Go blog go!
Wednesday October 31st 2007, 11:49 am
Filed under: Life

I wondered how the earthquake could have brought down my blog, or what was going on. No access. The guy in India couldn’t understand me any better than I could understand him; I had him on speakerphone and my son was just shaking his head, too, going, huh?

I think that’s the first time I’ve encountered Indian Muzak. Someone somewhere suddenly seemed to realize, oh, wrong continent, and the phone switched to James Taylor whining, as we waited forever, “They’ll hurt you. And desert you. They’ll take your soul if you let them…”

So after an Ice Age or two, and calls to the hubby on the side (my version of Ken), I wandered to Stephanie’s blog, where she shows a picture of the whole top of a sock knitted while wrestling with tech support. My son looked at that, and went, That’s all she knitted?

Tomorrow, they finally said. And then all the sudden, Poof! Blog! Yay!

So I guess that was a 5.6 blogquake, and not a Big One. Phew.

Not, earthquake! Just, oh. Earthquake.
Tuesday October 30th 2007, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Life

Just a sort of a little one tonight, a 5.6 near where the Calaveras and Hayward faults meet (uh, dudes, that’s probably not great news. The heavily populated Hayward was already set to go off, bigtime, and most of the hospitals in the East Bay are built ON or immediately next to the fault line. There’s a reason that land was cheap in the ’50’s!)

Doesn’t seem to be anything major damaged yet, according to preliminary reports. The resident Red Cross volunteer is monitoring events in the other room.

Several years ago, I was sitting knitting and my daughter was at the computer, when she suddenly exclaimed, “What’s *that!*

“Oh, about a 5,” I answered. It had felt like someone was kicking the seat and the back of the couch, like a toddler throwing a tantrum underneath it.

My husband in the other room immediately switched his computer to the USGS report; he needed to know. He came around the corner a moment later, and announced, simply, “5.4.”

You know you’ve lived in California too long when you can guess the Richtor scale level reasonably well.

A few phone lines are down right now in the South Bay and a few cell lines overloaded, is all we’ve heard so far. Actually, our big Loma Prieta quake in ’89 and the lack of telephone service afterwards and worrying about his aunt next to the epicenter is how he got his ham license and Red Cross certification in the first place. Because of that, he’s been there helping out at many a house fire since then and helped run the shelter during the big flood our city had nine years ago. He’d wanted to get involved and to do good in his community, and that 7.1 in ’89 prompted him to make it actually happen.

Backstabber, take two
Tuesday October 30th 2007, 11:06 am
Filed under: Knit,Life

second Geisha yarn shawl in Backstabber colorwaysecond Geisha yarn shawl in Backstabber colorwayI’m doing this pattern again, sized up 10%. I gifted the original to Tina of Blue Moon Fiber Arts when I found out she and I grew up at the same time about two miles from each other. She happily surprised me back with a whole box of yarn, including another hank of the Geisha in the Backstabber colorway that I think is so gorgeous. I quite regretted that I couldn’t give her the pattern, too, but I’d designed it with the next book in mind.

Which meant I did still have that shawl knitted up, but not in her yarn. The other day when I blogged that all those yarns were calling out, knit ME, when it came down to it, what I really wanted to do was to knit up that Geisha for Tina’s sake.

And so, Sunday, I cast on. What I hadn’t expected was how intensely satisfying it is to work on. Normally, that feeling comes with looking forward to making someone happy by gifting them with what’s about to come off my needles, whereas this one, once it’s done, won’t be going anywhere.  But it’s a promise kept. A hope of the book to come, but plans can change; the feeling of thanking her back by knitting this and a new friendship treasured is what I’m really enjoying about this.

I emailed her; the new one would be bigger than the one she had sent for display in the booth at Stitches East, was that all right? She laughed, and wrote back, “It’s your design!” Well, yes, true, but hey.River Road quarry

There was another yarn in that box that, a little before the trip, told me what it wanted to be when it grew up. And so, while in Maryland, we pulled off the road in a couple of places and I snapped pictures of the rock quarries: Carderock, River Road. The Giancola one is gone, along with the stone house that had been perched above it, just a scooped-out blank spot in the earth. But the other two, on opposite sides of the street, continue on.  I need to knit me a quarry–those were at the midpoint between Tina’s house and mine, growing up.  A piece of home.

