Cool it
Thursday July 18th 2024, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Life

The doorbell rang yesterday.

On the other side was a younger woman who was there to ask us a question.

The houses around here were built in the 1950s with radiant heat, and time and several mild and one big earthquake later, those inefficient old systems are falling apart. People who grew up with it have told me they love it and I’ve long wondered how it would be to wake up to a warm floor, and we even once looked into taking our house back to it. We were quickly talked out of it. It would require jackhammering the entire length of the house to replace the pipes under the slab.

Doesn’t every foundation need weak points in a quake?

So. The woman and her husband had just bought a house in the next block. They needed to replace the heat. They could see that we have an HVAC unit on our roof and wanted to know, were we happy with it?

She clearly had a lot riding on our answer: she wanted what we have, very much. Her husband was convinced it would make the house shake every time it came on.

The thought had never occurred to me. Yeah, you can hear it running quietly in the background, sure. But shaking the house? No.

Richard chimed in.

I told her how a dual unit had been nearly the same price as a simple furnace, so that for $100 we got whole-house air conditioning, and you can’t do that with radiant heat. I gave her Joe Lerma’s name at A-Z Techs Mechanical and said, Joe really knows his stuff, he’s good, his prices are good, and he’s very honest. I think you’d be very happy with him; we have been. We found him when he was recommended by the roofing company.

She was tapping into her phone and his name and number were already there. Got it.

She left looking hopeful. You could just see her telling her husband, this being right after a record-breaking heat wave: Air conditioning, too!

I’m really hoping for them.

Rainbow through a kaleidoscope
Wednesday July 17th 2024, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Knit

They came. They took me to the other side of the fence. They saw. I saw. They said Why isn’t there a marked line where the fence should actually be? Measuring from stakes is not how it’s done.

And so we continue.

Meantime, in proof that yellow visually dominates any colorway it touches, this is what I ordered awhile back. Merino/silk/cashmere.

And this vivid little thing for I have no idea who is what it’s turning into. I had to go look for the original picture because it’s so, um, different.

Thumper’s Admonition says someone out there will love it. Intuition says this was the time when it was supposed to come to be so keep going, but that’s all I know so far.

Go go go
Tuesday July 16th 2024, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Life

This lady’s got a listing to write and a sale to make and I am in the way.

Thus the realtor for next door will meet with me and her fencing guy tomorrow about those three feet. Three weeks for a guy I found? Doubtful.

Moral of the story, part two: good realtors know their contractors and the contractors know to be available for them.

And now, just for fun and because I’ve been trying to grok the thing. Why did someone make a basketweaving ceiling? Sound absorption? Hide a roof leak? (Nahhh.) Couldn’t bear to toss the woodworking scraps from a project and finally found a big enough place to stash them?

The stakes are about 30″ high
Monday July 15th 2024, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Life

Three FEET?!! I exclaimed at the guy.

He grinned, nodding, knowing what that meant. Knowing that now yes it was going to be worth it, yes my having called his company was worth it, and he had just justified their $3000 fee. And how.

We replaced the fence some years ago and the neighbor’s redwood and roots were in the way, so the fence company went offside of it a bit and told us and them that and we didn’t love it but at that point it’s not like you can tell them to take their lumber back and go home.

All these years we thought the difference was at most a foot at the front and we just shrugged it off. What if it were even less. Why bother. I almost didn’t call the surveyor, and in fact put it off for weeks till the coming sale of that house made a deadline I couldn’t resist: one way or another, at long last we had to know.

I’d thought that side of the yard felt a little closed in after that installation because of the missing trees that had had to be cleared out because they’d grown into the old fence and were pushing it down.

No. It was because they’d moved that line far closer to us than they’d needed to and then angled it so that even at the back of the yard it was still off by a foot taken away from us. There was no need for that.

One could cite squatter’s rights laws. Except it wasn’t ignored and permission for it to remain that way was never granted. The late owners knew about it (even if not to that degree), discussed it with us, and always intended to do right by us and split the cost on fixing it once the redwood was gone, but by then they both had cancer and there were more important things to deal with and it’s really easy to not spend lots of money over potentially not much.

I was blown off when I tried to get surveyor quotes by three companies who told me, On one side of one house? Pffft, we don’t do small jobs.

I don’t know if it was that I name-dropped the realtor who’d recommended them but these guys came right out. And they were absolutely wonderful people. And man were they worth every penny.

My sour cherry and pomegranate are about to get a lot more sunshine and the mango won’t mind, either.

The kicker is that the neighbors added an ADU for caretakers, which they ended up very much using and was a good thing–but if that fence had been where it was supposed to have been, it probably would have been too close for that ADU to have gotten approval.

So I’m actually mostly glad we didn’t get this fixed sooner.

