CAR pool regular
Saturday November 29th 2008, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Having given him my card with my blog address, I’m not waiting till tomorrow to post this. I want to wave hi now.

After my lupus diagnosis, starting when my youngest was two, for several years I swam Monday through Friday at the CAR pool, CAR being an acronym for the Community Association for Rehabilitation.  It was a very warm pool to help those with arthritis and it was indoors, which was absolutely necessary with my new sun-sensitive disease.  You could only swim there if you had a doctor’s prescription to get in.  So everybody there had something going on and everybody knew it.  We looked out for each other.  Often, if someone didn’t show for awhile, people would go checking on them to make sure they were okay.  This is where I met Jonathan, who was one of the lifeguards and who is now an assistant professor at a university in Singapore (ie, if you follow that link, his story did come out well in the end.)

There was the time I lost a roll of film out of my purse there and didn’t know it; it got found, and the only way to figure out whose it was was to develop the film. Since I took the pictures, I wasn’t in any of them and it didn’t help them any; so then the staff showed them to people coming in until I went, Oh! That’s Steve and Tobie! Those are my photos, sorry about that, how much do I owe you?

It was pictures of their wedding.  Tobie is half Hawaiian. Steve, it turned out, was a dead ringer for the young husband of one of the lifeguards and there had apparently been quite some consternation when those pictures came back from the shop–I think they were hiding them from Michelle-the-lifeguard just to be sure.  There was a huge sigh of relief when the groom in the pictures turned out to be someone completely different.  Too funny.

Then there was the time one of the other swimmers mentioned that he liked to bake, and I told him of a bizarre cheesecake recipe in one of my cookbooks: Oobleck Pie, for the Dr. Seuss story.  Honey lime avocado cheesecake with a wheat germ crust. Did that sound Marin County or what?

The guy asked me for the recipe. And then he actually made it.  Didn’t touch it; just brought it to the staff and presented it to them as a gift.  Heh.

I walked in the door a few hours later, and one of the lifeguards pushed that seasick-green dessert at me and told me, “This is *your* fault. You have to eat the first piece!”

Oh my.  Well.  Once you get past the shock of the first bite, it was actually pretty–okay, at least.  They had too much fun watching my face as I ate.  Yes, I’d say it’s pretty good; here, you have some!

So that gives you a little background on the place.  There were no strangers there.

There was a delightful couple there, Don and Amalie, a generation older than me but younger than a fair number of the regulars–as a young mom, I was definitely the baby in the crowd–and they were gregarious, funny, and the life of the party there.  They were essential to me as I learned how to cope with my very changed life: they had both had strokes at quite a bit younger than most, and they were perfectly cheerful about life and clearly quite in love with each other.

I remember telling Amalie once about wanting to buy some mohair yarn that was in the most perfect-ever color a yarn could ever hope to be.  It had been discontinued, so my chance to get it was a one-time thing and I knew it.  But I was highly reluctant to spend to get it.  She looked at me, and with a wisdom that I knew came of experience she had and I didn’t yet, told me, “It’s only money.  Money can be replaced.”

I bought that mohair, and it became the ribbing, collar, and cuffs as well as in the diamonds of my Kaffe Fassett coat.  Amalie made it happen.

When we decided to remodel our house, they invited me to come over to their place to show me the work they’d had done to help give me ideas, knowing that the only way to know how to do a remodel is to already have done one, and of course nobody goes into it having that.  They’d done a lovely job.  They had pet birds that I got to meet, too.

John, my baby, was I think in first grade when I quit going there: the local Y had opened an indoor pool and offered a family plan for what I’d been paying for just me.   We just couldn’t afford both plans.  CAR lost. It was terribly wrenching.

John is 20 now.  I ran into Amalie a few years ago: she was sitting in a scooter, waiting for a bus.  I didn’t recognize her at first; her hair had gone completely snow white by then, and I didn’t expect her to be in a chair.  If memory serves, I was walking home from the car repair shop, so I happened to be walking along the busy street where she was.  We had an impromptu visit that left me realizing how much I missed my old friends at CAR, wishing there were some way of having a reunion.