Steady as a rock. They carve out those stones and use them to strengthen and decorate the homes and places surrounding them.  If you go back and look at my American Gothic post, they’re most likely where my in-laws’ fireplace came from.

And I scoop out my yarn with my needle tip and knit on.Carderock quarry

Great Falls
Monday October 29th 2007, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Life

placid Potomac, above the FallsThis is a fairly placid section of the river, above the Great Falls area of the Potomac. It’s looking across not at Virginia, but at an island midriver.

Below is another picture of the rushing waters at Great Falls, downriver–I shot the same spot, looking upriver, for the previous post. I didn’t make it all the way across the bridgeway to the overlook viewing the main part of the Potomac here: the ground below gave way to a rising wooden planked area, changing both the direction and the height under our feet, and it threw my sense of balance so badly I was afraid my camera was going to end up in the falls. But this is one of the narrow chutes of water through the rocks that George Washington wanted a way safely around. Great Falls area

C&O Canal
Sunday October 28th 2007, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Life

C&O Canal at Swain’s LockGeorge Washington wanted a waterway that bypassed the dangers of the Potomac for shipping commercially, and thus the C&O Canal came to be.

picnic grounds between C&O and Potomac

Congress, in its infinite stupidity, decided in the 50’s that that nice flat stretch of land would make a great two-lane highway, cheap, and wanted to pave it over. Even the Washington Post agreed. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas challenged those in favor to join him in hiking the entire distance, 184.5 miles, and the press followed the large and then rapidly dwindling crowd of hikers along the way.

Beavers. Great Blue herons. Water turtles. Name the wildlife, it was there. Only a few hikers arrived in person in Georgetown with Douglas, but the nation did, in spirit; he’d gotten the Post’s and the Congress’s attention, and the Canal became a national park instead.Potomac River at Great Falls

Sometimes, if people point out what they’ve got, paradise doesn’t get paved and turned into a rush-hour parking lot after all.

The Potomac River

Thank goodness for one who not only stood up for what he believed in, but put on his shoes, too, and walked forward.

This old house
Saturday October 27th 2007, 11:59 am
Filed under: Knit

back of old house(I knew my folks would want to see this. They’re turning the old living room windows into a walk-out onto the soon-to-be wooden deck upstairs.)

I knitted a scarf for the woman who bought my folks’ old house, one that had the name of the street incorporated into the lace pattern. Now, I’ve used this particular baby alpaca yarn and that pair of needles together dozens of times, but somehow those two stitch patterns came out looser-looking than many. No, I didn’t swatch. I know. I was pretty sure of myself, and yes, when I knit it again, I will tighten up the gauge a bit.

View out a bedroom window

But the perfectionism of the knitter isn’t what matters; what does is that I designed it just for her, I finished it just in time before we left Maryland, and I got it over to her new house, where her contractor in great delight promised to get it to her, along with the copy of “Wrapped in Comfort” I handed him with an inscription thanking her for loving the old house and the woods behind it. I told him that in the spring, before the neighbors’ ivy had overwhelmed the ground cover (which, thankfully, he’d pulled completely out), there had been a field of mayapples under the trees to the right in the spring, with box turtles living among them. Box turtles love mayapples. I told him that one time we kids had brought a snapping turtle inside by mistake, and Mom had told us to take it right back outside, now! My brother Bryan, part of the conversation, said in surprise, “I didn’t know we had snapping turtles back there!” Box turtles, sure. I only remember the one snapper ever.

Read the book, I was thinking at the contractor as well as the new owner. See some of why those turtles mean so much to me.

Amanda’s green yarn is going to be the next rendition of that pattern. Right now it and the newly gifted Superior and my sister’s Christmas present and that lovely rose laceweight from Stitches East and and and are all vying for attention like toddlers jumping up and down, going, Me, Mommy, no me! Knit ME next.

All right kids. One at a time. Don’t everyone try to speak to me at once.

new homeowner’s baby alpaca scarf

Friday October 26th 2007, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was not expecting this package. There was no packing slip, no name, nothing, just a Patternworks label on it. Inside was one ball of a yarn I had picked up at Stitches East, wished after, and put back. In retrospect, with all the yarns I did buy there later, I would go back now and put a few back and buy several of these instead, but at the time I did not think of it and so it didn’t happen.

