Here comes the bride
Saturday May 31st 2008, 5:55 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family

Introducing Kim, my new daughter-in-law, in her wedding ring (except for the reinforced neck edges) shawl, the Nina pattern in laceweight Fino baby alpaca/silk.Kim in her Nina shawl A wedding ring shawl is any one that can be pulled through one.  My son emailed me this last night.

Buckets of flowers
Saturday May 31st 2008, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family

The roses’ colors go well together in real life.   Lene and everybody, I will do my best: this time I hope to have my own camera going.

Our new daughter-in-law’s parents both grew up in this town, so did our son, and now it’s our turn to celebrate.  And believe me, we will.


Drumming up some good yarn
Thursday May 29th 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,LYS,To dye for

Last amaryllis of the seasonThe last amaryllis of the extended season, a Picotee–the last bud just opened.

Mom and I went to Purlescence tonight, where I showed her off, got to hold Nathania’s baby (this is a picture from about a month ago that I finally got to work) and tried to make friends with my shawl project again, which kind of sputtered out in the wedding preparations. But when we got home, I ended up pulling out my drum carder. This box finally came yesterday, after the post office had lost it, and I wanted to play with my new toy.Littlest Purlescence person

Nancy and I had gone in together on an order of Seacell/merino 70/30 mill ends: wonderful, soft stuff, and cheap. But what you don’t pay in price, you pay in time and effort, this being not smooth roving but the stuff that didn’t quite make it that far and got put aside. Well, about time I put that drum carder to good use. (Are you still sure you wanted to sell it to me, Laura?…I can always mail it to your new house if you change your mind…)Seacell merino mill ends

I’ve never seen undyed Seacell before, much less spun nor dyed it. I am going to find out. (Tomorrow, as I glance at the clock. Or maybe next week, as I glance at the calendar.)

first few bats done“Begin: the rest is easy.” Don’t remember where I read that in high school, but it’s stuck with me ever since. And now I have.

With an extra helping of joy on the side
Wednesday May 28th 2008, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Friends

looks like a trilobyte to meMy daughter and I had some discussion last weekend at the hotel as to what this looked like, triggered by my delight at the trilobyte posted on the wall. And no, that is not a computer term.

I got told that clearly it was a screw. Looking again, I see a nutcracker. Maybe a lobster that lost its claws in an argument at a restaurant.

An extra bit of joy to share this week: you remember this post? Writing it is what got me to finally go google Jonathan, his last name being common enough in the US that I had long thought the idea of finding him absolutely laughable.

He was right there in plain sight. Third entry in today’s results and on the second page the day I went looking. He got his PhD after all and did his postdoc at Harvard, his area of study and his whole life having been changed by the experience I wrote about; he’s been able to bring much good into the world through his work. (I’m the one saying that, and he’s out there blushing.) I wrote him, it took a few weeks to get past his university’s email filters, but he got it and I now have his permission to tell you all, it all worked out for him after all.

And just to make it a bit better even yet? His mom’s a knitter.

The best day of all
Tuesday May 27th 2008, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life





Ask and ye shall receive: wedding photos. wedding2

Here comes the sun
Monday May 26th 2008, 3:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

When my son explained to his then-future mother-in-law that I needed to stay out of the sun, Ann booked the reception inside the Loews resort overlooking the water, letting us safely see the beach in all its glory, hibiscus and roses and honeysuckle blooming all around the windows. It was very kind of her and her husband. The tall picture windows were in a series of squares with a circle in the center, as is so often seen in Californian architecture: the image of the sun framed right into the building.

During the ring ceremony, someone sang “You Raise Me Up,” and as his voice rose with the high notes, a small bird just outside from us flew suddenly upwards in perfect synchronicity, disappearing from view by flying in front of the sun.

Meantime, visit your favorite veteran today and tell them thank you. I wished a silent one across the bay towards the naval base there, and hugged my dad, a veteran of WWII, grateful to have him around, telling bad puns and fun stories and making us laugh.Dad

“I now pronounce you husband and wife!”
Sunday May 25th 2008, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

San Diego Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

“You may now kiss the bride.”

You may all applaud me on my restraint: it was all I could do, but I managed not to jump straight up from my chair and shout, “YAY!!!!”

If you drove on I-5 in La Jolla yesterday and saw a group of happy people snapping pictures right at the bottom of where the beam of the car obscures the view in this picture taken from that freeway on the way out, that was us.

