The parable of the fig tree
Saturday June 14th 2008, 11:11 am
Filed under: My Garden

fig and lemon trees=dessert!

Or, ask and ye shall receive. I can’t believe it. Now to figure out if I can somehow help straighten out the stalk-that-will-be-a-trunk so it doesn’t take out the fence–it kind of leaned against it while trying to reach some sunlight amongst the plants in the box there. See those big leaves on the left?

I’ve wanted a fig tree for years. Not a completely practical thing to want. It doesn’t get hot enough here long enough for them to get terribly sweet in our microclimate–same with oranges, which can come out tasting sourer than lemons unless you’ve got the right exposure, and maybe heat reflecting off the side of a house or fence. Still. My friend Marlene used to live down the street, and she had a fig tree leaning over the fence from her neighbor’s yard: she loved it. She loved the shade and being able to reach right up and eat a fig anytime, and she was terribly upset when the neighbor declared it had to go, that they were cutting it down.

Those figs were good enough to make Marlene delighted with them–hey. So I wanted a fig tree myself. Look at those leaves, and you can see why, when they’re toweringly tall, they tend to dominate the postage-stamp yards around here. I grew up in a house in the woods, and those huge leaves, so different from what you see in California in general, really appealed to my inner forest.

I went outside just now to photograph the lemon tree, laughing over the silly bluejay that tried to argue with my father-in-law that he was trespassing in her yard and to get away. I was going to share a good laugh over the bird.

And I saw the fig tree up above the six-foot-tall fence. None of us had any clue it was growing back there. We certainly didn’t plant it. The bird, instead, got the last laugh, and I am delighted.

There, that’s better
Friday June 13th 2008, 10:55 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,LYS

Constance shawl fixed

Now is it easier to see? The Constance shawl, after I listened to the galloping horse whinnying “Neigh!” Reknitting from the double-wound tube was enough of a tangle when I first picked it up yesterday that I knew I had to get past that point before I put it away in the ziploc again for the night. So I did, with no problems after that initial moment.

Nancy\'s penguin, Knitpicks Bare merino silk fingering weight in Jacquard navy

Nancy’s penguin trying to claim credit for the blue ocean of Bare yarn.

Diana trying on my mother-of-the-bride Camelspin-yarn shawl at Purlescence’s knit night last night. The pattern has memories of strawberry picking with my family, growing up, and the wide, flowing Potomac River knitted into its stitches. I have a tradition of always dipping a toe into the water along the banks of that river every time I fly home. Now I can take it with me without having to crash through the canoe. Diana modeling my mother-of-the-groom shawl

The pelicans we saw going to the post office yesterday.pelicans at the Baylands

“Is it fragile?” the clerk asked.

“Lemons from my Meyer tree for someone who misses California,” I answered her. She loved it.  We just hoped the box doesn’t start leaking juice before it arrives. We put it inside one of their all-weights-fits-one-price box (good thing!)

Tadpole to frog
Thursday June 12th 2008, 10:55 am
Filed under: Knit,To dye for

from tadpole to frog

It took me five hours to make myself get to it. I snuck glances at it, wondering if maybe it and I could still be friends. Nope. It was definitely a tadpole. The in-laws were up at Dad’s sister’s for the day, Aunt Mary Lynn showing them where the major fire three weeks ago had missed their home in the mountains, and as they drove up there, fire trucks raced towards the new Bonny Doon fire.

I had nothing whatsofreakingever to complain about.end of my rope

I wanted to get it done while they were gone. The rip, rip frogging’s not so bad, it’s that last little bit. Tinking the last row back onto the needles, hundreds of shawl stitches curving and overlapping into chaos, with the silk mercilessly slippery–but the cashmere strand helped steady it. I wound them round the empty end of the silk’s tube. I alternated leaning on my elbows, lying on the floor, hunched way over, trying to make the task more comfortable. I needed the slight friction of the rug’s surface to try to hold it more still to cut down on any one stitch’s running away from home. Lifeline? Me? On a simple pattern? My pride would have guffawed. That’ll teach me.Knitpicks Bare, Robert\'s medicine blanket