Now to find the right fencing company. I’ve been looking up a bunch but you know? I bet that realtor’s got some real good names.

Sunday July 14th 2024, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Life

His mom moved here just this week. Everything is new. He’s new. He wasn’t walking yet, but he could crawl under chairs and, as he got more sure of himself in this room he’d never been in before with faces he’d never seen before, he could cruise upright along them too if he felt like it and if there was something to grab onto.

Took him awhile to decide to include me in on that, but a finger was all he needed and mine would do; he almost had this walking thing down.

It wasn’t just the smiles and the peekaboo games that drew him in my direction. It was the stick.

And not just any stick. Look at that. It was smooth and had a curve at one end and it didn’t weigh too much, either, it was just right for dragging around, maybe creating your own steady finger to walk by? He didn’t know, but he was determined to find out.

Only, something kept thwarting him. Why was this so hard. Why was that lady’s foot on the other end? (Because she had seen how babies can bash innocents around them with the ends of that thing, that’s why, kiddo, and because since I only just met your mom I want to stay on good terms.)

I’m not entirely sure why babies are enamored with canes, but they are absolutely compelling to them.

He had his fingers around the top of mine and looked up to see my reaction and I was smiling, even if I wasn’t abetting him. Yup you’re right, kiddo. Canes are cool.

And with that we were friends.

July 13
Saturday July 13th 2024, 9:48 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

I got a breaking news email right as it was happening, and could not not look. It took me straight back to Reagan’s face in pain and hand in the air as the Secret Service gave their all to protect him from the crazy who had just shot him.

I wish harm on no one. Ever. It hurt to see him hurt.

My attempt at prayer, though, could only be an honest, Lord, I…I’m… so sorry that I’m having a really hard time praying for him because I know he would only twist it towards evil intentions if he could and I know what he intends to do to innocent people (again–how many years did those little kids live in metal cages thinking their mothers had abandoned them? While depriving each side of information of where the other had been taken? And that’s not even starting on the whole January 6 and dead cops thing and the vice president who won’t run with him again because he, y’know, tried to kill him), so I’m just going to leave it up to You. You know what’s best for him and for the whole country, and I’m asking for You to bless all of us in this horrific moment and especially the critically hurt and the families of the dead. Forgive me my hesitancy. I know that even that man is one of Your children. I’m trying. Thank You for being better than me.

Maybe we’ll finally now vote out the people who voted to allow the convicted, the violent, the underage, and the mentally ill to have war-level weaponry. Maybe we can fund taking care of the mentally ill again. Maybe we can value the life of a child above a gun. Maybe we can pass the bill sponsored by Senators Hinreich and King to allow no sale nor gifting of any automatic-type weapon from here on out: let the current owner register it, have it as long as they’re in good standing with the law, and have it die along with them someday.

And then I checked the updates: every single Democrat expressed their horror and their prayers for Trump’s well-being and safety, Biden, Pelosi, Harris, Obama, on down to the state level. Every single one. Their prayers. They are better than I, and it humbles me.

So it comes down to, yes I want his well-being and safety, too–and I want the country’s. And eventually I was able to offer up a real one of my own.

Nearly every Republican the reporters talked to tried to somehow blame Trump’s opponent for the thing that Biden was most horrified by, to use the shootings as a political tool towards power for their own, to blame blame blame and falsely accuse of the most vile accusations.

And that level of gaslighting is how we ended up here in the first place.

Since 1989
Friday July 12th 2024, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Lupus

Saw my longtime rheumatologist a few days ago for the first time in two years. He ordered a CBC (complete blood count) to check on things.

I got a note back, and you could just hear the wonder in his voice as he typed out the words:

After all these years, for the first time, the ANA is negative.

That would be anti-nuclear antibodies, ie antibodies to the nuclei of my own cells, a hallmark of lupus. That doesn’t mean I’m cured. My eyes are fiercely reactive to the summer sun.

But some inner part of me took a deep breath and, surely echoing my doctor as he stared at that computer screen in delighted disbelief, at long, long last, exhaled.

(Edited to add, my Crohn’s was, at biopsy, always a subset of the lupus, so I think we’re two for one on this.)

We’re all getting older
Thursday July 11th 2024, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Life

Went with a friend to Andy’s Orchard today (ripe peaches! Cherries! Apricots!) and saw this posted at the checkout.

I kept reading that “any sale is dependent on future events that may not occur for quite awhile” as meaning from Andy, Over my dead body.

After I got home, another friend said he’d told her they’re thinking 3-7 years.

The clerk who gave me permission to snap that picture found herself with a new Whales Road colorway hat; it had just felt like the right time to bring her something I’d knit. I figured the heat wave wouldn’t last forever.

But man, I so much want Andy and his orchard to.

