Veterans Day
Saturday November 11th 2006, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Non-Knitting

Reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s post at today brought to mind an old memory, I guess my earliest road-trip memory. I was five or six years old, and, given our large family, I was sitting in what was the coveted position of the front seat of the station wagon between my parents. We were in Virginia, going past a Civil War battlefield, and I didn’t understand all those things in the grass. As Dad pulled off the main road and the car faced up a hill, with an ancient wooden fence to either side of the road as we faced that battlefield, my father, a vet, gently, sadly explained to me what a war was. I will never forget the moment the concept sank in.

Friday November 10th 2006, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Knit

(The Elephant Ear promised to behave. We will ignore that it seems to be sticking its tongue out there.)

I admired some yarn from a small farm at Stitches West a few years ago, didn’t buy any, but told my friend Karin about it. Who saw it at Stitches East later that year, bought a half pound, and surprised me with it. Wow.

But it sat there, obstinately refusing to tell me just what it wanted to be when it grew up. Sometimes a yarn will suddenly declare exactly what it has to be; this one, it didn’t seem to be forthcoming.

Till I recently asked my friend Terry, to whom I owe much, her favorite color. “Periwinkle. Wait. What are you up to!…”

Karin recently closed her yarn store, The Periwinkle Sheep, so that she would have more time to relax with her knitting. I had periwinkle dye–and hey! So Karin’s white yarn became what it had been waiting to be all along: a bridge between three people who’ve never met in person, two of whom only came to hear of each other because of the ways they’ve been kind to me.

Every act of generosity touches more people than the original ones involved. So seldom do we get to know… What a treat to be able to introduce those two good people.

Aagh! Help me! (Chomp)
Thursday November 09th 2006, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Knit

The man-eating plant out back said it had gone vegetarian. It promised it had. But in the end, it declared with a grin, smacking its lips, that hadn’t meant vegan! And so Joni’s beloved wool yarn met its untimely end. No sheep were hurt in the process, so the green monster declared itself still true to its word.

How to remove EEG glue easily
Thursday November 09th 2006, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

This is a public service announcement. Just a quick post for the sake of anybody who does the Google search that I tried three weeks ago, to no avail. When I was discharged after my four-day EEG, where the 23 electrodes had been sealed to my hair via air compressor and some type of stinky superglue, I was told to rub huge amounts of cheap conditioner into my hair and then rub the hair hard between my hands to work the stuff out.

I thought, I’m a fiber artist. I know about felting. This sounds like a really really bad idea. It was, and I have the broken hairs and lost locks to prove it. But I didn’t know what else to do. Finally, my husband convinced me to try soaking it in baby oil (since they’d rubbed a little in while removing the electrodes.) Totally soak my head and my hair, drippity drip. Leave it there a couple of hours.

So much for the concert I’d been hoping to get out the door in time for. But it worked! So easily and with absolutely zero grief in terms of my hair, that I can only look in the mirror and wish I’d tried that first. Oh well, two years from now, you’ll never know.

It should have been blue?
Wednesday November 08th 2006, 7:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

I knitted this today out of Elann’s Baby Cashmere along with a strand of leftover Kidsilk Haze I had sitting around, that I’d overdyed and then decided the shades of red played well together.

I hadn’t noticed till I took this picture: you wear this scarf, and one side will be down arrows and the other up arrows, like Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom watchlist. In with the new officeholders, out with some of the incumbents. Maybe I should have knitted it in blue?

Election day, part two
Tuesday November 07th 2006, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

One of my quirks is I don’t do standing very well. Moving around, okay, sitting, okay, but just standing still, I can get faint fairly quickly; it’s a falling-blood-pressure thing. So. Since a number of people seemed to be having problems with the machines, the line of voters was going quite slowly, and I decided sitting down on the floor was better than playing drama queen and getting there less voluntarily.

A poll worker ran to go get me a chair. That was kind of him, and fine. He set it up at the front of the line. Thanks, but no, I’ll stay back here, no reason I should make anybody else have to wait any longer, I’ll do just fine; it was definitely long enough for everybody as it was. The guy insisted. But I’m more stubborn than anyone (I can just hear Richard guffawing) and fine, I’ll stay over here on the floor, then, thank you.