But while I was avoiding the whole thing, I got out the Knitpicks Bare merino/silk that had been sitting there staring at me a couple of weeks while the wedding was going on. Ran my hands down its length, pleased again at the texture of it. Nobody home but me. I can stink up the house (*I* think the dyepot in action smells of creativity and possibilities and oh cool.) Jacquard Acid dye in navy, not too much, and at first, the yarn turned a deep purple. I really liked it and debated snatching it out of the pot then and there. I’ve done that before, although knowing that the half hour of simmering is what sets the dye. One time, I grabbed a yarn out of the pot right after it hit the water, set up a dyepot of plain water, and made it do its time in that–it cost me a little of the depth of the color, but it stayed the same overall. Next time I’d probably snatch it out and zap it in the microwave for the rest of its heat, now that I’ve finally dedicated one large glass bowl to the dyezone.Bare merino silk in Jacquard navy

Anyway, I let it go its full time, and the purple gave way to blue, with a little brownishness exhausting out of the pot when I was done. I’ve seen that before, and it makes me want to tour a dye factory and go do research.

Going to a brief doctor’s appointment, I grabbed a UFO on my way out the door. Got that project closer to being done, and I was glad to have it back on current-project status.

So it was a good and productive day. And then I glanced at the clock, remembered when the folks were expected back, knew I didn’t want them to watch me being uncomfortable with my butt high in the air while leaning on my elbows, growling at the silk running away from the tips of my needles, stitch after stitch after stitch, thought again of Diana’s words which rang so true for me: “I’ve seldom regretted frogging, but have occasionally regretted letting something be. not always, but occasionally.” And I frogged the bleeping thing. I did it. It’s done.

And then, as the Bare dried, I knitted the other WIP a little more just to show the silk who was boss.

What’s wrong with this picture?
Wednesday June 11th 2008, 11:44 am
Filed under: Knit

diamonds are NOT hard substances!When I was a kid, Where’s Waldo hadn’t been dreamed up yet, and if you finished reading your book while waiting for the dentist to finish working on your sister so he could get to you, what you could find in that office for entertainment, well, let’s see. There were parents’ magazines and there was the little kids’ magazine to stave off boredom–but it was definitely for little kids and was felt as an insult to anyone over nine. BORINGGGG. Holiday, I think it was called. I well remember the “find what’s wrong with this picture” page and wishing it had something at least challenging on it.

So. Yesterday I picked up my knitting and tried to make up for lost time from Monday’s mess. I was pleased with myself at how much I was getting done while still playing hostess I think okay.

My brain must have been on Holiday.

It hit me. The whole day’s worth of knitting. Right there in front of me, the whole time, the whole day, every time I’d picked it up and put it down, and I hadn’t noticed.

The diamond I’d been working on is the one that would be at the center of the body of the shawl.

What would you do? Would you continue the one center diamond as a solid, then from there turn the diamonds upside down and continue with the open-mesh part pointing down now rather than up? Kind of like a fair isle, with a solid Charlie Brown zigzag across the center and then matching zig zag openwork lines above and below, marking definite horizontal lines across the body of the shawl? Or do I frog it and go do the Constance pattern as it was meant to be.


Opportunity, or, oh crud. Note that frogging two strands is always fun when you have to figure out how and what to wrap it around as you undo, but note also that it is well worth if it needs to be reknit.

I think there’s a jumping amphibian in my immediate future.

Something to crow about
Tuesday June 10th 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: Family,Life

You\'re wondering why I\'m calling this meetingGotta love that skylight view through the bathroom. A cacophony of crows indeed: they added their touch to the day.

Two toilet removals, many hours, much mopping, much laundering and folding of towels on my part and $634 later, the deed was done.

This morning my shower backed up. Could have been worse.

Michelle missed all the excitement yesterday, and went out to dinner with her friends almost as soon as she got home from work. So much for the easy way out for the rest of us: I hit the wall in the middle of cooking dinner with my mother-in-law, went in the other room and quietly told my husband that if I stood on my feet one more second I was going to barf. Which is what happens when I overdo. He’d had a long day too, but he instantly leaped up and took over, bless him.

I was far too tired to even knit.

I had gotten out the leftover brown rice and the Chinese hoisin sauce to go with the stir fry, hadn’t found the sesame oil, looked in the fridge, had seen the giant jar of pineapple mango salsa from Costco and thought, well, we gotta eat it sometime, and since I didn’t use sesame–I’d dumped half of it in. The more the merrier. Fruit. It’s good for you.

Richard went in the kitchen where the veggies were cooking away and the meat was ready to go in. Grabbed the hoisin sauce, cooked the meat, threw the rice in with the rest. One pot. Done like dinner.

And didn’t understand the funny look on my face when he presented it at the table in a color I wasn’t expecting.

Actually, it was surprisingly good.