If you remember Kathy from my book, that was her town in California, and I tried to figure out how to drop by and say hi to her mom for the first time in 28 years, but my time was too short and just too tightly choreographed.

There were moments every wedding ought to have: the old friend of my mom’s from long ago in Maryland, long since moved to San Diego, walking in the door, seeing my mother, having no idea she was the grandmother of the groom, and her jaw dropping on the floor: “FRANCES!!!”

There were other delightful moments: ain’t nobody can dance like my son-in-law. My oldest kindly lent her husband to our young niece, who danced beautifully with him and then looked way up at him with the widest Bambi eyes that said, That was wonderful, did I do that right? Can we do it again!? And then they did.

Only the flowers fade

There were ohmygosh moments, like when the wait staffer suddenly grabbed the bride’s bouquet off her table and blew fiercely on it: the edges of the flower spray had caught in the tea candle. Close one. Then the groom later put his dinner napkin on the table to go dance the first dance, suddenly realized he’d covered over another tea candle and grabbed it off quick before they had a matching set of moments.

There was the groom’s friend who danced Cossack-style.

There were the two sides of the bride’s family, getting a rare chance to come together again and renew acquaintances again as they all included us in on their joy now, too.

There were many, many people clearly having the time of their lives. I tell you, we were CELEBRATING! To LIFE!!!

There were very kind words from the father of the bride, thanking us for raising such a fine son. And you both, too, we told him and his wife. You too. Well done. So very well done. Your Kim is a peach.

There was a husband-and-wife photographer couple who so much belonged to all of us in the moments of the day as we did to them and each other and everybody and…! Such a gathering of hearts! The wife of the couple came over to me before they left to give and receive a hug goodbye, with a fervent wish from me that they lived near us, felt likewise. We would have beautiful pictures forever, not just in photographs. I certainly hope someone snapped some of them, too, for me.

There were pictures in other people’s cameras that haven’t gotten to me yet; I kept either forgetting mine or being unable to manage its clunky presence. If ever I wished I had something smaller and definitely lighter, but that was okay, there were other cameras in abundance.

There was the bride’s elderly maternal grandmother, wishing to me that she had the energy of these young folks to dance with her husband like that. I guess that was a declaration that became intent: a few minutes later, she and her sweetheart were swaying gently together to the music with the rest.

There was a friend’s musical piece playing in my head, “Sail Away,” a tune that has always spoken to me of love and belonging, in the quieter moments as I watched the boats going past our hotel room’s deck overlooking the bay from Coronado Island. My friend had no idea what a perfect future backdrop he was creating for me when he gifted me with his CD. Hummingbirds and terns flitted past our window as boats swished through the waters and on out of my sight.

There were two young people dearly and deeply in love, who laughed for sheer joy many times in the day, and a whole flock of people come to tell them how much we loved both of them and how glad we were that they’d found and come to cherish each other. And how grateful we were that they’d brought the rest of us together in their doing so.The view out my hotel room

It arrived!
Thursday May 22nd 2008, 10:56 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Friends

She liked it! Hey Mikey! Jade Sapphire cashmere in lavendar, fingering weight, four skeins, the Bigfoot pattern.

So would this be Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian side or the American? (No, no, that’s not where my son and his bride are going on their honeymoon–at least not as far as I know!)

Niagara Falls in cashmere

Lilacs in spring
Thursday May 22nd 2008, 12:46 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Maple Creek Farm, smaller Water Turtles shawlMeantime, back in knitting, last fall at Stitches East in Baltimore, I bought some merino/bamboo/nylon yarn from the lady at Maple Creek Farm; she had a whole long rack of hanging loops of hanks, ready to be fondled by passersby, color after color after color, like a tapestry on display half-imagined, half done. This is the start of the smaller Water Turtles shawl, and my two skeins will get more length than I need. The yarn is a little thicker than my usual, although it doesn’t appear heavy like some might, so a shawl with a somewhat smaller stitch count was just right–and that pattern to me is mindless knitting, which is definitely a plus this month.

Meantime, here’s my attempt at photographing the MOG shawl. (No, that’s not the dress).

MOG shawl

They looked better than this when he gave them to me
Wednesday May 21st 2008, 12:32 pm
Filed under: To dye for

rose stewThe amaryllis dyebath having been great fun, I went searching to see if I could do much with my fading Mother’s Day roses, too. Hey, what say we make a whole wardrobe of shawls out of flowers.

The site I found advocated doubling the water to the amount of rose petals and adding mint and lemon juice; it promised me I could enjoy it as pink lemonade when I was done!