The worker, about my father’s age (80), brought the chair over to me, then. That was all well and good. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. It’s not my first such experience, but you never get used to it. I suddenly had him putting his face far too close into mine and telling me how proud he was of me. How brave I was. How special. He went on and on, while I was thinking, What the heck? Who’s he talking about? A few minutes later, I got done voting before my husband did, and the man brought the chair over to me again, and then gave me a repeat performance. Well intentioned, I’m sure, but the acute invasion of space and the over-the-top gushing creeped me out, till I suddenly realized what he was really saying: I am so glad I’ve reached nearly twice your age without having become decrepit and frail. Without having to use a cane like you. I’m so glad I can hear better than you. I’m so glad I can carry a chair to you and show you what a good person I am and show off how strong and healthy I am at my age. I’m so glad I’m better off than you…

Absentee. Definitely go for the absentee next time.

Tuesday November 07th 2006, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

When my husband and I showed up at the polling station today, our neighbor was there voting. No screens nor curtains, just machines placed a bit away from each other.

Jim was having a bit of a time with it, and twice had to call over a poll station worker. He told us afterwards that while touching the screen with his index finger, he guessed he hadn’t kept the other fingers tucked out of the way enough, had apparently brushed the screen, and twice had frozen it up. Oops.

So, with that in mind, I was very careful in how I touched that screen. Got all the way through, no problem, and I was quite glad that this time the machine was going to print out a paper strip verifying my choices; the non-paper-trail version of a few years ago had so clearly been a mistake.

Got all done, and the thing said to press continue or go back. Continue. Up scrolls the paper, longer than you could see all in one take. Continue. Okay. Check it, it’s fine, continue. And then…

VOIDED was what appeared at the bottom of the paper. What?? Like heck I’m going to Continue! I called out for a poll worker, who then tried both to fix the problem, while making a heroic effort not to be looking at my vote. I was trying not to be indignant: with Jim’s warnings in mind, I had been exactingly careful in how I’d touched that screen. Okay, so, we took it back (I didn’t have to redo my choices) and hit Continue. Continue. Continue. And then, having touched nothing in any way different from how I had the first time, my ballot was accepted and my vote recorded.

Enough. It’s time to become a permanent absentee voter and be done with it.

(On a lighter note, I happened to notice the Spanish translation of the office Schwartzenegger is running for: “Gobernador.” Somehow that struck me as screamingly funny.)

Strawberry fields forever
Sunday November 05th 2006, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

First, some context: I’m a Mormon, and Mormons have a tradition of fasting for 24 hours, usually on the first Sunday of each month. The idea is to step apart for a few moments out of one’s lifetime and take our focus away from the things that we have and that we consume, and then, to share: the money that would have been spent on food eaten in that time, it is encouraged, will be given towards feeding the poor. Generously.

But one of the things that doesn’t seem to get mentioned that often (maybe because you don’t want to talk about food inside a church full of hungry people) is how much doing so sharpens one’s appreciation for the very things we’re avoiding just then. How it makes us more aware of what we have, day to day, how it lifts the so-ordinary chore-filled efforts in the kitchen into a thing of thankfulness. How a bowl of oatmeal can, in the right circumstances and with the right attitude, truly feel a gift from God.

The fasting is not mandatory, and in fact, I, with my string of diseases, don’t do the 24-hour thing nowadays. But still. Today I skipped lunch, trying to do my part, and then, wanting to make a really good meal at dinnertime, got started on making a pie. One of our favorites. Strawberry. My husband bought a multi-pound box for just a few dollars yesterday, and as I took it out of the fridge, opening the clamshell, I thought, was there ever a berry so pretty. Watsonville: that’s what, about 90 minutes away. I bet these were picked on Friday. There are moments when I am just truly grateful I live in California now.