And then we suddenly both found a lot more matches
Wednesday July 10th 2024, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

It is, it’s a Sandra Boynton creation, and very funny.

Continental drifts of words reversing to Pangea form, glacially.

I do think we need to call it a night, though, hon.

If Momma’s hoppy everybody’s hoppy
Tuesday July 09th 2024, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Someone up in the hills posted a video on Nextdoor of a mountain lion coming up the driveway at night; she had already been watching it carrying a deer for a half mile up the steep hill before it came in view of her Ring.

It had had to stop and catch its breath a few times.

Then mama lion found herself stuck with a wrought-iron fence between her and her cubs another half mile up an even steeper part of the hill. She checked: yes it was on both sides of the driveway she’d just come up. Rats. (The house was next to an open space preserve. I imagine dragging the deer up the driveway was easier than through thorny scrub–until it wasn’t.)

She paced a bit, triggered bright lights that direction, looks like she growled a little, decided it had to be done, and then with the lightness of a ballerina leaped clear over the six foot fence. While carrying an entire deer held high enough that it sailed above it too.

The poster then watched her continue on that long climb to her den to feed her kits.

She noted that no, those weren’t insects flitting across the front of the camera–those were bats.

She ended with the thought that you might want to keep your pets inside at night.

Link to video here, if you want to see it.

“And yet Soloman in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”
Monday July 08th 2024, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Life


You know I love Ukrainian vyshyvankas, their embroidered shirts, and Ukrainian gerdans, their traditional beaded necklaces woven on beading looms.

I have a particular favorite artist on the latter.

My father the art dealer spent decades helping keep the hundreds of years old French Aubusson tapestry weaving guild alive, and in many ways I am my father’s daughter.

Etsy at the beginning of the war in Ukraine forgave all debts and waived all fees for all sellers there. So everything you pay goes directly to the seller.

But also, according to what I have read, they have a policy in response to scammers such that if the computer address where your shop is listed doesn’t match what you later use, they’ll block payment. In war zones where people too frequently have to flee, the seller has to work out with Etsy that they are still legit.

Which brings me back to Lyubov. Many of her projects are one-offs and the designs are her own with the work carefully done with finer beads than most and an artist’s eye for where the light travels in the piece vs the matte beads.

My cherry tree gerdan came from her.

And frankly, you pay for that talent. She had one with a field of sunflowers on one side and above, a seagull with black wing tips taking off into the bright sky opposite a lighthouse where the tide was coming in below, the blue waves and white foam forming the curls framing the head of a woman rising from the water with a sun tattoo. Such tiny beads. So. Much. Detail. (I loved that one but just couldn’t afford it.)

Her home is–was?–in Kherson. Last year she showed me pictures of the bombardment her apartment had taken and vowed to rebuild. She had family whose home was entirely gone.

It’s easy to want to support someone who deserves it in every way.

She created some new pieces–and then her shop went down.

A few weeks later, hoping she was okay, I sent her a note asking after her. I told her I was hoping to buy her new Lilies gerdan if it was still available because I have a four year old granddaughter named Lily.

She reposted her shop, albeit with fewer pieces. There it was.

But the payment wouldn’t go through. I tried. I contacted Etsy. I sent a note to her. I tried again. And again, hoping something had changed. I bought a $4 sunflower sticker to prove to Etsy there was no problem with my credit card. Nothing.

I didn’t hear back from her and feared for her safety.

It turns out she had been hoping to surprise me, and in fact she very much did: she had my address so she simply packed it up and put it in the mail so that I would have it. Five other people had put it in their carts but she knew where she wanted that one to go.

After our busy weekend, I tried again today to see if everything was fixed and if my payment might go through this time, and as usual it did not. So I sent her one last note.

And with that she told me what she had done.

I was speechless. And thrilled. For the necklace, absolutely, but also very much for how it confirmed the goodness of this woman I’d love to meet on the other side of the earth.

I wanted to do my part and asked if I could pay for it, and how?

She decided to let me PayPal her. I would have anyway. She would have waived it anyway. I did it anyway.

After all the times I tried to be there for her the best I knew how from my distance these past few years, she was the one who chose to be there for my granddaughter and me. I am in awe of the person she is in the middle of all she and her family have been put through, and so grateful.

Slava Ukraini!

She knows a good thing!
Sunday July 07th 2024, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I knew Andy’s Orchard sells at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market down south, which caters to top-tier chefs.

What I didn’t know is that Ken’s mom whom I wrote about last night discovered Andy’s there and loves his stone fruits as much as I do. She told me that out of all the vendors, there was just one who had a line fifty people long and she had to find out why. The rest is history. But she and her husband have since moved away.

