Mango gardening in January
Thursday January 04th 2018, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree

Since I’m told Alphonso mangos take about six months to grow and ripen in June, seems to me our four-year-old tree has finally grown enough to be settled in on schedule.

I had wondered whether the beehive across the fence would take a winter break, but look at that center picture–clearly things are working.

This time it’s old enough to hold onto those beginning fruits, if we can just keep it consistently warm. We lost last year’s small crop by traveling in April and leaving it uncovered at night, but now I’ve got Eli to help and clearly he did a great job while we were away in November and December.

There are more flower clusters under those leaves.

Heavenly perfume or no, the squirrels still smell the latex in the sap and walk in a comical half-circle to go around it beyond its drip line (the line one would draw straight down from the outermost leaves), and always have.

So far.

One half inch less of drought
Wednesday January 03rd 2018, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I know the rest of the country is worrying about record cold and snow (stay safe, y’all!), but over here, our half inch of rain today and more in the forecast after an exceedingly and worryingly dry December is our big news.

I watched a young squirrel on the fence, head low, looking miserable: it stood there staring, as if trying to figure out how on earth it was getting soaked and what it should do about it. (Well, you know, you could climb the toyon and get some leaves between you and that water. It’s coming from above you. You did notice that didn’t you?) It finally leaped into the air with a slow-wiggle-twist nose-to-tail, and with all four feet airborne still going straight up, at the last did the sharp doggy shake. And stuck the landing.

And the Olympics judges go wild! 9.4!

Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Politics

So the new tax bill was written to deliberately mess over the states that lean Democrat. Particularly California and New York.

We have an ambitious politician here who’s challenging Diane Feinstein’s Senate seat who just came up with an answer to that: we can’t deduct state taxes now? Fine–what if we offer opting out of paying state taxes. Charitable contributions are still deductible, we’ll just set this up so… Quote: “Our hard-earned tax dollars should not be subject to double-taxation, especially not to line the pockets of the Trump family, hedge fund managers and private jet owners.” Alright then, he says. We’ll just finish writing up this bill, and then, you can donate to a state fund instead. We’ll make the contribution to the state funds 100% deductible on your state taxes–which means you can deduct it from your Federal.

Which will mess up their numbers. So sad.

Well, at least one of them did the right thing
Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I’m spoiled. I’m used to Southwest, which doesn’t charge change fees, doesn’t charge for two bags, and if you have to cancel a flight right up to the beginning of boarding time they’ll let you apply the funds to another flight within the year. (If you want full refundability, you have to pay top price upfront on the flight, but you can do that.) The people who work for them are better treated than some in the industry, and it shows.

Alaska Airlines is also a pretty happy group to fly with, and if you get their credit card they’ll waive the $25 fee on that first bag and at the moment offer you a BOGO on a flight. Cool.

But if you want to be able to avoid large change fees or cancel your flight with them and get a refund you need to pay an outside company that they contract with for flight insurance.

Maybe one answer to today’s experience is, don’t ask a question on a major holiday, but…

A month ago we asked my sister-in-law when she was going to need to be out of town so we could plan ahead to cover for her on taking care of DadH. March? Booked, done, thanks, we’re coming, enjoy your trip.

I contacted that secondary company and explained why we could no longer go to see my father-in-law.

They emailed back that we could only cancel and be reimbursed if there were an emergency from their restricted, specified list, which she did not give me, and she offered her condolences but implied we were not eligible.

My jaw hit the floor. Death?! Is not considered an emergency re the trip?! I could see my husband again, phone in hand, worried over what he’d just heard as his dad gave out on him, dialing his brother to find out what was going on and to make sure his brother knew something was wrong right now, wishing he were there himself so he could do something. Thanks, customer rep, it was emergency enough for us.

Their last paragraph, they told me to contact Alaska. Uh, yes. Most definitely.

The airline guy said okay: we need a form from the funeral home and then for you to call us back after you have it; I have a note on your file now, and they will let you reapply those funds to any travel within the year after you do so. I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

(They were doing what they should do. Good.) I thanked him, relieved to be working with a decent human being who cared.