Filatura di Crosa “Superior,” a brushed 70/30 cashmere/silk laceweight, is what Kidsilk Haze aspires to be. This is glorious stuff, soft as some qiviuts I’ve touched, absolutely beautiful. Wow.

Filatura di Crosa “Superior” brushed cashmere/silkAnd I didn’t buy any. But apparently someone noticed how much I’d loved it and bought a ball for me and surprised me. I am surprised, totally. I called Patternworks, just to make sure there wasn’t some mistake–oh heck let’s be honest, curiosity was absolutely killing me.

The woman who answered the phone had no clue either. But she was delighted for me and delighted that someone out there somewhere would do that for somebody else; it completely made her day, too. I wished her a good weekend as we hung up.

Whoever you are, thank you for this mitzvah. I hope to live up to it by knitting and gifting well with it.

Let them eat cake
Friday October 26th 2007, 9:25 am
Filed under: Life

Janknitz gave very valuable information for the allergic in her comment on the Stitches East post, for those who might miss it. And what she said reminded me…

The day I turned into a new teenager was the first day in many Decembers to come of driving out to western Maryland to a Christmas tree farm to chop our own.  Mom and Dad called a bunch of their friends who had kids that more or less coincided with ours, age-wise, and from that first expedition made a party of it. They called ahead for reservations for a superb meal out afterwards, warming up near the fireplace from all that tromping through the snow at Mealey’s in Newmarket, Maryland. We always thought it was a really cool place: they served hot corn fritters with powdered sugar straight out of the fryer, a good old Southern food, and the tables had, instead of legs, old spinning wheels reconfigured to fit the part. I thought that was wonderful then; as a handspinner now, it rather horrifies me that those good antique wheels were–never mind. Dunno if they’re even still there that way.

My father loves chocolate, but he’s allergic to it, so we never had any in the house growing up, with the exceptions of Easter and Christmas.   It was definitely a special occasions food to me.  I remember one time Mrs. Marx, our neighbor, for reasons I don’t remember, gave us each–not to share, but *each*–a Droste chocolate apple that split up into apple-shaped slivers but were gloriously solid chocolate, as if to in the most visually ironic terms possible declare that it really was a health food, even before all this stuff about flavinoids and how dark chocolate kills the staph germs in your mouth and decreases cavities came to light. See, it really is good for you. If you eat the really good stuff, the really dark chocolate. Not that I digress.


Dad didn’t tell us kids we were going to Mealey’s, that first day. It was to be a surprise birthday party for me, and when we pulled up to this elegant place, smelling of pine and shaking off the snow, and then when everybody started singing, “Happy Birthday,” boy, was I. And then:

When Dad was plotting with the restaurant, they asked him what kind of cake they should make. “Oh, I don’t care; just anything but chocolate.”

And you know they remembered only that one word.

The staff brought out the biggest, the most chocolatey cake I had ever seen in my life.  Thick, decorative, beautiful chocolate icing on a gloriously chocolate cake.   For MY birthday! Remember, there were multiple large families involved; I was certainly not expecting to be the center of attention. And boy, did they bring in the chocolate cake to end all chocolate cakes.

I was in heaven. Dad was highly annoyed, at them, at himself for blowing it. I didn’t care. I did, but oh, I didn’t, look at that thing!

Dad, years later, happened to remark to me, talking about something totally unrelated, that I should never, if given a choice on something, say just the negative and expect people to remember; say what you do want.

Yeah, Dad. I remember. Can I have your slice, too, then?

I have to add other Christmas tree chopping memories: waiting for the last straggling family in our party to get back to the parking area with their tree, and while waiting, seeing cars spinning their wheels in the snow and helping Brad C push someone out. That was fun! So then we waited for more people to get stuck, and when the next one did, there were four of us teenagers pushing them out and happily waving “You’re welcome!” back to them.  The parking area had filled with snow while people were looking for the one most perfect tree out there in the woods somewhere; I don’t remember how many cars we pushed out of it, just that as soon as we started to, everybody wanted to pitch in, and did. Cool.