I saw a letter to the editor in the paper once, noticed the name, and exclaimed to my husband, Oh cool! It’s my friend Don from CAR!

Fast forward.  Michelle and I ran a few errands today, and as we got in the car after the first one, she apologized for taking so long at it. Not a problem, I quickly assured her.

Later I told her I was so glad she hadn’t been in a hurry.  The timing!  Our next stop was to Trader Joe’s for some goodies for her to take back to college that she can’t get out there.  I saw an elderly man in an electric wheelchair…

…and thought, could that be?  Don?  Nahhh.  If it were Don, Amalie would be here.  (Radiating thoughtbeams at him, Turn. A. Round.  Turn. A. Round.) Okay, that didn’t work, so from the next check-out line over, I said his name loudly, figuring that if it wasn’t him the word would simply vanish into the general hubbub of the store.

A little more volume the second time, “DON?”  Some part of me somehow just refused to be deterred, and I thought, what the heck, I’m in it now, so I said his full name loudly.

That did it.  Don turned around. It WAS him!!!

He couldn’t immediately place me, and that was no surprise; I’ve certainly aged.  My hair is completely different, and instead of being the mother of young children, I’m the mother of four 20-somethings.  But he was as sweet as ever and certainly willing to hold a conversation with someone who clearly knew who he was and was so glad to see him.

I reintroduced him to my tall Michelle, telling him she was four years old when he’d first met her.  We chatted a little, and I think he got who I was.   Then he opened up and told me, “My wife passed away a few weeks ago. It was very sudden.  It was very unexpected.  She…” He stopped.  “She didn’t suffer.”

My heart went out to him.  “Oh, honey.” I told him, “I’m so sorry.”  I told him how very glad I was to see him.

While I thought, I am SO glad that today of all days and this moment of all moments we ended up in this store and that you did too.  And somehow in the lines right next to each other right here.  I am just SO glad.  Dear God, thank you.

And Don, I look forward to the next time I get to run into you.  Take good care of yourself, y’hear?  I need you to.  When my own life was upended, you and Amalie are the ones who showed me how to cope.

Amphibious knitting
Saturday November 29th 2008, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

A really nifty idea: this is a row counter bracelet from Debbie at Knitnsewstudio.

row counter bracelet

You push the small beads through the little circle of beads for each row up to nine and then a large bead to mark the 10th row.  It’s on your wrist so you don’t lose it, the beads don’t fall through the circle like a post-it note falling off the page, and on mine, the beads are wood, a plus for this natural-materials fanatic.  Very cool.

Lisa Souza\'s Timbuktu in PeacockIf all problems could be solved so easily.  I took a shawl project with me on Thursday, because, well, being a knitter, what else would I do?  Besides, since it was early in its process, that way I couldn’t possibly run out of yarn to play with.

After dinner, a game of Trivial Pursuit 80’s edition got going, and it was one of those things where, given the size of the group and the number of ongoing conversations, eh on my hearing; I pulled out my needles over to the side and nobody minded.

Lisa Souza’s Timbuktu has a shine to it and just enough variations in the shading to make it a really gorgeous yarn.

I wanted it knit perfectly.  It had to be bookworthy.  I wasn’t sure of matching the upper and lower lace patterns and experimented rather than thinking it through.  In hindsight, a project at the point where it needed a lot of thought was probably not the best one to bring to a crowd.  I’d actually knitted the pattern before, but had lost my notes while packing for the trip East.  Swatching again would have been the right thing to do, but I didn’t.

I went ahead, sure I’d gotten it, found that nope, I’d made a mistake, and debated: do I tink back three whole rows, nearly 1200 stitches worth, or just wholesale frog them and then work them carefully back onto the needle? I looked around at the crawler, the 18-month-old, the 3-year-old and the 4-year-old and the dog and wondered about the ball rolling around forgotten on the floor and one of them running off with it with my stitches running freely.  No thanks.  Tink it is.

Which would have worked, too, had I not let myself get distracted by cries of delight and gotcha over from where the game was going on. During which I managed to drop a few stitches that quickly became (oh goodness) something like 15, down down down.