Water water everywhere
Monday June 09th 2008, 10:38 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Knit

Dad holding up the scarfDad Hyde asked, as he wrapped it around his arm, “What is it?” I answered, “My mom calls them yarn necklaces.” This is a scarf out of Ellen’s handpainted merino-silk from Half Pint Farm in Vermont, bought at Stitches East last fall. One of those little projects for stuffing in the purse and carrying around that somehow, to my surprise, actually got finished when I wasn’t paying much attention to it. (When the yarn’s gone, it’s done.) Just add water and block it–except, um, maybe not now.

The silk and cashmere shawl in Constance’s shawl pattern (with some playing around with the yoke) continues only slowly; I’ve got company. Richard and Kim have internships for a month in DC and are staying at my in-laws’ house; my in-laws are doing various jaunts to keep themselves out of the way of the newlyweds. They’re camping out here for ten days.

Camping out is more of a description than we’d intended, as we wait for the sewer services folks to show up this morning. My pipes are barfing. These things never seem to happen when there’s nobody around to enjoy the excitement but us. I think I’d rather go to the Aquarium if I want to show them an interesting day.

Thank goodness we live in a time and a place when such things can get fixed pretty fast.

Constance\'s shawl in cashmere and silk, two strands fine laceweight together

Saturday June 07th 2008, 10:07 am
Filed under: Life

Twenty-four years and about, oh, a week ago, I called and got told, We can’t possibly fit you in for at least four days, ma’am.

I stewed a few minutes, called again, and asked to speak directly to Dennis, the owner of the shop, who knew me. Dennis: my baby is due in four days and my battery keeps dying on me.

Dennis knew we only had the one car, and he told me, You bring that thing right here. I’ll do it right now.

Little kindnesses are huge and they reverberate forward through the years, remembered. And so it was that I found myself, about four months ago, suddenly thinking of Dennis and how much less stressful he’d made Richard’s arrival into the world. I googled and found that Hansen’s Automotive Service in Nashua NH was still there, wrote him a note telling him do you remember when–and thank you. When we needed your help, you were there for us.

And wondered. I don’t know what brought him to mind or why his being thought of now from afar for the basic goodness of the man–and he was a sweetheart–needed to happen now. But I felt I needed to speak up, right now, don’t wait, enough so that I did and snailmailed it off to his shop.

All I know is, whatever battery needed fixing over there, I was glad to be able to help.

Happy birthdays!
Friday June 06th 2008, 10:39 am
Filed under: Family

Twenty-four years ago, I dialed my OB’s office and asked the nurse which doctor was on call that day. Mind you, I had never said anything to anyone there, but she immediately called me on it: “Why? If it’s the wrong one, are you going to go out of labor?”

I hadn’t even told her yet that I was IN labor; what could I do but smile and answer honestly: “Yes.” There were two doctors in that practice, and by nine months I had come to admire and enjoy being around the one much more than the other.

Which is why I found myself apologizing to my dad that we’d missed his birthday by a day, but it was for the best. We were just stretching out the birthday celebrations a bit–we gave our new little boy his grandpa’s name.

Twenty-four years ago, we brought home a new son. Happy birthday, little guy. And now, Richard has brought us a new daughter. And the joy grows forever.Kim and Richard

Rubber chicken town
Thursday June 05th 2008, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Rubber (chicken) Soul

First–happy birthday, Dad!

I love this town. My folks lived here the first year they were married, before they moved to Maryland in the early 50’s, and when they found out we were considering a job offer here, worried quietly–but didn’t tell us till we’d accepted the offer–that if we moved here, we’d never leave and we’d always be far away.

They were right. It’s been a good place to be.

My husband and daughter and I on impulse ditched the all-week leftovers last night and went to a place new to us, Thaiphoon, for dinner. You have to love a restaurant that introduces itself to you with a pun while referencing Real Weather (and the food was good). We do miss having a greater variety in the sky and air; it brings you, as one friend noted, closer to nature when the weather’s bad. The interesting nature award will probably have to go instead to the mountain lion that was sitting on our orthodontist’s fence a few years ago. Or the golden eagle eyeballing me as I got out of my car at home. I’ll take the eagle, thanks.

Peruvian fingerpuppetAs we ate, there was a small toddler at the next table who looked very much like my sister’s twins did at that age, with very strong opinions and a gregarious charmer when he was happy. He’d fit right in. I thought, let his mom have a good night out with her friends; one Peruvian fingerpuppet coming right up. Happiness won out.

