We could do it. You want to go?

A mini-road trip to Andy’s with my daughter for old times’ sake? For fresh-picked cherries? Is this a trick question?!

Typing this as Richard reaches for another one…



The main dish
Tuesday May 30th 2017, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

That early stage when a project feels like it’ll never get done. When I know I just have to do one more hour’s worth of work and then it’ll totally take off. (If I could see from here who it’s to be for I would have whizzed through so fast from the get-go.)

Meantime, I wonder this every spring: I know that growing young and lactating squirrels seek out sources of calcium then.

But why are they so fixated on eating this part of this broom that they will absolutely pulse with chewy fervor as if they were digging into hardpack clay to store a nut for the winter–even in the face of my opening the door and walking towards them? They make a break for it at the very last (like this one did), reluctant to let go and clearly not wanting some other squirrel to take their place on the comeback. They have even fought over access to it, and territorial squirrel fights, not chases but actual yin-and-yang-look rolling-hairball fights, are (at least in my observations) rare and leave the vanquished marked to its peers as such by a bitten-off ear tip.

The rubber part of that push broom is looking pretty sad. So is that ear.

Pica? (Wikipedia entry.)



Memorial Day weekend
Monday May 29th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Richard’s sister’s daughter’s wedding was wonderful: the bride and groom were as happy as one could ever hope for and they are clearly a great match.

Turns out a lifelong friend who was more like family to the groom’s father was a second cousin of my dad’s, and there was this instant sense of belonging.

Photos: my father-in-law surrounded by all his great-grands (with two mothers holding them) except Mathias, who is too young to travel. (Maddy, Kim, Parker and Hudson are to his left.)

My Mom and Dad.

Two of my sisters have in the last year moved within an hour of the folks and we had mini reunions going on on my side as time allowed.

Nash got his stocking hand-delivered and I got to see how much it meant to him and to his mom, my cousin. To say he loved it does not begin to tell it. He just kind of glowed the whole time.

Every teenager needs someone who is not their parent who thinks the world of them–someone who doesn’t have to but just does. I remembered the people I owed much to from my own teens as we were winding through the hills towards their house.

And in between, our daily dose of baby pictures came in and got shared around.

We arrived home in the early afternoon and as I was trying to catch up on five days’ worth of email, there was a new one: after we’d left for the airport, Mom had taken a walk and had fallen, broken a tooth, loosened another and split her lip. Ouch!

Two random men in the right place happened to see her and rushed to her aid, and whoever they are they have my deep gratitude. And to Mom’s neighbor who took her in to be seen.

The note from Dad said that the urgent care folks had said Mom was not to smile nor laugh for a few days.

My mother. Not laughing. Not smiling. Good luck with that.



Parker
Saturday May 27th 2017, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Parker gently took my hand, not pulling me away from the grownup discussion but more as a request.

Sure!

He took me to the next room over to where there was a couch where we could look out the window and straight down all eleven floors. (Me at age six, I would have freaked. It didn’t seem to occur to him to flinch.)

Gramma, he asked. I want to see the falcons. Show me the falcons.

I had seen a peregrine fly below on Thursday but by the time my dad had stood up to see it was gone. There are signs down the block warning drivers to be ready to brake for them.

Well, I told him, I only saw it that one time here; I don’t know when it will fly by again.

That was okay. Where do they live, what do they eat, how fast can they go. He knew they go really fast.

I wasn’t sure how he would take the news that they eat pigeons and was a bit relieved that it seemed to be an okay part of nature to him He wanted to learn everything he could about them from me and I was so glad I’d let him bring me over to where we could look for them together and where he had my undivided attention, just the two of us.

I don’t know if he’ll remember those moments, but I know I will.