Yeah I could have worked them back up carefully. But yes I wanted everything looking exactly perfect, and I was being a little obsessive about it.

The three younger children had been put to bed during my tinking.  Hmm. I thought of a comment on my blog awhile back, someone saying she’d never regretted frogging.

I frogged.  That made seven rows’ worth.

The four-year-old started watching as I did, and clearly that looked like it might be a fun thing to come over to help out with; I looked him in the eye from across the table, smiled, and told him, I’ll play with you when I finish this.  Please don’t touch it before that.

Oh, okay! Cool! And he hopped off to something else.  (Phew!)

Then last night, as Michelle worked at her laptop in the chair next to me, throwing out the occasional comment and conversation, I reknitted those stitches.  I have it written down now, no longer on lost notes as to exactly how that lineup should be worked.  There is no question now about how to work that pattern. And it’s on paper.  Solid.  It WAS worth it all.

Meantime, a little showing off:

NHKnittingMama\'s Huarache merino/tencel

Amanda aka NHKnittingMama never knew that I kept looking at her Huarache yarn on her Etsy site and debated buying it; Creatively Dyed Yarns seacell in Caribbeanand yet, somehow that was the skein she picked out and surprised me with when I met her at Kaleidoscope.  See how well it goes with the Creatively Dyed Yarn’s Seacell I bought at Stitches?  I do like those colors.

MadAngel Creations merino/cashmere blend

On that note, Paula aka MadAngel likewise surprised me at Kaleidoscope with some cashmere/merino. Nice work!  I’m a dunk-the-whole-skein-in-the-pot-at-once kind of dyer, and people who do multicolorwork are way beyond my skills.

Tess Designer Yarns merino lace

Speaking of which.  Melinda of Tess Designer Yarns gifted me with some of the most gorgeous merino she’d dyed. I don’t know the name of the colorway, but was there ever so cheerful a yarn?

And, just in case of homesickness, I now have this Maisonette yarn by Neighborhood Fiber Co. in the colorway “Grant Circle” to remind me of Washington, DC, dyed by a fellow native.  Karida and I instantly hit it off, and as knitters so often do, could have talked for hours.  I’ve been wishing I could knit her yarn into, say, the Lincoln Memorial or some\'s Maisonette in Grant Circle colorway

Happy BirthThanksgiving!
Friday November 28th 2008, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Family

Pecan pie for birthday cake Over the river and through the redwoods, to Aunt Mary Lynn’s house we go…

Sixteen adults, four small children, one visiting dog, one house in the Santa Cruz mountains.  One husband-and-wife pair’s birthdays, so a large pecan pie got roasted and sung over.Through the woods

I didn’t catch the eighteen-month-old before my camera battery died, but I did get the youngest on her determined way.   Doggone, but Cinnamon the Norse (I think that’s what they said) terrier learned fast that tiny people who walk funny or crawl are to be kept a distance from–it was amazing watching how adept the dog was at ducking around, under, and between those chair parts.  Not in an overly big hurry, just, nope, kid.  Must be so big or bigger to come play.Cinnamon on Thanksgiving

In the kitchen, I told Aunt Nancy at one point, “Here, let me do that,” and her reaction was, “Are you kidding? I found a chore I could do. This is mine!” Which is a lot of how the day went: people looking for their chance to pitch in and help, when there were already so many ready hands.

Bryony with impromptu rattle

Aunt Nancy is the wife of my father-in-law’s oldest brother. She has beautifully-done dark strawberry blonde highlights.  I looked at her and grinned, “It’s not fair; some of us, you know, our roots don’t grow in dark.”  (Not that I’m dyeing mine anymore anyway.)  She looked at me and my gray, a good generation younger, and guffawed appreciatively.  We had a wonderful visit.

I brought my Lisa Souza Timaru yarn in Peacock and had a few of the women going oooh! over it, telling me how gorgeous it is.  And it is.  I’d show it to you, too, except I forgot to recharge that camera battery last night.

And a very good time was had by all.