There is a local artist, Greg Brown, whose late mother-in-law used to play the organ at our church, her territory for decades–till a young teenage upstart of a show-off started horning in on her turf a few times a month. If he goofed, she let our son know with a grin: “Great improvisation there, Richard!”

Greg is famous for his murals on some of the downtown buildings. Check out this one, my favorite. Or this one, up in San Francisco. Or this.

This is also a town where once upon a time two new Stanford MBAs looked at the pet rock craze, where someone had just made a fortune peddling plain old pebbles with fun packaging, and they were sure they had a one-hit wonder in them, too. So they wrote, “Juggling for the Complete Klutz,” making good on their goofing off, expecting that that would be that. Thus Klutz Press was somewhat inadvertently born: the authors, like us, stayed. Klutz is a local institution whose one vividly-painted retail store is named “Klutz Intergalactic Headquarters.” Where they sell, should you need it, extra rubber chickens.

We walked from Thaiphoon last night towards Couppa Cafe for some hot cocoa as the evening foggy chill set in. We saw a jewelry store a few doors down. With a rubber chicken standing guard just inside the window: don’t steal the rings, or you’ll be henpecked.

I so love this town.

Meantime, just for fun, given all Richard and Kim’s wedding festivities of late, I had to share this picture I shamelessly stole from

not our cake, we were insideIt was just making sure there’d be lots of leftovers for it, too.

Knitters in history
Wednesday June 04th 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Knit

good lox with that ideaWe’ve got a few leftovers from Saturday. Gee, I bet we could come up with some interesting recipes–lox of luck… Hang on, hang on, I think we’re getting carried away here.

If you ever want a book with all kinds of interesting tidbits, “No Idle Hands: the Social History of American Knitting” has everyday life over the centuries pulled from journals held by the Library of Congress. I used to use it as my reference to make history more interesting to the fifth graders in our school district, bringing my spinning wheel, my carders and some wool for the kids to card while I talked about the level of work they would have had to do back in Colonial times in the US: there was one town, Hatfield, Massachusetts, where the town selectmen came in and assessed each family a fine if they didn’t produce the amount of yardage of handspun, handwoven woolens that was required of them. And we’re talking many hundreds of yards in a year.

Woolen goods were the prime export of the colonies, but the Woolen Act of 1699 suddenly forbade anybody in America from transporting by horse, cart or carriage any wool or anything made of wool between plantations, much less selling it overseas: you could only legally sell what you could carry in your hands on foot from your home to your buyer. England’s enforcement powers, however, were for the most part very far away.

My favorite story is of Old Ma Rinker, whose relatives owned a tavern and whom the Brits thought were loyal to the Crown, so they’d go there to discuss strategy against General Washington over in Valley Forge. The relatives would pass the word on to Ma, she’d write it down, wrap a ball of yarn around it, go out into the sunshine and knit while her flax retted, and toss the ball of yarn to the American soldiers riding by on their horses.

Or, as my hubby puts it: how knitters saved the Revolution.

Not to mention the feet of more than a few shivering soldiers who needed warm socks in that Valley.

I’m suddenly picturing their potential bewilderment at the concept of chocolate brownies, much less whipped cream in a can.

In defense of the neglected WIP
Tuesday June 03rd 2008, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Knit

cashmere and silk holding hands

Sometimes, a project gets started and then it stalls out. It was too boring, when I needed something more interesting to work on; it was too interesting, when the rest of life was being too distracting and I needed something brainless. Either way, it got started–and every time you start a project, it is an affirmation of life and of looking towards the future–but then it got put aside.

I want to defend the lowly WIP here. (The TOADs, Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust, not so much.) If you really don’t like it, let it go, just rip it, rip it, let it go back to being a ball of yarn full of possibilities. How many other parts of our lives do we get to rewind at will and have a do-over?

But there is value in having something on the needles simply waiting its proper turn, or, if you run shy of needles, you can always run a thread through the tops of the stitches, leave a note re the needle size, put it in its own zip lock and set it aside. It is not mocking you. It is simply waiting to be able to tell you why it is there.

I once knitted a sock and a half, before all the self-striping yarns came out that helped grab the imaginations of sock knitters. Plain and beige, boring and terribly practical, in the most basic pattern, no lace there. But size 1 needles and my hands aren’t friends to begin with, that yellowish beige was deadly (and it was right after knitting a very large pair in dark charcoal); after awhile, I just couldn’t make myself pick them up when there were other, brighter things to work on.