Oh joy.

Trader Joe’s had large basil plants yesterday for about a dollar and a half more than buying the same amount of basil leaves picked and dead; was this a trick question? So let’s see, basil is a member of the mint family, right? Nah, we’ll just skip that part… I squeezed a lemon into the pot after stripping the bouquet, which was well past its prime.

The dyebath came out pink as promised, but...Bright pink. I wanted to ask whoever wrote that, wait a minute! Roses come in all kinds of colors! These were deep red almost to black, with small, vivid gold stripes, very striking, very regal looking; who knows what I’d get?

Next time I do this, I want to buy some cheesecloth first, definitely: the amaryllis flowers mostly stayed intact, but those roses had far more pieces and petals and even seeds to deal with. The bath they created was deeply golden at first, not pink at all, and I had visions of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Gradually, though, as I kept the roses boiling away for an hour, the reddishness came out. It looked like it would produce pink or maybe burgundy after all once I added the wool.

My daughter came by the kitchen and when she saw what I was doing, groaned, “You are SO weird!” just like she did when she was a teenager. I laughed and told her she was right. (So there.)

The last of the debris floated in the heat

Notice that the last bit of stuff that I couldn’t quite seem to get out floated nicely to the top as soon as I got the pot back up to a boil, making it easy to skim off right after this pot shot was taken.

But you know? I do draw the line somewhere. I don’t care what that site said. I refuse to drink my sheep.rose of gold

Tuesday May 20th 2008, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

If one were to get married in the middle of the street, this is what I’d go for, flower petals circling down in the soft breeze on a glorious spring day.

This was one of the streets we drove through on our way to my piano lessons, which were held twice a week as I was growing up. The other cherry blossoms in DC I saw this photo and instantly heard the classical piece whose name escapes me but which I could go play the intro to right now, that came on on radio station WTOP as Mom drove home: announcing that it was 5:00 and time for the news.

But Mom made a point of exclaiming over the blossoms and making sure my friend Kathy and I took them in, too, as we went along, not getting too distracted away from the moment. It would be over all too soon as it was, and then you’d have to wait another year.

These cherry trees, 1200 of them, were I believe the same variety as the more famous ones planted along the Tidal Basin. This is the Kenwood neighborhood in Maryland near the DC line, and one of my fellow piano students lived just off to the left. Photo from

Curlicues and smiley faces
Monday May 19th 2008, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

amaryllis making a fish face yesterdayDid it again. (As always, don’t miss the captions.)

I think this is like how, when I was a kid, I picked up the habit from my friends for a time of dotting my i’s with smiley faces, practicing a great deal on the sides of my notebooks so they wouldn’t look like grimaces. Sometimes I added curlicues sprouting off all kinds of random places on my letters as if to pull attention to the words themselves, wanting to shout visually, I wrote this! I put language into effect, I made this marvelous tool of writing carve beautifully ornate statuary out of my thoughts, come see!

that same one, today

Oh. Wait. That’s what a blog is, too. Never mind. Well anyway.

I often, when I get to the end of a shawl, leave the cast-off, just the cast-off, to do the next day. I have no real reason for that. It’s as if it were to flourish and curlicue and smiley-face it into an exclamation point: I did it! Look at this, totally effortless!

As if the one final row were what creating the whole of it had been about or the whole of the effort involved. C’mon. I can’t fool me, not that easily.

Mother of the Groom shawl, Camelspin in UVOr maybe it is that I don’t want the shawl to have any whiff of a slogging, endless grind attached to it. Rather, to have it be like a young girl holding it over her head, running into the wind with it Superman cape-ing behind, or her twirling around and around with it till she gets dizzy and falls down laughing, the silk turning into a landing parachute settling down around her.

I think I’ll run the last end in tomorrow.

The End.

Sunday May 18th 2008, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Family

My newly-tuned piano is heavenly, as is the rare treat of time with my son to listen to him playing it. With great verve and energy. That piano was handed down from my grandmother to my mother to me.

When I was a kid, the house rule was, piano practice absolutely took precedence over any TV watching. Being one of the younger children, from the time I was eleven on up I was the only one taking piano anymore. And it wasn’t exactly an instrument I could carry into a separate room and shut the door, like my sister’s flute or my brother’s violin.

So if I were mad at my siblings, I could take out my stress and vengeance, both, by practicing, like, real loud, drowning out their entertainment. And believe me, I did.