How to bake a pie from scratch, definitely scratch
Wednesday November 26th 2008, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Open that door for me, wouldja?  Thanks.  Wait–no?  You’ll walk into it and burn yourself?  You are SO my child!

(Waits ten minutes.  Checks email.  Child/perpetrator wanders off. Back in kitchen, alone now.  Opens oven door.  Waits.)

Dustpan and brush?  Check.

No. Wait. Synthetic. Might melt. Hmm.

(Re-establishes dominance over oatmeal pie crust: you WILL adhere to those sides this time thankyouverymuch.  No playing trampoline this time.)

Opens oven.  Broom proves a little awkward–let’s not sweep old hairballs all the way across the kitchen onto the newly-reestablished pie crust, okay?time for self-cleaning feature to be turned on–moves upper rack to the top and recommences sweeping oven. Thinks might not ever again get a chance to actually sweep an oven.  Thinks how cornstraw makes a nice fire starter and about being at the other end of all those starters–but at least they won’t melt.  Uh, yeah, fire extinguisher still good.  Sweeps oven some more as the piecrust bits run and hide under the heating element.  Sees more bits go down inside the hinge socket of the door: entombed forevermore, to be excavated by some future Egyptmeofpietologist.  Pokes at run-and-catch-me’s with a wooden fork.

Child enters.  Oven devoid of major pieces, down to the last sandyish bits.  Exclaims, I didn’t mean for you to have to do that!  Tells child to look at pie crust.  Oh Mom, you did it!

Blows across fingertips.  Heh.  Puts rack back in place. Turns oven back on.  Tells child she can prebake her pie crust shortly.  Doesn’t mention not actually liking banana cream pie child is looking forward to, much less banana soycream pie. There’s another crust, safely baked, spread with melted chocolate, waiting for strawberries and strawberry puree filling; that will definitely do the job nicely.

banana soycream or strawberry chocolate?(With a bajillion thanks to the fellow at Whole Foods on Emerson Street in Palo Alto, who, after four stores earlier in the day, got the phone call asking if please please did they have Earth Balance Sticks for the severely dairy-allergic kid who wanted to make a pie she could actually eat on Thanksgiving Day with the relatives. Who said, We discontinued that; no, wait, let me check. We stocked it for the holidays! We have it! Come! And whom I thanked in person as we loaded our basket with four boxes, to his very obvious delight at being thanked in the craziness that was a grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.)

Happy Thanksgiving
Tuesday November 25th 2008, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Family

Michelle flew home last night from college.  And boy are we going to celebrate.

She and I spent today at the clinic with a break at home for a quick lunch.

The tumor on her eyeball–the eye doctor’s description of it a year ago, not mine–that they’ve been keeping track of got finally laid to rest today as a simple small growth of cells leftover from her cataract surgery at age 7.  No tumor. Normal. Class dismissed.

The hematologist sent her to other departments for further testing.

No arteriole blood clot.  No bone marrow biopsy: no need now or hopefully ever.  Platelets high, but no cancer.  Class dismissed.

Larry isn’t going to believe this
Tuesday November 25th 2008, 1:04 am
Filed under: Family

So. Suburban Correspondent and I exchanged a few emails offline with me giving her a little more background story: my daughter had had surgery at 18 months and the plastic surgeon had had us put paper tape, available on scotch-tape-style rolls at the drugstore, on her incision site 24/7 for six months minimum to keep the scarring way down.  Granted, she’s 22 now and that advice is a little old by now. But it also means I can affirm that given how large an area he operated on and how small and faint her scar is–and the fact that her father grows massive scars when he scars–the doctor’s advice clearly was good.  Suburban Correspondent’s little one had just gotten stitches, so the topic was of interest.

Suburban’s husband Larry teased her about taking advice from her imaginery internet friend. And so our pair of posts ensued, with her insisting I really was real; I’d written this!

The kicker of a follow-up is that my husband was then up in the night with a migraine and did not turn on the light.  Light hurts. Light might wake up his wife.  Darkness, yes, darkness good, light bad.

Unless you happen to turn around in mid-stride, misjudge, are taller than the average doorframe–we replaced most of the doorframes with non-standard ones for this very reason–and you smack your forehead.  HARD.

