Tuesday March 18th 2008, 10:48 am
Filed under: Family

Saturday, on Ann’s way back out the door the second time, I grabbed my camera, got in her way for just one quick shot, not giving her time to straighten her shawl out, and then let her go. I knew she needed to be in a hurry to get back.

At one point not long after they had all arrived the first time, she said something to which I responded, “Oh good. You were nervous too?”

And that was the end of any possible shyness whatsoever: we’d both opened up and that was that. She was a kindred spirit, and I can’t wait to get to know her better.

Ann in her new Peace of Mind shawl

Signs of spring
Monday March 17th 2008, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

An allium from outer spaceWhen I was working on knitting for my book, just about everything on my needles was focused on that; I was making one shawl for my recipients, one for the publisher, shawl after shawl. Maybe that color would look better, better go make another. After I shipped everything off to Martingale, it was a relief to be able to just knit for the sheer joy of it, to be able to give my time and skill away for the love of it without having to put any of it off to the side.

And after all those shawls, I wanted some near-instant gratification. Now, if anyone had told me when I started out that I was going to end up knitting a lace scarf for every single woman who comes to our church, I would have run away screaming in protest, no way! But, starting off with a scarf or two and gradually coming to realize that I’d come to the point of no return where I couldn’t leave anyone out now, over a year and a half, that’s exactly what I did. Everyone. Except for the blind woman whose guide dog was far more interested in that exotic animal he could smell in there than she was; a scarf was the most impractical thing in the world, and she let me know it. You could just see the dog exclaiming “Dang!” with a snort as I put hers back away. That’s fine, I actually kind of expected that. I couldn’t leave her out, though, I had to at least offer.

So I was done (which felt weird). And I stopped. But living in a college town, people didn’t stop moving in and out, and the end result is, it’s been several months since I’d made the last scarf, but there were half a dozen or so new women here. Time to get back to doing at least one church scarf a week and play catchup. It’s not like I don’t have the yarn…

So, yesterday I walked up to a newly-married couple whose names I ought to remember and don’t, and said to the woman, “I *think* this is the color you were wearing last week,” as I pulled one out of my purse. “I was playing with some yarn this week.” I had the ball band tucked in there so they could read what it was made of if they were curious, without my having to play puff-it-up at them.

She and her husband were instantly surprised and delighted, and as she pulled it out of the bag, their faces were in perfect happy synchronicity. She put it on and kept it on. Elann’s Baby Cashmere, one skein, 19 stitches till it ran out, made up into what my mom calls a “yarn necklace.”

I went to my own seat, thinking at myself, remember that. Remember those expressions on their faces. THAT is why I do this. Get a clue. Do it again.
Happy spring!

(p.s. After I did that, Jo kept trying to get my attention so she could wink and smile at me. Go Jo!)

Saturday March 15th 2008, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I heard the car and sprang our front door open to greet them. We got to meet our son’s future mother-, father-, and brother-in-law. You know how, some people, you meet them and you instantly love them? There was an intense and immediate sense of belonging that only grew better as we talked. They didn’t have very long, though, with a family celebration to get to, so I brought over two things.

First, I showed Ann the Camelspin project I was working on and told her she had her choice, I wanted to make sure I got the color right, sorry I hadn’t gotten this one very far along yet. She went “Oooh!” at it.

Then she opened the bag with the shawl. And that was the end of that question. That one. Wow. And Ann, if everybody reacted as speechless and thrilled as you did when you put that on, there would be more knitters knitting for more people in this world. THANK you!!

And then, with it wrapped around her, she forgot her coat and had to come back awhile later to retrieve it. I wondered about what else I could quietly snatch so I’d get to see her yet again before they flew home, but I behaved myself and didn’t.

My son is one very lucky man.

They’re coming!…
Saturday March 15th 2008, 12:58 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Knit

She won’t see this between the airport and here, and I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to photograph it later, so I’m sneaking a moment in to post this: this is the shawl for Ann, after finally blocking it last night. It’s not a new pattern, it’s my Peace shawl, but as two families prepare to come together, I really think it’s the right one.