I suddenly remembered a grocery store in New Hampshire, wintertime, snow on the ground, 20 years ago: a worker was handing out beautiful orange slices of persimmons, samples to get the crowd to buy. Fresh from California, just came in, come try out this exotic, lovely, orange-colored fresh fruit–in December!… And if you know anything about Hachiya persimmons, you know the fact that they were slices means, Houston, we have a problem. Ever eaten a very green banana? Right. Exactly. Persimmons–at least that variety–aren’t something you’d want to eat till they go completely soft and mushy, but the poor person roped into handing them out didn’t know that. I doubt she’d ever seen one, nor the store manager, for that matter. Oh my. People were accepting one, popping it in their mouths, and then trying not to look like they were making furtive looks around as to how to quietly ditch this thing. Or just eat it and get it over with? I didn’t understand what was going on till I tried it too. Oh my. Why someone didn’t just say something, or why I didn’t, for that matter, I have no answer for. I bet they didn’t sell a whole awful lot of them.

My neighbors here threw up their hands once and exclaimed to me, what on earth were they going to do with this whole big tree’s worth of persimmons! I told them that Second Harvest Food Bank will enlist volunteers to come pick the tree and, at least according to the local paper, they’ll sweep up the drops off your ground, too, as a thank you. Oh!

So. Now I live where people offer up persimmons to their neighbors like zucchinis, where people know when to eat them, and fer cryin’ out loud, it is *November,* and here I was hulling locally-grown just-picked strawberries, remembering a pie I’d made when I was 18, all the pies made in between, by me, by my children growing up, remembering my daughter’s delightful addition of Valrhona bittersweet chocolate to the 1952 Betty Crocker recipe. I stood there just inhaling the sweet strawberryness of it all.

Puree a half-blenderful’s worth by dropping onto the spinning blades a few at a time. Add just enough sugar and a small spoonful of cornstarch. Throw in the microwave for seven or eight minutes, long enough for it to bubble for a minute to thicken the starch, but short enough that it doesn’t taste overly cooked. These are just-picked berries, you don’t want them tasting like they came out of a jar. Fresh from the fields–keep them that way. Let cool, then pour over whole strawberries sitting nicely in their already-baked piecrust, to which you’ve added a thin layer of cream cheese and a thicker layer of the melted bittersweet chocolate (easier to do if you mix it with the cream cheese, but the purists in this household prefer their layers separate, the way little kids don’t like to mix foods).

That was the idea of it all, anyway. Reality is, I’d washed some raspberries (fresh. A buck a box. It’s that California thing again. I was loving living here more by the minute.) I looked at those raspberries in that colander on the left, the cooling sweetened thickened puree on the right, and… picked up a perfect raspberry, upside down. You know, that thing is its own little bowl. Just right for topping off with fresh strawberry pie filling. So is that one. And that one. In the end, the pie never happened; I just poured the filling over the raspberries and strawberries and said it was strawberry-pie-in-a-bowl. (It would have been more convincing had I chilled it to let the filling set.) My youngest said, “Mom, you are SO weird.” I accepted the compliment quite happily. It was just too good to wait for the excess of fat calories we didn’t need anyway. This way, it came more directly from where God grew it.

Go Lisa!
Saturday November 04th 2006, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Knit

Mysterious are the ways of Blogger. You write a post, and it disappears into bloggervapor. You write it again, shorter this time, and poof. So you add this whine, thinking how you don’t like whining, and I’ll bet this one goes through. That’d teach me.

This is a better shot of Lisa Souza’s handiwork and mine in my Shade Garden shawl. I wanted to send the picture to Lisa to wish her a great trip while she’s at Stitches East in my home state of Maryland. 

She who lives by the needles, dives by the needles?
Friday November 03rd 2006, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Knit

One of the things the Stanford doctors asked me, during my four-day EEG, was, did I have an aura to go with my seizure symptoms?

All this was new to me: I had pneumonia in July, my suppressed immune system soared right past my chemo drug, and with it my autoimmune symptoms; next thing you know, I started having these seizures. Escalating to, after about a week, sometimes being grand mal–except I never lost consciousness. What on earth an aura felt or looked like or whatever sense was involved in having one, I had not the slightest clue. I was reading Winterdance, about Alaska; how about an Aura Borealis?