So, hubster puts some tape on it like the plastic surgeon said long ago, whatever he can quickly find, which happens to be the superduper deathgrip stuff rather than the flimsy paper variety, and goes to bed rather than waking me up to take him in for stitches.

Somehow sometime he took that tape back off.  I guess his forehead bothered his sleeping self.

I wake up in the morning, and dude!  Not only is his face Frankensteined, but he’s got two faint rows of white (glue from the tape) embedded in his skin.  You hit the wall so hard you sank the paint off the wall into your forehead?!

So I reminded him, 24/7 paper tape, hey Frankenstein, you know, you gotta keep that scarring down.

And I got this rolling of his eyes and a not on your life! reaction back.

I guess the moral of the story is, I can tell an 18-month-old in friendly terms that she IS going to wear that tape, end of story, and thus it was.  But not someone that much bigger than me. And hey, Larry–it really did happen.

And the fact that no way no how will he let me photograph it to memorialize it forever on the Internet is all the more proof that he’s real, too.

Okay, now, this is *FUNNY*!
Monday November 24th 2008, 1:05 am
Filed under: Life

Suburban Correspondent, it seems, got into a discussion with her husband.  True, I tend to sign my comments on other people’s blogs and appear on my own as AlisonH.  But if you go to this page, there you go.  I am a real person.  I do have a full name.  One connected to a few other writers (hi Dad!); remember this post?  After I wrote it, my niece got married in New York City.  I wasn’t able to go, but Janet Asimov came, and my brother emailed me afterwards to say that if he and I live to be 80, he now knows exactly what I’ll look like, that the family resemblance was very strong.  (I should be so lucky–Janet’s beautiful in the pictures, and I look forward to meeting her.)

Yes, Suburban Correspondent’s husband Larry, I would say I make an occasional foray out into real life.  Anybody out there who can vouch for me on that?

A road also travelled
Sunday November 23rd 2008, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I teased Ann at church today: I liked her red necklace.  I told her it looked like she’d brought her own snack to church, just to make sure she didn’t get hungry–it looked like a string of licorice.

Ann, sweet elderly lady that she is, guffawed.

I know her grandson and his wife; they have two little girls, one shy, one I can sometimes get to laugh or smile back at me.

I know Ann’s daughter, although, not so much; she visits often enough that I’ve had the occasional conversation with her.  It would take me awhile to think of her name.  But Phyllis knew it, and we know each other certainly by sight and by friendliness, and as Phyll and her husband were bringing us home from the airport Monday night, they mentioned that the woman’s husband had very suddenly very unexpectedly died.

He did *what*?  Ann, I could see; she’s of the World War Two generation and pretty frail. But her thin healthy son-in-law?

Ann’s daughter was there in church today, and I went up to her and told her I’d heard and I was so sorry.  She hugged me back.  I told her we’d been away–Baltimore, Vermont…  that I’d only just found out.

Where in Vermont?

And it turns out she’d been where we’d been, just a month ahead of us.  Burlington, the Ben and Jerry’s plant, the teddy bear factory and the Lake Champlain Chocolates next door.  And, get this, she got to eat one of those cider doughnuts over at Cider Hollow.

I haven’t been where she’s been in her loss.  But somehow it was gratifying to her that we’d been where she’d been when she was having a good time.

Yours, mine, and ours
Saturday November 22nd 2008, 10:22 am
Filed under: History

The guy on the phone at the San Jose Mercury News misunderstood me while I was requesting a vacation hold and jumped the gun by a day, and so, the Wednesday that we left on our trip, it felt like we had no tangible proof that there had been an actual election held the day before.  The BART tax? The city’s decades-long fights over library bonds, with the latest version on the ballot?  Had they passed?  (Extending the BART trains needed 66.67% to pass, and earlier this week it was at 66.67% with a few thousand ballots still to go. It made history as the first to ever hit that actual number dead-on before it went to the provisional and absentee ballot counting. It’s now at 67% and solid.)   Hey, Michelle, Mitchell Park Library will get its rebuild after all.  You go, girl!