I told her we’d driven past his freeway exit yesterday and since he’s not far from it, had almost talked ourselves into stopping. We just weren’t sure we would arrive in time with the traffic, and as it turned out we got there at exactly when we’d hoped to.

Had I had any idea, we would have left sooner and made time for all the peaches and apricots and the last of the cherries that they could have hoped for and for their grandkids.

But at least for any next time, now I know.

Beach traffic
Saturday July 06th 2024, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Hottest day in the heat wave, the Saturday after the Fourth of July, thirty-five degrees cooler at the beach than inland, where are you gonna go. Right?

Except it happened to be the day of a family get-together with a cousin who actually lives near the beach. Otherwise we would never ever…

Much Waze and Googlemaps checking ensued.

Ken’s brother later exclaimed, Four hours forty-five minutes?! (For an 83 mile route.) You could walk it backwards!

Which made me laugh, and no we didn’t take that route, and it was a 6 pm event so we left late enough that most people who wanted to spend the day at the beach were already there (or trying to be) so the extra 45 minutes wasn’t too bad.

The dinner was outside, but at 7 and under the shade of a huge oak so I pulled up a chair.

Cousin-in-law Ken’s mom, who lives in Arizona, sat down next to me to catch up a bit. There are only so many weddings and baptisms and the like to get to do that.

That close to the ocean and in the thick fog and breeze it was getting cold. I’d grabbed a silk cowl on my way out the door with the fleeting thought of, since anyone can wear silk (well yes it matches my blouse?)

It matched her dress even better, and she was quite grateful for the rescue. It is amazing how much warmth something around your neck can add. (It’s the Fettucia tubular silk in that link in blue, bought at a half off sale, just so she doesn’t worry about that price tag if she sees this.)

When it was time to go I told her, When am I ever again going to have a chance to totally match your outfit? It’s for you. Loosely spun silk has a tendency to stretch over time, so it may, just so you know.

Richard wanted to go before the two hour trek home (reverse beach traffic ended up demonstrating that it was a thing) so we didn’t linger too long from there. But I’m so glad for those limited times that she and I have had.

And eight-year-old Caleb, who was who the day was about in the first place, was celebrated and loved by all.

Air frying apricots
Friday July 05th 2024, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Food

I had several pounds of apricots from Andy’s Orchard and they needed to be used. It would be criminal to let any Anyas just sit there.

In this heat wave I ended up warming the pan for the air fryer function on my Breville microwave+, halving the apricots, tossing them with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter, single layer, and cooking them at 400 for seven minutes. Repeat with the rest. Didn’t add any sugar yet; I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out and I didn’t want to burn anything.

My gadget came with 400F as the preset and I have yet to figure out how to turn it down. Up, yes, down, no.

The result was revelatory. No apricot will ever go unused in my house again. I started out by making pumpkin almond muffins and substituting pureed apricots and adding almond extract. Might add a tablespoon or two of liquid next time, but those were good.

Or I could make a cookie crust base, add the apricots, sprinkle some streusel on top. I did put some in my oatmeal this morning.

They had started to get a little dried, as apricots do. They are entirely revived now and the flavor and texture are all you could hope for.

I have a pie’s worth in a ziplock. I just need to remember when I take it out of the freezer that they still do need that sugar.

Finched and finchless
Thursday July 04th 2024, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Wildlife

They are! They’re actually eating the leaves. Goldfinches love sunflower leaves specifically and this site recommends planting them near your veggies as a decoy because you might as well make use of this, right?

They said it mostly happens in California. I have questions.

My phone could see the details my eyes no longer can, and upon embiggening that’s exactly what those two birds were.

But I like my sunflowers… So I took a bit of bright pinkish-red thick yarn and tied it around the upper stalk of the one they were going after the hardest.

It didn’t take long before I saw another one swooping in–and then whoawhoawhoa!!! it about did a backflip in the air trying not to continue in that direction. Close!

It went to ground. It started eating the weed seeds. The little tiny stabby ones that attack your socks and wedge themselves into the yarn and you can hardly see them but man can you feel them. Hey you guys! Eat those!

Next thing you know we had a small flock doing exactly that.

Postscript: Most cities around here canceled their fireworks, given the intense heatwave and the wildfires already going, but it turns out the ones closest to us were still on. They apparently were moved so as to be completely over the water, which means we could stand in our front yard and see almost everything. Well into it, the kids and mom across the street finally opened the door to ask questions; we called to them to come on over, our place was on enough of a rise that they would see a lot more from here.

They had lived all over the world and then here the past few years and the kids had questions about the Fourth of July. I couldn’t hear much over the booms but Richard gave them a bit of Fort McHenry history.

There was one again! Did you see the sunflower?! Oh that’s so cool!

And then yet another sunflower. YES.

And good memories were made for all.