It sounded like he was required as part of his job to ask me this next, given the wince in his voice with: Was I sure I didn’t want to fly to Ft. Worth in March?

Sir, he’s gone…

I’m so sorry…

But that flight insurer. I’d always checked that expensive box on Alaska Airline’s website the three times I’ve flown with them, because autoimmune flares can squirrelize any plan. I think we’re done.

Continuing resolution
Sunday December 31st 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Someone playing with his best friend…

And two hats that need to go in the mail in the morning, Malabrigo Mecha on the left and baby alpaca on the right, a little extended Christmas in a box (after I run those ends in).

Assuming I don’t come down with the flu like my sweetie did Friday morning (yes, that morning, after the travel and exposure and the stress and the worry and the late-night messages.)  And if I do, well, those hats will get out there in their own good time, then, but I think I simply need a good night’s sleep.

Meantime, a Happy New Year to all, and may 2018 brighten our hopes and strengthen our compassion.


We were not ready. But he was.
Saturday December 30th 2017, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Photo: my father-in-law at his granddaughter’s wedding last summer.

Now that the grandson in Chile has gotten the word I can share the story.

Christmas day, my husband called his father across the country to wish him a merry one. As one does. To his great surprise, his dad was only able to get out a few sentences and then gave out and ended the call.


Richard immediately called his brother, whom Dad was staying with for the holiday, and it turned out he’d been trying to talk Dad into going to the ER. But that was the last place Dad wanted to spend Christmas in.

The next day he simply took him in.

There was some hope of recovery that first day and maybe even the next, and Richard wanted his father to be allowed to make the decision whether he wanted him to fly in to see him in that condition: autonomy is a thing too easily taken away from the elderly. I wanted to book the ticket like right now and he wanted to honor his dad’s wishes whatever they might be and we both struggled over which was the most right way to look at the situation when, as the far-away kids, we knew the least.

You know when the phone rings at 2 a.m. your sister-in-law’s time it was not good news. But he was still with us.

Meantime, I confessed my dilemma to the good woman at University Electric that afternoon as she wrote up the sale and she moved us up in the queue and got that washing machine delivered the next day. (I went back today to buy an extended warranty and so I could tell her in person what a great job her installer had done. She was very happy and proud of him to hear that–but, she wanted to know, how was my father-in-law?)

Oh honey. Thank you. But…

Richard’s sister had called again in the dark hours our time yesterday morning: Dad had slipped away.

He had missed his wife. He had missed his daughter who died of cancer at 48. He was a good man and a funny man and I will forever remember as a kid asking my mom what that word meant when my father declared of his old friend, “He’s the most gregarious man I know!” (The most like Greg? Greg who?)

While Dad seemed past the point of being able to respond, his son-in-law at his bedside named each of Dad’s children and grandchildren by name and told him they loved him.

Spencer told us that when he said Mathias’s name, for the first time, Dad smiled. (Photo: Mathias’s first Christmas, playing with the box.)

That is a gift to my sweet grandson to carry forward for the rest of his life. I am so glad my daughter and her family made the trip from Alaska recently to let her Grampa meet her baby boy. While they still could. Because you never know.

Determined to do it right
Saturday December 30th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Life

The University Electric people not only delivered my washing machine but rather than just dump it and run, one of them checked the room’s outtake, pronounced it smaller than normal (yeah, we had a contractor on the remodel who cut a lot of corners, I’ve heard that line before on other things–we had to replace all the gas and water lines the guy did. Major $) and he was concerned that the drain hose might lift out from the water pressure because of how fast that machine rotates.

He took the time to let the water fill up and then started it spinning.

See that? How it went up?

I did indeed. (I didn’t tell him I had memories of my mom’s machine, when I was a kid, sometimes working itself loose and spraying the room with soapy water. Let’s not.)

He took the black nozzle-ish piece off to make the end smaller and tested it again. No lift–that hose went much farther down in and it stayed down in. He was satisfied and assured me it was how it should be now and that I would have no problems with it.