But you know what I most wanted to see.  In print. In real life. To make it feel real in a way a computer screen just simply cannot do.

And so when our plane landed in Baltimore late that night, as we waited for our luggage, my sweet husband went looking for a newspaper and came back with a Washington Post, our hometown paper, and handed it to me.

And even though we all already knew, that paper made instant friends for me out of every single employee of that airport I encountered from that moment on.  Sitting in a wheelchair with it in my lap, I’d started to read but stopped almost instantly, unwilling to miss what was suddenly happening around me: people were coming closer, glancing at the headline and picture and smiling as they nodded their heads knowingly at one another.  It was amazing, watching bored, tired, semi-stony-looking faces light up and strangers treating each other as old friends: them, me, the few among those looking for their suitcases who happened to look sideways to also notice–in all the elections I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve never experienced anything like the camaraderie that this one has inspired.  That was just the start.

Coming out of Stitches, again in a chair, the best way to get to where Karen’s car was was to wheel through a hotel, and an employee rushed to get the door for us.  But before we’d reached the outer door, somehow we had all gotten into a conversation that started with his asking if there really had been a whole convention of knitters–we’d been?  There was?  He thought so!, and quickly became about the election a few days prior.

And then that black man told us two white women that the thing about the election that had struck him was that people had voted for the candidate (he didn’t have to say who) based on who he was.  “He’s such a good man,” I answered, thinking, “the content of their character” and how pleased King would be to be overhearing us speak and at how easily we had all fallen into that conversation, how easily we had all instinctively known we would be glad to be in each other’s company in that moment.  At the undercurrent of joy.

What I have needed to say and have been looking for the words for ever since has been this: yes, this country has a lot to get fixed, economically, health care, so many choices to be made re the use of money.  But we have chosen to jettison our wariness of one another.   And it shows.  We have chosen to see the best in each other across all divides as well as in choosing this one particular candidate.  The symbolism spills into a sense of goodwill that is transforming day-to-day encounters among strangers.

The Washington Post’s online edition briefly marveled the Thursday after the election that someone was hawking a pristine copy of their Special Election Edition from the day before on Ebay for $400. It was a good day to be a newspaper. They quickly printed up a bajillion collector’s copies, just as they had special-editioned my late-printed copy bought Wednesday night.

There is great pride in feeling I own a piece of this. I voted for the man.  I voted for my fellow man in a way I could only guess at and hope for before election day, but now I see it.  In real life.

Walking down the quiet Canal
Friday November 21st 2008, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

C&O towpath, Nov 08Tina over on her Blue Moon blog wrote about how essential it is to have time alone in order to let the creative juices have their space.  Time to oneself to contemplate in.

Time with friends is essential to the soul as well.

Karen at Swain\'s Lock

I don’t get a whole lot of Karen time or time with my other friends back home–and I missed two of them this round–but I’ve usually managed to get back East once a year, and it does wonders for me; California is home now, but can never be so on quite the same level.swans on the Potomac

My quiet Potomac and the Canal are part of who I am.  This is where I contemplate best.  These are some of the loveliest spots on earth to me.  Here is someone who took far better pictures (and at a better time of day and year) than I did; enjoy!

Potomac River from the towpath

And more…
Thursday November 20th 2008, 11:48 am
Filed under: Family,Friends

Jill at Kaleidoscope YarnsA few more pictures:

This is Jill at Kaleidoscope.  If you ever want to support a really nice LYSO, and you’re shopping online, and you like really nice yarns and soft yarns and quick delivery, I highly recommend her and her shop.

And I had to throw in this Ben and Jerry’s shot just for fun.  Euphoric stuff indeed.At Ben and Jerry\'s in Waterbury, VT

Saturday night two weeks ago after Stitches was over for the evening, Karen and I went to the Boogie Knights concert benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Tommy Fund.  Kate in the middle here sang.