Rather like the time, 15 years ago with an acute pericarditis attack, another doctor asked me if I were short of breath. I told him, reasonably to me at the time, no; because I could draw as long a breath as I wanted to. I just didn’t feel I got any air in whatsoever when I did.

Doctors. Define your terms when it’s all new to us. To be fair, I asked them to this time, and they tried, but it didn’t seem to match me at all; maybe another patient could have described it better than they could have. Dunno.

So maybe tonight I finally could begin to answer their question. I keep my knitting needles in a handthrown pottery jar on top of my piano. Beautiful handiwork, by the way, of my friend Kris Kunihiro; go to if you want to see Kris and Mel’s ceramics. The navy and rose/burgundy/teal mix. Anyway. I have a shawl I’ve been working on that I wanted to check how the length was coming out; with lace, you never know unless you stretch it out. I wanted to find the rubber needle tips at the bottom of that jar, so that I wouldn’t drop a ton of stitches while stretching the thing.

So. Rather than picking up the jar like a sensible person whose balance is impaired, and bringing it down to me, I stood on my tiptoes, leaned over it, grabbed the nest of circulars and lifted them up out of the way; just as I reached in with the other hand, leaning way over, to get at those tips down in there, I had just the briefest instant to react.

I was about to have a seizure. With, still sitting in the jar, all my short, sharp double-pointed needles right there in my face, and I mean right there.

Now, I’ve been the mother to four two-year-olds, one right after the other. I’ve raised four teenagers. I even taught three of them to drive after that speeder totalled my car and my balance six years ago. I’m the mom. I’m in charge here. Just try me, I’ve had lots of practice. And I instantly proclaimed decisively at it, NO!!!, just as loud, inwardly, as I ever yelled at any child of mine about to run in front of a car.

No needles in my eyes. But it was a very near thing.

Now. Almost all set. I just need to knit six more rows, bind off, and put it in the mail Monday. I really like this project. More on it later.

Just to show off
Thursday November 02nd 2006, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Knit

Something I’ve been wanting to show off for a few weeks; I finished this a few days before I went into the hospital. Yarn: Lisa Souza’s alpaca laceweight, Shade Garden colorway, one strand, knitted together with one strand of Misti Alpaca baby alpaca laceweight that I overdyed in solid Jacquard Purple. I picked a more reddish purple for my dye than Lisa’s, and really like the way the two yarns played together. The shawl pattern is a one-off that I didn’t bother to write down; after knitting roughly three dozen+ shawls over the last two years in the course of writing my book, well, by now I can just kind of wing it as I go along, you know? 

Oh, wow, Joni!
Wednesday November 01st 2006, 11:38 am
Filed under: Knit

Remember when I said that if you gave me a lovely hand-dyed sock yarn I would knit a lace scarf or shawl out of it? I guess Joni took me at my word, because she not only gifted me with this soft merino sock yarn she’d dyed, she sent beaded stitch markers she’d made along with it.

Wow. Seriously nice stuff. I just sat there and stroked the yarn for awhile, wondering what I’d done to deserve this.

As the author of a book of knitted lace shawls coming out next July, I have a confession to make: I have never had stitch markers. I’ve always just placed snips of a contrasting yarn between the stitches, which tend to snag out, disappear, travel down the rows into irrelevancy, and basically make my lace look like a bad hair day. Just waiting for some hospital orderly to address it as “sir.” The whole ninth of a yard. But now! My needles have jewelry to separate my pattern repeats and I am very very delighted with it all.

That wreath-y type thing came with instructions for knitted cuffs, and has its own beaded stitch marker at the top (which is being camera shy there), but when I saw it, my immediate reaction was, oh cool! Yarn as jewelry. Hang it from a silver chain. I am so there. I’m picturing the Saint Bernards in the Alps thing, with rescue supplies around their necks. Do my hair up with some dpn’s, and I’m good to go anywhere anytime. I tell you: this is so me. Wow.

Thank you, Joni!