What goes around…

Three of my kids took piano lessons. (The oldest opted for oboe.) No rules about the TV, because there was no TV here, but still, there was one time about ten years ago that I called my piano technician because a key didn’t play. He came, took the lid off, and pronounced that someone had hit that one so hard as to break the hammer clean off.

I knew exactly which kid it would have been, too. So much my child. Although I should rescue him here and say the instrument was a good deal older by then and more fragile than back in the day and had suffered through two sets of moving companies since when we got it.

You should hear the kid play. He did his practicing over the years–he’s good.  Music to my ears.

Mom was right: do your work, and it pays off all your life and on into the next generation.

Next question
Saturday May 17th 2008, 11:03 am
Filed under: Life

Sheila also asked where I’d lived.

While in college and far from home, I used to enjoy stumping the occasional clueless classmate by telling them I was born in the United States, but I wasn’t born in a state; where was I born?

I would get, Puerto Rico? Guam? On a boat? On a plane? Nope, and not the Philippines, either (I’m not that old!)

And then there was the day my sister, away at school in that same town, got told by the postal clerk that she didn’t have a state birth certificate and Washington DC’s didn’t qualify; they refused to process her passport application for her semester abroad.

Okay, now, that’s like when the aide to the Senator from New Mexico (Domenici, if I remember right) once asked for information from another Senator’s office and got the response, ‘We don’t give out that information to foreign countries.’ (Hello?)

I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, lived in Provo, Utah (that answers where I went to college), then West Lafayette, Indiana (Purdue University), Merrimack, New Hampshire, and now California. I’ve traveled to most of the states in the US–46, I think–and been to eastern and western Canada and, for one afternoon, Juarez, Mexico. Watched an armadillo raiding our marshmallows in Florida as a kid. Saw it snow on the Fourth of July in Banff later that summer.

Laurel Lee\'s booksI noticed Sheila had Topanga Canyon on her list of places she’d lived, and that quite got my attention: Laurel Lee had lived there. Years after I’d gotten her first book, “Walking Through the Fire,” out of the Merrimack Library, I’d stumbled across Laurel’s later ones (I’ve got “Godspeed” around here somewhere, too), and Topanga Canyon was where she’d lived for awhile after “Walking” ended. She wrote of visiting her parents in Fremont. She had grown up in the same not only town but neighborhood as Tara’s dad: the Tara whose name graces one of my shawls in my own book now, whose late Grandma, who would have been Laurel’s old neighbor, I knew. Small world.

When I read “Walking,” I had three kids under five years old. Laurel wrote of her having three kids about those same ages as mine at the time she found out she had Hodgkins, and her husband’s reaction to her cancer being to cheat on her and then ditch the family altogether. Her courage, cheerfulness, and strength were something I wanted more of for myself, when all I had to deal with from day to day was simply to run a young family.

I had no idea… And I’m glad we moved near Stanford before it hit me.

I looked around last night and found out that Laurel had survived longterm after all. Yay! That she’d written another book I hadn’t heard of. Double yay! And then, to my wonderment, that she’d finished college, taught creative writing on the college level, and had married the author of one of my kids’ all-time favorite books in elementary school, “The Teacher from the Black Lagoon.” The man who had truly loved her. Who had stayed by her side as she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer eight months after their wedding.

Had I googled her sooner, I could have told her she’d made a lasting difference to me. I have kept her example of cheerfulness in the face of illness close by for eighteen years now of my autoimmunity. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to see a picture of her and do a doubletake: in that particular photo, she looked a lot like me or at least members of my family enough that I relate it to me.

“Tapestry” is now on its way to my mailbox. I will strike up a reacquaintance with an old friend in these older pages as I wait.

Ten in time
Friday May 16th 2008, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I’m usually not one for memes, but I’m going to use Sheila’s as a jumping-off point. Maybe I’ll answer another of her questions tomorrow. This is a bit stream of consciousness, but here goes.

What was I doing ten years ago? Driving, constantly driving. No school buses here, and I had four kids in three different schools, soccer games (we may have given up on soccer by that point, I’m not sure) and oboe, piano, piano, piano, clarinet, and saxophone lessons, later organ too, and for that one summer, trumpet tutoring thrown in as well. “I had to cut this way down to get it to load.Make a joyful noise.”

Ten years ago, we had a big family reunion coming up. When my Grandfather Bennett had died, Gram, at 94, watched all of us cousins having a grand time being reunited en mass for the first time as adults and asked us when we were going to do that again. Nobody could bear to say out loud, When you die, Gram.