Karen, Kate, and Deb

(Okay, I have to do the designer thing here and add, Karen’s wearing the original Water Turtles shawl–we looked for more turtles at the Canal, but it was just the wrong time of year, I guess; Kate’s wearing her Kate shawl, no, the pattern’s not out yet, and Deb is wearing her Michelle shawl. Deb and I wrote to each other and compared notes and supported each other as our kids were going through their teens, and my Michelle is the same age as her Kate, so knitting that pattern for her seemed just the thing.)  Note how the lights above them look like a halo glowing out from their heads, centered particularly on Kate’s. I quite like that. It fits.

our house was a very very very fine houseOkay, this one’s for my family: this is what the old homestead looks like now that the remodeling and painting is complete.  It’s built into the hillside; from the back, there’s California-like high and long window space all across the back looking out on the woods.  The house has been turned into a small private assisted-living facility in the middle of the neighborhood by the woman who bought it.  If I were elderly and infirm, looking out on those gorgeous woods every day is exactly where I’d want to be.  There’s now a large wooden deck out the living room with sliding glass doors stepping out onto it.  Perfect.  I debated knocking on the door and telling them about the cute chipmunks under the carport who will cautiously take peanuts out of your fingers if you hold still a very long time, and the raccoons, turtles, foxes and deer in the backyard.  But I let it go.  I have quite a few memories of possums landing in the trashcans and unable to get back out: you should see the teeth on those things.  Dad would tip the can over on its side, whack the bottom with a broom to make it unfriendly in there, and go back inside where we would watch till the thing waddled out of there.

Photo catch-ups
Wednesday November 19th 2008, 4:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Amanda NHKnittingMama

A few photos from the trip, with more to come:

Amanda aka NHKnittingMama.

Karin, who gifted me with the black baby alpaca that became my friend Amy’s shawl, holding Lucy, and Kristine, Lucy’s mother, who took Jennie some Ben and Jerry’s emergency room medicine.Karin of

Paula, wearing her spindle-spun Blue Jay shawl in an absolute perfect imitation of the original, color-wise, with Sue, and that cute tall guy standing behind her.Paula, Sue, and that really good-looking guy

Joan, who lives in Vermont and whose blog is called knittingbytheocean.  My daughter, when she moved to Vermont, described it as being like California without the ocean (and with real weather), so Joan’s blog name has always made me chuckle.Joan

My sister Carolyn, who met me at JFK Airport during our layover on the way home.  It took her as long to get there as it took us to fly from Vermont, even though she lives in Manhattan. Carolyn! She scheduled her son to fly home to coincide with our stop and we had a wonderful, albeit all too short time together.  But at least I got to see her!  And I did not risk missing my flight this time, given our four-hour layover.  I snapped this picture as she was answering a call from him saying his plane had just landed.

canal overflow release at Swain\'s Lock

This is a shot my childhood friend Karen took near the Potomac, looking up at Swain’s Lock at a point where there’s an overflow release for the C&O Canal.

The spot where I fell through the canoe, several steps away and looking the opposite direction from the above picture. Yes, that’s straight down.  I knew you’d all want to see the spot.Potomac River embankment, canoe-less now

Home again
Tuesday November 18th 2008, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Family

Fell into bed at home at 2 am Eastern time, woke up early here waiting for the sun to hurry up and rise already.  Got some catching up to do.

Our grandcats were so funny: they were not allowed in the room we were staying in at our daughter’s for fear of them getting into the knitting and who knows what all else.

Eve the grandcatUnfortunately, the wireless mouse to my husband’s laptop got left out, never to be seen again, at least not before we left.   I was seen playing with the mouse so it must be important, so away it vanished into the night.

Eve the kitten has gone from a tiny little thing from the last picture I saw of her to being fluffed out now into a beautiful black cat with longish hair and large round green eyes that Sam said make her a perfect Basement Cat.  She’s got a small tuft of extra-long white fur immediately above each of her claws, making her look like a totally soft fluffball of innocence–which didn’t stop her from rolling her eyes at me at one point, glancing upwards while narrowing her eyelids.  Stupid human, just wait till *I* have opposable thumbs! I will open that door *myself*!  My guffawing at her for it did nothing to mollify her.  Anya the other grandcat

Eve tends to follow Anya, the older cat, and copy her.  I left our door open at one point.  Eve was hanging back this time.  Anya came barrelling down that hallway pell mell, trying not to be thwarted this time, and skidded out while trying not to splat into the bed, then did a 360 around it on the slippery newly refinished wooden floor, claws and limbs flying wildly.  I was out of her sight inside the room as she came running and got to hear her coming and then watch her ballet act.  When I laughed, there was the usual cattitude of licking a paw and “I didn’t do that” after I picked her up and escorted her back out.  Too funny.