She and her husband live in a warm climate, so it had to be lightweight. My daughter-in-law-to-be, when I asked her at Christmas what her mom’s favorite color was, said light blue, and I went all over Stitches West looking for just the right shade of light blue I wanted in silk. I didn’t find it. (The bulkiness and bother of my scooter while trying to get into booths may have played a part there, dunno.) But I did find this baby alpaca/silk wisp of a yarn at Ellen’s Halfpint Farm, and it leaped out at me. I turned away and left it there, came back later, and it was still calling out, Me! ME!

And so here it is. For Conway’s daughter-in-law and Kim’s mom. As I wait for the doorbell to ring. Ann’s shawl

Californian snow drifts
Friday March 14th 2008, 2:30 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Snowing in March. California style: shovel-free. pear flurries

A little edgy
Friday March 14th 2008, 10:21 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

I wrote in “Wrapped in Comfort” about using a doubled strand for strength in the cast-on stitches at the neck edges of my circular shawls. Lately I’ve been continuing that doubled strand for the first row as I purl back across the cast-on edge, and I like it enough that I wish I’d started doing that sooner. So I thought I’d throw the idea out there.

Didn’t get a lot of knitting done yesterday. Got company coming tomorrow.Camelspin 70/30 silk/camel, Berry colorway

Thursday March 13th 2008, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Knit

half note in yarn and guitarAnother notice-the-caption post. Only, I haven’t mastered playing music and knitting at the same time yet; thank goodness for CD players. Amazing how much faster the stitches go with, say, Michael Brecker dancing along on his sax.

Purlescence got a shipment of Camelspin silk/camel in, and for three weeks running I kept going over to that Berry colorway, fondling its shimmery softness and then reluctantly putting it back. Knitting is such a tactile as well as visual obsession. Each week I would come in for knitting night and be relieved that it hadn’t been snatched up yet. Finally I gave in, and last night I cast on. It rated a new pattern designed just for it.  I find there’s something about it–I don’t know yet what its story is going to be–but there’s this great sense of anticipation like it’s going to go to exactly the right person, I just don’t know who that is yet (I have my guesses, but I’m waiting); it feels a wonderfully happy thing to be finally knitting it, like it had been waiting for that part of the process all along.

Amaryllis patch

(This one feels like a family photo where you’re trying to get all the kids to lean in together for the shot rather than away from each other; c’mon you, don’t hide behind that one.  And no bunny ears.  Okay, okay, hold it…Cheese!)

The student
Wednesday March 12th 2008, 1:52 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Life

Amaryllis impersonating a giraffe faceDon’t miss the caption on that first picture. And hey, Lene, that stalk to the left? That’s the second one from your bulb.

There were a few years way back when where my knitting needles were on an extended vacation. But I did do a lot of smocking back then: I bought a pleater to gather up the fabric, which I then embroidered over to make fancy outfits for my babies and for my daughters for awhile longer.

When my youngest boy was just starting to walk and talk, I got in the mood to make some more smocked baby dresses, even though at that point there were going to be no more baby girls in this family; we were done. I made three. It somehow felt important to do.

Smocked jumper and pleaterMy oldest sister, whom I’d thought was done too, suddenly announced she and her husband were expecting; I waited, wondering, and, yes, she had a girl. Tadaah! I forget now who got the second dress–it’ll come to me–and the third one was the most important of all.

A foreign student at Stanford found out she was about to become a single mother. She was from a culture where you didn’t, didn’t, didn’t do that. EVER. She didn’t know if or how she could return to her home country or what to do next. She could probably never marry there now. But she decided she couldn’t possibly give up the daughter she loved for adoption–that was her child. No. My friend Renee, who found out about her, found out that she took the baby home from the hospital with only a shoebox for a crib, and Renee asked around at church and managed to round up some essential supplies for her and, we dearly hoped, a sense of emotional support as well.

And I had that smocked baby dress, brand new, to give her for her baby girl. Something to celebrate her birth. I sent it via Renee with a card with the message that I felt that every new child in this world deserves to be celebrated with something handmade with love just for them. And that it had been: I’d just had to wait to find out who that baby was, at the time I was making it, and now I knew. It had been for her.

Renee moved, and I never knew how life turned out for that woman and her daughter. She would be about 18 now.