Then there was the year the tree–they look a lot smaller outside than in!–was, as usual, too tall, even with our raised roof in the living room; Dad decided to chop off the top and put it on the roof to make it look from the street as if the thing were growing right through the house. Good times.

The Wholly Roaming Empire
Thursday October 25th 2007, 11:34 am
Filed under: Life

Catoctin Mountain OrchardBefore I say anything else, I want to offer my heartfelt sympathy and wishes for the safety of those in San Diego and thereabouts. And for there to be just enough rain there to be of real help.

Karen said in the comments, before we got to DC, that we needed to go to Catoctin Mountain Orchard, which is next to Cunningham Falls. creek and falls at CunninghamWell, yeah!

Catoctin, back in the day, was one of the first places to go for the pick-your-own crowd: use their containers or weigh your own first, and then weigh the containers again when you get done. What little kids don’t like a day of climbing in trees? And how often do their parents encourage them to do that at home? Strawberries, on the other hand, were bend-over-till-you’re-stiff type of work, but they were our favorites and we picked a lot of them.Catoctin pumpkin and apple

I don’t know if they still do that; I do know that, since I left home, they built this beautiful farmstand. (And there’s a local photographer who sells beautiful framed prints there for a very reasonable price; I got one a few years ago of mountain laurels, one of my most favorite flowers and one that I have never seen in California. I miss them. I keep it next to my knitting perch.) Karen bought a half bushel of Empires to make applesauce with, and we split it with her and took some home to the folks.

I asked my mother-in-law, and she told me where her scale was. One pound even. one pound Empire appleWow. Karen snapped this shot for me with her pumpkin and an Empire on her doorstep.

And yes, we went to Cunningham Falls. The creek was mostly dry and the falls barely there; the drought back East is pretty intense.Cunningham Falls handicapped access walkway

Richard and I came home to a green lawn, revived by the rain that had come to northern California in our absence. To celebrate, I quartered and zapped the one Empire I’d brought home, cooked in deference to California’s produce protectionism till the juices turned to syrup and the whole thing into a dessert.Leaving Cunningham Falls

All a matter of scale
Wednesday October 24th 2007, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

This little scale is exceedingly useful: when it’s getting tight re how much yarn I have left for a project, and I’m debating whether I can squeeze one more pattern repeat out of it, I can weigh the remaining ball as it shrinks along the way and know how much I’ll need. In the case of this Julia shawl, I think I’d better quit: I generally allocate twice as much yarn for the cast off row as a regular one on a circular shawl, and though it’s close, better safe than frogging.

Julia shawl

As I weighed this, looking at the gap between the back of the piano and the wall and the size of this ball, I suddenly remembered reading in a newspaper-style newsletter that Interweave (I think it was) briefly published, a story about a knitter in DC who dropped her ball of llama yarn as she stepped off the Metro subway, realizing to her dismay that it had gone down between the train and the platform. I’m guessing she was about as close as I am here to being done with it anyway. So she sat down on the nearby bench and simply knitted till the last bit of yarn came bouncing back up at her. As she knitted, it gradually dawned on her that some of the people around her weren’t getting on the trains she thought they must be waiting for–and then, when that last bit of yarn twitched back up off the tracks, to her surprise, spontaneous applause burst out around her.

Wouldn’t it be cool to get that when you cast that last stitch off.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Wednesday October 24th 2007, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Life

View from Sugarloaf Mtn, MDWhen I was a kid, it was a tradition in our family that the Saturday before Easter every year we would make the drive out to Sugarloaf Mountain and hike the trail up to the top and have a picnic. Sugarloaf had a Civil War cannon still there at the summit, ready to help defend Washington, and it was there that a group of Union soldiers saw Lee’s men crossing the Potomac in hopes that Maryland would rise up with the South. Maryland did not. Barbara Frietchie became an urban legend for supposedly leaning out her upper window in Frederick and taunting the Confederates to shoot her old gray head and shaming them for not honoring her flag and theirs, too. Actually, she was 95 and sick in bed on the day and they shot that flag up, but never mind; she had been an old friend of Francis Scott Key and had participated in a memorial service at George Washington’s passing, so John Greenleaf Whittier ‘s 1864 poem used her as a symbol of the goodness of the Union. Propaganda and future tourism and all that.