Till the day I badly wanted to knit a pair of socks for one of the nurses who’d taken care of me at Stanford, to thank him for his compassion and his willingness to walk in his patients’ shoes. A man. Boring beige and no lace, plain and practical. Perfect. Yes, Brian, this is a bit of a confession here. Knitting him a hat or a scarf in this climate was a little silly. He was about my height, so I imagined his feet weren’t that far off from mine, and since I’d been making them to my EE width feet, they had some lengthwise stretchability built into them. I felt swamped, because I was knitting something for all the medical personnel I could find who’d been involved in my case: in just over two months, I made 14 projects to go back and say thank you with.

And to do what I really wanted to do for him anyway, all I had to knit was half a sock. Done. He absolutely loved them. I mean, how many people get to see, much less own, a pair of handknit socks in their lives? I well understand wondering why anyone would want to bother, but put that first sock on and you instantly know. You never want to have to settle for a machine-made pair again.

A sock and a half for a year and a half, so close to being done, that had so bugged me–till I knew why I was glad I had them. Had I finished them earlier, they would have been well worn, had I declared them a TOAD and frogged them, I wouldn’t have had them to give. There’s a reason for everything. A small stash of WIPs is a very useful thing.

Meantime, the roses keep bloomingI have two shawls for which I’ve done the yoke but gone no further. One, the color just wasn’t right for me, and I still don’t know yet whom it is to be for; when I do come across the right person, it will feel like a very fast project because the first day’s worth of work is already done. The other, I picked up today, counted the stitches to be sure I’d done the final increase and to make sure on the stitch count–I’d eyeballed the lace pattern and was sure of myself, but best to check–and now off I go with it. I had cast on just as the wedding preparations were starting up; I simply ran out of time for it.

And now I know exactly whose face I can’t wait to see lighting up. I’m tweaking the pattern for the body; this will be a custom job. The first day’s work is preknitted, and off I go, delighted to be ahead of the game.

The flowers
Monday June 02nd 2008, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Just an FYI for anybody who might enjoy knowing something I never would have thought of, had it not been for my friend Phyllis: what we did for Saturday’s flowers is we ordered them straight from the grower, They’ll send you a sampler of colors to choose from in person before ordering for the big day, if you want. Five of us arranged them that morning into a few large arrangements and a small one for each table. Remember that the eye likes things in odd numbers: flowers high, medium and low in an arc, (there were five red roses here, not four.) Tuck some limonium (I know, it sounds like flooring material, and this arrangement lost some on the left in the car on the way home) and tree ferns around and behind, tie a matching ribbon at the neck of the vase, and there you go.  It’s much easier to pull off than I would have thought.

My camera’s on the fritz, so this is from my phone.cell phone photo of roses

The second reception
Sunday June 01st 2008, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

MomI have to show off my mom a moment. I wanna be like her when I grow up. (I’m amused that I get to invert the cliche of someone waving at the camera and going, Hi Mom! at the vast TV audience.)

Picture it, since I have the photo but don’t feel I can post it without asking–I got a wonderful shot yesterday of the small boy (maybe four?) reaching up and his great-grandpa, bent way over, reaching down, doing a “give me five!” together with great glee on both their faces.

I snuck in that photo of Kim yesterday in the time I had between helping set up the hall and the reception we held here for the newlyweds. Decades ago, the Catholic Church in Menlo Park (Kim’s mom’s family is Catholic) sold some land, including a few existing buildings, to the local Mormons. They kept the surrounding acreage and joked to our leaders, “How do you feel about being surrounded by Catholics?”

To which, I’m told, they were answered with a laugh, “How do you feel about having Mormons in the heart of you?”

The centerpiece of the property is a huge-trunked redwood that was honored as the best one in the city a few years ago. Both churches kept it for the treasure that it is, and it will grow on long after all of us are gone. It’s too big to fit in any one picture, and somehow that goes well with a wedding celebration.

We built our own church building, kept their cottage to house a genealogy library which is open for anybody and everybody’s use, and kept their reception hall. It’s a lovely old exposed-beam building with high ceilings and tall windows looking out on very old oak trees, and yesterday, that was where we celebrated.

It is also where our friends Conway and Elaine invited us to the wedding reception of their son fourteen years ago, where we first met another of their sons and his family–whose daughter is now in our family. Kim was ten.

In San Diego Friday a week ago, a couple who were friends of her parents sang, “Sunrise, Sunset” together, and everybody nodded yes at the “When did she get to be a beauty,” and laughed very much (he’s 6’9″) at the “When did he grow to be so tall!”

Richard and Kim