So often, life is like that. We don’t get to find out. We only get to know we played a part that mattered at the time when it was most needed.

The hospitalist
Tuesday March 11th 2008, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Flowering plum in spring, ready to open upSid Schwab over at and his fellow doctors are talking about hospitalists and the changing roles of surgeons in the healthcare field.

I had never heard of hospitalists until the first one visited me at Stanford, five years ago. I saw several: the first one was warm and kind, but one was a young guy who refused to make eye contact with me; he simply mumbled a few things and beat it as fast as he could, leaving me feeling like he couldn’t wait to ditch the scene–I was an interruption and a bother and definitely not his patient. If this was what hospitalists were, I was upset at my own family practitioner for not showing up when I needed the comfort of her presence.

But the first hospitalist, Dr. C, made up for it. He came back. He saw me when I was too ill to sit up in bed for more than a minute or two, and again when I was doing somewhat better as the then-experimental Remicade gradually kicked in. He also happened to show up at a moment when I was trying to walk across the room and he was shocked to see how far gone my muscles were from the prolonged Crohn’s flare. He was determined to help me turn that around.

My older son, home from college, needed a doctor appointment about six weeks later, but had outgrown the pediatric department at our clinic and hadn’t yet picked out another doctor to go to; how do you know, when you don’t know them… He did know he wanted a male doctor and that my family practitioner therefore wasn’t going to do it for him. His dad’s doctor’s practice was full.

So they simply assigned him to whoever had an opening. The kid got off the phone and told me who it was, and I exclaimed, “REALLY! Can I come with you?” So the guy *did* have some regular patients as well as his hospitalist practice! I promised the kid I’d sit in the waiting room with my knitting, if only he would let me come in with him for the first minute or so.

a bit of laceknitting–Jaggerspun ZephyrDr. C. opened the door and there was a moment of utter confusion in his face: the first thing he saw was a gray-haired woman sitting just inside the door knitting away on some lace, not the 19-year-old man his schedule had said. (He had not seen me as a knitter before; I’d been too ill to hold the needles.) And then it hit him: “It’s YOU!” Hair neatly combed and in place rather than askew, nicely dressed rather than in a hospital gown, doing just fine now, thanks–“LOOK at you!!!” He about danced on the spot, he was so excited. He just couldn’t get over it. Wow!!

I got a chance to tell him thank you for taking good care of me. Then I left the examining room and let him take care of my kid, who needed a physical, nothing exciting there.

And then to my surprise, he came out with my son when they were done and exclaimed over me some more; he needed to express again how very glad and very relieved he was to see me looking so well. Again, he exclaimed in delight, “LOOK at you!!” I noticed that even the receptionist was beaming; he was thrilled, and it was contagious.

Yeah, hospitalists are okay.

Me, my reaction to all that, was, I went home, picked up some laceweight merino, and knitted a thank you scarf for his wife. Wedding-ring fine, meaning you could pull it through a ring when I was done. Nothing less would do. And later, a handspun, super soft hat for their baby who arrived not too long after.

A week in the life of a shawl
Monday March 10th 2008, 12:40 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit


alpaca plays the blues


getting there

Skipping right along to Saturday…

just add water

And what it looked like today after a rinse Saturday night, with a full blocking to followEllen’s HalfPint Farm baby alpaca/silk laceweight.

How to change a mindless small bad habit in one afternoon
Sunday March 09th 2008, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Life

Aversion therapy in public. Can I help it if I (now that’s a little kid’s phrase if ever there was one) have short stumpy fingers?

Okay, credit Dawn at Because I Said So for sparking this one. I’m writing it down for my future grandchildren, who will, from about the age of six to 12, find it hysterically funny. (From 12-19, nothing from an adult is allowed to openly impress them and eye rolling is a required part of the code.)

I was at the DMV in Maryland, getting my license redone with my new name after I got married. They required an updated picture at the time.

I had a pair of somewhat bashed-up glasses that didn’t fit terribly well anymore, and I was forever mindlessly pushing them back up my nose. Only, I had a habit of pushing at the bridge.

The guy snapped my picture, looked at it, and in deepest sympathies told me, “You don’t want to look at this for the next five years, lady, let’s take it over.”