Richard and Karen and I were out and about last week when I happened to mention that I hadn’t been on Sugarloaf in decades. Karen immediately answered, “You want to go?” Richard agreed, and go we did.Sugarloaf Mountain

You can drive most of the way up, but there is no way I can hike the rest of it now. I wanted to see that cannon again, but it’s okay; we climbed on and around the tiny stone fort there near the parking lot, which, having gone immediately past it to get up to the summit all those times as a kid, I somehow had no memory of. The fort had been something to simply get past, is all, I suppose. That and the tiny dark slits for windows and the connection to the ugliness of the Civil War, I probably hadn’t liked the looks of the thing back in the day.Civil War fort at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland

We teased each other: you want to go in there? What do you think is in there? Bears? Foxes? Wouldn’t want to wake them up, right?

Ghosts of the past and stone steps upwards to see the ever-widening view, looking out. May we always learn from where we’ve been.

Steps to the top of Sugarloaf’s fort

Stephen Colbert
Tuesday October 23rd 2007, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Life

BryanMy brother Bryan and I got the tour last Friday of our old house being remodelled, as I mentioned, and then, getting back in the car and starting forward, I asked him, “Do you remember the Colberts?”

“Like I could forget?” He had the same reaction to that question that I’d had when Dad had asked me recently. He stopped. We were in front of their old house. “Yeah, you know Steve Colbert?” I asked him, with, this time, the emphasis on the last syllable and pronounced “bare.” “That’s little Stevie I remember toddling down that driveway.”

I remember the scene in part because Mrs. Colbert was outside watching him, while usually she was inside while her older kids played outside; it was a neighborhood of large families where you could step out your door and find a playmate after dinner on any summer evening, with a pick-up game of four-square or softball usually going on at the corner.

I remember her smiling, watching her littlest toddle cheerfully, determinedly, but physically uncertainly, the way they do at that age, and my feeling of he’s so cute! combined with, wait, wait, my pesty little brother is that age, so why don’t I think he’s all that cute? It was a moment of revelation to me. Maybe Bryan was cute after all. I felt I needed to go notice that he was.

“THAT’S Steve COLBERT?!” Bryan exclaimed, and then, “So *that’s* why Dad sent me that article on Steve Colbert. It made no sense to me.” We started reminiscing about back in the day, and he was just shaking his head marvelling, “He was my best friend when I was little.” And then, “How long ago did they move away?”

“It’s been 40 years; I don’t remember.” Or maybe 35 or so, but, whatever, it’s been awhile. Lulu, if you read this, I bet my sister Carolyn would love to hear from you.

The Colberts’ old house

Something fishy
Tuesday October 23rd 2007, 9:15 am
Filed under: Life

(I’m throwing in another photo C&O Canalof the C&O because there are never enough pictures of that peaceful place.)

Anything that wakes up my immune system wakes it up to fight me, and the exposure issues going on that trip were a real risk–but one we both very much felt was okay to take on. We wanted to go. We managed to get flu shots the day before we left, and crossed our fingers.

Friday, our last night in Maryland, we had intended to take his folks out to dinner, but they had a longstanding big-deal engagement to attend to; no reason to sit at home, so we gave Karen a call. She was beyond delighted to come pick us up. We went out to dinner, then her favorite pastry chef’s place to buy dessert and take it to share with Amy and Karen’s son-in-law. We happily meandered first, checking out several bookstores, finding that only one of the three had one copy of Wrapped in Comfort left in stock; they’d had seven each, but they were sold. Yay! I signed the one still there for them, they wished I’d come in when they’d still had time to order more, and basically a grand time was had by all. Chocolate mousse at Amy’s to celebrate when we got there.

I kind of laughed at Karin’s “glad you got home safe and sound.” We got the safe part down pat. But I have to say, I have never been so glad in my life that my husband was sick. That was quite the airplane ride: we held together and we got home midnight our time. The next day I was on the phone back to Karen: did Amy get sick? Did her husband? No? You? How much? Really? Okay.

So yesterday I talked to the manager where we’d had that last celebratory dinner. Karen had had a nibble of the smoked salmon appetizer. I’d had a fair bit more. My husband had eaten most of it, and Sunday debated going to the ER if he couldn’t get more fluids down. That and the mousse were the only foods in common.