I paid for delivery and got delivery and plumbing trouble-shooting and a correct installation. I have not only found my washer, I have found my dealer for all future major appliances. I like these guys. And I’ve waited a long time to be able to say that.

A few hours later, I was talking to friends at a wedding reception. And one of them said, So if I want this machine I have to go buy it–tomorrow, right?

Since we don’t shop on Sundays, my answer to him was, Yes.

He just might.

And so we wait
Thursday December 28th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

On the list of things that suddenly really don’t matter, but still need doing, and knowing I would regret it for twenty or thirty years if I didn’t get to it before the January 1st cut-off when they get taken off the market: I did, I found a local place that still stocked it. There was even a slight discount on the closeout. I bought my all-metal-parts, all-mechanical-controls, no-electronics Speed Queen washer this afternoon, this one. (’s a fan.)

Tomorrow the new one will be installed and the old one will go.

Our new Speed Queen washing machine will probably last us the rest of our lives.

Not quite the typical conversation on Christmas
Thursday December 28th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

See if you can see it, Mom.

I looked at the close-up photo of their dense bush. It looked like a near relative of my California Coffeeberry. Uh, I see leaves, lots of leaves. Um… Nada.

He insisted it was there.

Huh. I looked some more, wondering how I could be missing such a thing. Okay–wait, there, I see the edge of a paw? Maybe?

Yes, and… He gave up and pointed it out: see the jaw?



OH! Is that the teeth?!

This (he swiped a finger wide around) is the rest of the jaw.

Ohmygosh!! And your hand was right there reaching in to retrieve that ball!?!

My son found out they really do have possums living in his area after all while playing with his kids. He’d never heard of any around there before; clearly, they hide really, really well. And dense bushes where nobody could see them, with tasty dark blue berries? What more could it ask for?

Food. It was what was in its Christmas stalking.

Tuesday December 26th 2017, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

And we are home. So much to tell. This isn’t one of Richard’s shots of Elon Musk’s Space X launch, it’s the one I took several minutes later. We were 300 miles south of where it took off and it still took up a huge chunk of the sky (this was the small part).

We said goodbye to our son John at the airport as we went our separate ways tonight. Same airline, different gates, our baggage checked in by different agents.

Arriving home, my smaller bag (thankfully mostly empty) was AWOL. He called just a few minutes ago to say that while he was waiting and waiting and waiting for his big bag (just like we had just done), lo and behold, mine, with our tag and name and airport on it, had shown up instead and he’d recognized it. Had his shown up first of course he would have been long gone.

He needs his a lot more than I needed mine. We’re holding out hope–hey, it worked for the two of us; meantime, that’s one $50 Southwest voucher for us when we retrieve ours at the airport when it gets in instead of making them deliver it.

The most surprising moment of the trip happened at church: I saw an old friend who with his family (a few years younger than ours) had moved out of our ward probably twenty years ago.

I knew that his wife had been very ill of late. I knew she had been in a coma for some time with her survival by no means certain–but I had heard nothing since and I didn’t quite know how to ask.

I asked how she was–and he, beaming, motioned, She’s right here!

Oh. My. Goodness!!!

Hale and hearty and enjoying a family reunion, just like we were. I tell you. That was one great moment.

Of many.

And all other celebrations
Monday December 25th 2017, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Knit

A Merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year.

Speed princess
Sunday December 24th 2017, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Knit

I had no idea that Minnie Mouse had such an intense fan. The color pink I could have guessed. (With sparkles!)

But what I did know is she has two big brothers, and a pink smiling Minnie Mouse in a racing car that zoomed away after you pushed her head to make her go seemed a good way to transition from being two to three.

And I quote: “It’s the best present ever!!!”

She and I played many rounds of zoom it at each other across the coffee table after that. The wood floor? You can get it to go really far if you give it an extra shove. The thick rug? Bogs its wheels right down.