Two years later, what was left of her hip, which had been replaced at Johns Hopkins when I was a kid, crumbled, and she became bedridden. My cousin Katherine’s husband, a cardiologist (trained here at Stanford), quietly told us that in general, once a very elderly person can’t get out of bed, they’re gone within about six weeks.

Gram would last about twice that.

Gram told her oldest son she wanted money not to be a reason why any of her 29 grandchildren couldn’t come to her funeral: he was to send $5000 of her money to each one right now, and promise to reimburse them for any hotel expenses they might incur as well. He did, and about two weeks later, after considering living to see three different centuries and deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle, she slipped away.

We came.

We had such a lovely time together. We lined up by order of year born, and everybody pulled out cameras and snapped pictures of each other.  (I had at the time, for a winter coat, my Kaffe Fassett’s Big Diamonds in two strands of wool and mohair knitted on size 9s, quite dense and warm, but it definitely seemed a bit bright for the November occasion, happy/sad as it was. I have no doubt my cousins remember me standing in the snow at the gravesite wearing that 86-color piece of clothing. I later bought a somber charcoal coat, a little too big, not realizing immediately that it was a horse-after-it’s-left-the-barn effect. Once I did, I gave it to my tall daughter to take to college in the snow, where she needed it far more than I, and it fit her better anyway. I had my handknit one; in my climate, why would I want more?)

And so, a few years later, it was decided that we needed another reunion, one with no funeral attached to it, just purely for the sake of joy. It was July 1998, the year Grandpa would have been turning 100. As a central gathering place in the country, Katherine decided to schedule us at an offseason ski resort that was within a stiff hike of where our grandparents had owned a mountain cabin near Brighton. (I can see the ski afficionados nodding their heads.) That cabin had a small back patio overlooking the creek with an iron railing around it, deeply bowed in; my grandmother had once told me that it was from the weight of the snow there.

Grandpa used to like to go that cabin to get away from the pressures of his US Senate seat; to get to a phone, he had to walk a mile to the little general store. Nobody could reach him unless he chose to be reached. When he was on vacation, he was on vacation, walking that mountain, listening to the icy-cold water of the creek going over the pebbles, seeing chipmunks dart and eagles soar. I used to feed those chipmunks, the times I got to go to that cabin in the summer, growing up; it was a lesson to an antsy child in being still and waiting, trying to teach a tiny animal not to be afraid of me.

My sister Anne and her six boys decided to drive from Atlanta for that reunion, and since they were coming that far anyway, went further and came here first. We got to spend a joyfully noisy week or so with them at our house before they continued to Yosemite and then on over to Utah with us joining them there. Muir Woods, Chinatown… That was the visit where I gave her copies of my photos, and she asked her identical twins gleefully which one of them was in this picture in her hands. They both claimed themselves. “See! You can’t tell you apart! Now you can’t get mad at anyone else!”

My kids had loved Tim Robblee, the best music teacher any school ever hired; Tim announced ten years ago that he was leaving to go back to school himself. He had led our high school’s jazz band to a national high school competition in Monterey, where they did so well that his kids were invited to play as professionals at the famous Monterey Jazz Festival in the fall!

I knitted Tim an afghan in many colors, a picture as best as I could do of the Monterey Bay, complete with waves of water at the beach, in remembrance of how he’d believed in his students and what he’d helped them achieve. I took a roll of pictures of it before I gave it to him.

I later found I had a roll of film that had been double-exposed: Anne’s kids at Stinson Beach. Tim’s beach afghan. Superimposed on each other, so that in one wonderful piece of kismet, Anne’s boys were reaching down into the water, their feet submerged in wool and water in the tide. I got not one single good picture of the afghan, in the traditional sense, but the ones I got–after the initial disappointment, because Tim had moved by then and the afghan was out of my reach–delighted me.

Oh, and, one funny thing about the reunion? Katherine, the one in charge, kept emailing me re the arrangements and kept getting antsy about getting no response. I heard through the grapevine, and protested that I had received nothing. She insisted to my brother that the emails didn’t come back to her, so clearly, I was simply not remembering. (This is often a very valid thing to say about me.) But no, I’d been waiting and looking and getting nothing.

Christmastime, five months later, Katherine sent out an extended-family email, and at long last she got a response: from an Alison Hyde in England, saying she’d been enjoying all the emails, almost felt like a part of our family now, and how had the reunion gone? Had we had a good time? And where in the world were we? Were we in Spain for that vacation? (I guess it was all those Californian place names when Katherine wrote to me.)

It let me off the hook, at least!