The manager apologized profusely, and told me his insurance person would be contacting me. I told him all I wanted was for him to know so they could pull that stuff off the shelf, and he reiterated that I’d get that call.

Dude. What you don’t know. I’m not about to sue you. I’m not even asking for the price of my meal back. I just want the next customer to enjoy their dinner. What I really wanted to do was jump up and down in thrilled relief, and go, It’s NOT THE CROHN’S!!! I’m SAFE!!! It’s just plain old ordinary food poisoning! A normal-person thing to do, and we’re both recovering steadily, and it’s okay! Yay!!!

(Edited to add: I forgot to say–my friend Nancy invited me over for dinner last night to meet Lisa (didn’t catch the last name) and Sandy Terp of http://moonriselaceknitting.tripod.com/ while they were visiting in town.  I managed okay re the food, and we had a great time together.  I got to see the Three Times a Lady shawl in person, and laughed when Sandy said I was too young to remember the song that inspired its name.  As if!  I remember avoiding the dance floor in high school when they played that…  Too funny.)

Stitches East!
Monday October 22nd 2007, 11:15 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

Weatherly Mize’s shawl pinWeatherly Mize’s shawl pin. Goes with every color.

Kate and Deb, who laughed with me for ages at Stitches East, with the YSO occasionally dropping in the conversation when she had a moment because it was just too much fun not to. We were having a good time. Kate and Deb’s lace socksThey surprised me with these gorgeous socks, which they’d made together. Kate and Deb

Amy, with her black baby alpaca shawl Amyin the yarn from Karin in Albany.

Robin, who used to live in sight of my street here, before I came here, and then moved close enough to the neighborhood I grew up in that when I named the street she asked which house.


Afton described a dinner after the first night of Stitches, where eight women were discussing the menu with the waitress. One told her, “No dairy” (which I can thoroughly relate to–I have a daughter who gets violently ill if she eats anything that so much as touched anything made from milk.) The waitress didn’t get it, and asked what No Dairy meant. Instantly, all eight women at that table spontaneously declared in unison, “MOOOoooooooOO.” I wish I’d been there! Afton surprised me with this wool tam. I confess I have Mary Rowe’s “Knitted Tams” book and never gotten past the dream stage with it; Afton totally scooped me, and I love blues and greens together.Afton at Stitches Afton’s tam

Colorjoy LynnH in her one-off Peace shawl, with the yoke done a little differently from how it is in the book; I like to doodle in my knitting. Granted, LynnH is the last person you’d expect to see wearing something so plain, but since I didn’t know what color would be best, I decided she would have great fun painting it, and she said she would indeed. Colorjoy LynnHLynn, I’m listening to Brian’s Music Box Rag album as I type. Once I learn the pieces I can kazoo along with your husband. (Kazoo made by Lynn.)from Colorjoy LynnH

Lisa Souza adjusting a Bigfoot shawl from “Wrapped inLisa Souza Comfort” in her Jellybeanz colorway at her booth at Stitches East, and my haul of Lisa yarn.haul of Lisa Souza yarn from Stitches East 07

Sheila ErnstSheila Ernst and her friend (Lisa’s, too) Jackie in the background. Sheila makes the most incredible handblown glass shawl pins, glass buttons, glass knitting needles, you name it. The picture doesn’t begin to do it justice, but it goes so well with my airplane knitting–which is the yarn Laura in Alameda dyed and surprised me with at TKGA. I’m almost done knitting it up, and I can’t wait to wear them together.

Sheila’s handblown glass shawl pin

I was quite thoroughly spoiled by my friends on this trip in far more ways than these pictures could convey, and I am so glad I got to go!

(Edited to add: WordPress is balking, and some pictures are being hidden beneath others.)

American Gothic
Monday October 22nd 2007, 9:32 am
Filed under: Life

Karen with the original Water Turtles shawl, Kathleen with the one and only Cunningham Falls shawl, and Richard holding the cane Karen gifted me with from an Africana store whose name I don’t know.

Karen didn’t realize, when she picked it out, that the shape of it is basically the ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for life and longevity. I love it.

American Gothic