How often do you get a do-over at the DMV? But what was the problem, sir (there’s that “sir” again) , was my hand in the way just then?

Um, more than. He just silently waved me over and showed it to me.

It looked like I had my finger up my nose.

And now I readjust my glasses at the sides.

One of a kind
Saturday March 08th 2008, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

There was a bit of a buzz on the Knitlist about things to knit to donate for a silent auction, and someone said, make a felted bag; handbags are always in demand, and a one-of-a-kind one would be doubly so.

Ah, yes… (Cue to Back In The Day.)

It’s worn out and a bit flea bitten and I don’t know where it is at the moment, although I know it’s safely inside a plastic bag somewhere, but I have it. In its honor, here’s a photo of a handwoven wool-and-wood plant hanger I bought at a craft fair, the planks having been the roof of a circa-1800’s barn falling in on itself and recycled, that I fell in love with when I was 18. I used it for many years, and looking at it here, I think maybe I should bring it out of retirement. Anyway.

handspun handwoven plant hanger from Frederick, MD craft fairMy husband was in his first post-grad-school job in New Hampshire. We had bought our first house at the very best interest rate then available in several years: 12.5% fixed. (It still makes me shudder. But we had neighbors with an ARM that hit 19%.) We had small babies and not a spare dime anywhere.

My folks, meantime, went to a craft fair in southern Virginia. Dad being an art dealer, they always love to see what people are creating, and they came across someone selling handbags from wool that I believe was handspun from their own sheep (right, Dad?) and handwoven, with a twisted-cord strap, done in the natural colors of the sheep. Dad bought Mom one; Mom had once tried handweaving herself when they were newlyweds and had made herself a couple of handbags, but had long since worn them out. Dad bought me one, too, in a slightly different pattern, probably thinking of my plant hanger and knowing I would like it; they sent it to me for my birthday.

I was thrilled. I was inordinately proud of the thing. Something made so much by hand, something nobody else in the world owned anything like, something that spoke to my upbringing in a household that valued the artist, and I took it with me quietly proudly to church and tried not to hold it up in the face of every person I encountered, demanding that they admire it too. (Joyce, do you remember this?)

The second week I had it, our Mormon bishop’s wife happened to walk into the chapel and one look at her stopped me dead in my tracks. I got her attention, church not having started yet, and barely able to speak the words for disbelief, asked her, “Where…did you get that?”

“Oh, isn’t this nice? My husband and I were on vacation and we were driving through southern Virginia, and we stumbled on this craft fair.”

She’d picked one in I think it was the same weaving pattern as mine, with a slight variation in the coloring; probably done on the same warp at the same time as mine, I’d guess. Out of all the people in all the places on all the planet, and all the choices at that craft fair, for that matter, what were the chances…

One could say God definitely has a sense of humor. And a tendency, like any good parent, to tell me not to get too full of myself. It still makes me laugh, all these years later.

No more teenagers
Friday March 07th 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Today is the day. There was one year where all four of my kids were teenagers. Adolescence is officially over here.

Twenty years ago, both my daughters needed surgery, and both the doctors involved wanted to schedule it for the day of or the day after my due date. Um, this doesn’t work. Picture a small child under anesthesia at the outclinic surgery center, the mom going into labor, and the dad stuck, torn between the two, not being able to just leave his child, but his wife needing to go to the hospital–especially since my labor time had been halved each successive pregnancy and this was my fifth pregnancy, the fourth to survive to fullterm.

What do you do?

So I did what I do. I prayed hard. God, You know, and I have not a clue.

I woke up in the middle of that night from a vivid dream of having just had the baby and looking at the clock. I knew in that moment what day John was going to be born and what time. He was not going to come on his due date and get to be a Feb 29th baby after all.

I called the girls’ doctors and was able to move one surgery up a week, the one that just couldn’t wait; the other, I moved back. I told them I was having the baby on the 7th (nobody asked; let them assume a planned C-section or inducement if they wanted, had they asked me I’d have told them straight out why I was saying that.)

And then at 1:05 pm on March 6th I started labor. Hey! According to past history, this one was supposed to last less than an hour! Okay, whatever. There was a concert at church that evening, and I went. Someone asked me how I was doing, and I cheerfully chirped, “I’m three minutes apart.”