Pulling your feet and knees together for it to slalom down to that table and then flip wildly at the bottom? I think that went over, or under depending on where it landed, the best of all. Crash boom bam is a toddler’s idea of comedy central.

Sunday December 24th 2017, 12:07 am
Filed under: Knit

Come the morning it will be Christmas Eve.

And Maddy will be three. She celebrated the last of her two-ness today by teasing us via the anthem of that younger age: a repeated, grinning, ” Nooo!”

She was old enough now to use it as a conversation rather than merely a discovery of independence. To elicit a back-and-forth rather than simply toddling away. It was part of the listening now.

Rocket science
Friday December 22nd 2017, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Knit

We were uphill near the coast and everybody was looking into the night sky trying to figure out what on earth?!

Elon Musk’s Space X was the answer, turned out. Photos from Richard to come, hopefully while the two rockets were still close enough together to share the frame.

I wonder if the little ones will remember it at all. But–WOW.

Speed wreck
Thursday December 21st 2017, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Politics

Washing machines. So here’s what I’ve found so far.

There’s a reason the newer HE machines take an hour to clean your clothes: the enzymes in their detergents take up to an hour to clean away the soiled bits. If the machines work faster than that and your clothes come out still dirty, guess who gets the blame? Manufacturers don’t believe consumers pre-treat anything anymore and they build them on that assumption and if that means you get stuck waiting forever, oh well.

Speed Queen is the only brand still making machines with all-metal parts built to last decades; they wash the clothes, as the name implies, fairly quickly–and well–and with no electronics to go bad.

For about one more week. If you can find them. I found myself reading through pages and pages of discussion on the subject and stumbled across the statement by one reviewer that the government was requiring electronics by the end of the year.

Say what? How did that make sense?

So I called Speed Queen and got tossed to a technical-side guy there with a charming Midwestern accent who talked up the new model coming out and the electric parts behind the knobs now.

Electric? Are we meaning electronics here? I had to pin him down a bit: So are there going to be motherboards? (Having been quoted over $800 plus labor on a stove, on an oven, then on the other oven, all in upper-end major appliances under six years old. I am so done with that.)

He didn’t quite want to say yes, but, yes–and then he explained. You can set the machine to the size load you want, but the government doesn’t believe you won’t do anything but set it at extra large every time so they’re requiring sensors that automatically set the water level to match the level of the clothes. So, yes, he said, that reviewer was right: the old mechanical-only knob machines are only allowed to be sold through the end of this year.

If you can find one, he warned.

Suddenly my ability to face shelling out the kind of money those cost just shot way up. There’s a reason washing-machine sales are up so high and it ain’t quality in the other brands.

The rest of it is all still all-metal parts, he assured me.

I had one other question, the big sticking point for me: I needed a machine that could spin out hand washed woolens without spraying water on them; could theirs do that?

Only on one of the cycles, he said.

I only need one. Cool. Thank you so much.

Since I hung up the phone, I’ve had to wonder: Speed Queen had a twenty-year warranty on those all-mechanical machines a few years ago, while other manufacturers were cutting more and more corners and designing theirs to die at five or six years so you’d have to replace them. They were even discontinuing parts, said another person on that same thread, for not-much-older machines so you couldn’t keep fixing them.

I live in California. I know how to conserve water. Speed Queens were dunned for using too much, but someone in that thread actually measured the water going into the spray function of an HE machine and found it used about the same amount.

What I’m thinking is, someone doesn’t like the competition that comes when lots of people like me (and that’s probably most of us by now) want a machine without the stinking failing motherboards anymore. I wonder how much their CEOs donated to which members of Congress to shut down their competition?*

Because you know this Congress is absolutely capable of doing that.

Meantime, Speed Queen is putting their electronic ones through the ringer to try to make them as reliable as the old reliable. They have a reputation to maintain.

A klieg-light heads-up to the other major-appliance makers: you, too, could grab away a fanatically grateful share of the market if you made things that didn’t break down constantly. Like you used to.


*(Edited to add, turns out Rep. Upton of Michigan is an heir to the Whirlpool fortune. No surprise.)