“What are you DOING here!?” they demanded.

I sat down, the music began, the labor stopped, I enjoyed the concert, I stood up at the end, and boom, I was in labor again. I guess John wanted to take some time off and listen to that piano too before he really got to work.

He arrived forty-seven minutes after midnight, exactly on time and exactly as I’d dreamed it. The biopsy on his two-year-old sister’s cells had come back precancerous but they’d caught it in time and she was okay; her doctor told me he was glad we hadn’t waited.

And I’m glad John waited until we could get her squared away. But then, he’s always been a considerate and very kind child.

Happy birthday, big guy. And if any of my readers are in Texarkana, Texas at the moment, (he’ll probably spend some time in Louisiana and Mississippi later) and you see some of those Mormon missionaries go by in their dark suits and white shirts on their bikes, wave hi to Elder Hyde for me and tell him his momma loves him.

The recipe was soda like that
Thursday March 06th 2008, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

a little knitting content on the sideScene: college apartment with four girls in it, ’79 or so. I loved to bake; Kay tried very occasionally, mostly cookies, but pretty much left the oven to me.

One day, though, she decided to make some I think it was banana bread, but some type of quick bread, anyway. Only instead of putting in the 1/4 tsp of baking soda that was called for, she put in 1/4 cup. The loaf rose beautifully (um…) and she was quite proud of herself. She invited all her roomies to dig in as she sliced us each a piece and put them on plates. Hey. We were being high-class here in the solemnity of the occasion.

Roommate #1: “Um, Kay…”

Roommate #2: “What did you DO to this?!”

Roommate #3 (that would be me): “That’s really good, Kay,” (finishing it off), “can I have a second piece?”

Gaack. It was as bad as you think it sounds. But I was nothing if not a loyal friend; Kay and I had been roommates since our freshman year, and I wanted to encourage her to keep trying what I enjoyed doing. I didn’t want her baking career to stop cold on the spot.

Ever since that day, I have not cared for the taste of soda in food. Especially bread. If the recipe calls for it, I substitute baking powder. Chocolate chip cookies? Why do that to a good cookie? Don’t tell me it’s to neutralize the acid, I know the theory, theories don’t make food taste better, soda is soda, I make cranberry orange bread without the stuff and it’s wonderful my way and that’s about as acidic as you could ask for.

blueberry cakeNow. Here, from the website, is the world’s best blueberry cake. I notice that it has a smidgen of soda in it right now; the author has put it in and taken it out from time to time, trying to decide. My copy is printed out from when it wasn’t in there. I can guarantee you (taking a bite) that you just can’t improve on it my way. And half a cup of butter to three cups of blueberries? How can you go wrong? I use a non-runny plain (but definitely not nonfat) yogurt, frozen berries.

Go ahead, try it. Impress the people who live at your place.

I sir-tainly thought it was
Thursday March 06th 2008, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Life

Our Potomac, by Roy SewallI had an email conversation last night with a friend who grew up on the Virginia side of the Potomac River from me; she mentioned that using “sir” and “ma’am” was always a mark of respect, and her culture shock at finding that her more-Northern relatives thought she was sassing them.

I grew up on the Maryland side of the river, where “sir” was very much a part of the conversation, “ma’am,” though, not so much. When I was quite little I had some teachers who expected it, but “sir,” that one, we never outgrew. It was polite speech on up to putting the guy on a pedestal, depending on the tone of voice and the context, but it was always positive.

Here in California my car was once hit by a guy who seemed to have had a few, and when I tried to exchange insurance information with him, he at one point bellowed, “Stop calling me SIR!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m a Southerner.” (Oh, bright move, Alison, call him sir while apologizing for calling him sir. And I don’t really think of myself as a Southerner, although I’m from south of the Mason-Dixon line, but it was the best fast explanation.) Apparently he thought I was calling him a doddering old fool. Um… I thought I was doing the opposite, even if he didn’t deserve it.

It hit me after that friend and I chatted that I’d called that eye doctor “sir” in my post earlier in the day, and I’m sure he didn’t mind one bit if he read it, but I’m laughing at myself for missing the potential cultural difference. Hon, I ain’t sassin’ nobody. He earned that honorific.