And when I read a newspaper page on the floor, both cats promptly sat on it, totally covering  up the article.  Sam laughed and said that was classic cat, right there.

But would someone explain to me Anya’s need to lick my pink wool and silk skirt?  Gently, as if it were a kitten. Curious.

I was afraid I would forget my Tuscan cheese from the Cabot factory, and I did, but that just means Sam and her husband get to enjoy it; no complaints there.  I deserved that. I went to the fridge to get it just before we left for the airport after they left for work, let temptation get to me, and swiped a small spoonful of the Ben and Jerry’s Creme Brulee instead.  (Oh. Um.  Hi, Sam!)  That’ll teach me.  But it was definitely a freudian slip, because I knew how much they would love that cheese too. I looked up the local suppliers here of Cabot cheese this morning, and the number of stores within ten miles made me laugh–welcome home to northern California where everybody’s a foodie!

Now if only I could get someone here to start making apple cider doughnuts. I hadn’t ever heard of those before you all said something, and now I have to either find some here (not likely) or try making a batch myself.

A little Cabot’s on the side would go nicely.

Sunday November 16th 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Family

Thank you all for the kind words yesterday!

The Ben and Jerry’s plant was full of Ben and Jerry’s whimsical and colorful cartoons, both 3-D and painted on the walls; even the tubes in the factory were painted in lavender and the like, a very cheerful place.  The tour guide clearly enjoyed giving out the free samples at the end.

From there, we went to the Cabot’s cheese factory store, the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory store–their hot cocoa is enough to get me back to Vermont right there–and a brief glance into the teddy bear factory next door just out of curiosity.  Later, running an errand, our daughter asked if we wanted to take the short route or the scenic route. I laughed and answered, This is Vermont: it’s ALL the scenic route!

Which is true.  I can see why she and her husband fell in love with the place so fast. It is just so gorgeous everywhere you turn–and this is with the trees bare for the winter, pretty much.  Lacy bits of very white fog drifting through the peaks everywhere, black marbled granite to either side of the road as you drive, pine trees offering some green among the endless tree trunks and bare limbs of the highly forested views… Beautiful.

And then we took them out to Butler’s for dinner at Essex Inn last night, the restaurant of the New England Culinary Academy. I can just hear all the Vermonters swooning.  As my father once put it, How many meals do you eat in your life?  Now, how many do you remember?  That was definitely one for remembering–and then the head chef came out and greeted us at the end of the meal: he’d seen our son-in-law go by, a friend of his, and came out to say hi.  We got to thank him in person for the exquisite meal.  And then after he left, an extra dessert mysteriously appeared at our places: the best dark chocolate truffles I have ever tasted, bite-size cheesecakes, tiny chocolate cookies.

He didn’t have to bribe us; sure, Vermont, we’ll come back!

Home tomorrow.

Kaleidoscope Yarns
Saturday November 15th 2008, 8:45 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,LYS

Yesterday was the signing at Kaleidoscope Yarns in Essex Junction; I’ll add pictures in here when I get home.  My fellow bloggers came: Karin drove all the way from Albany, NY; Paula came from Massachusetts; Amanda and her husband and son and then Sue, who sometimes sends me New Hampshire pictures since we used to live there, came from New Hampshire; Joyce was missed; Kristine and Joan came from closer by, and my mind is being terribly ungracious and blanking on someone–I’m sorry!  Jill hosted us with warm smiles and homemade bread and cookies.  Books were signed, stories were swapped, and a great time was had by all.  I would add links if I knew how to open a second window on my daughter’s Mac.

It’s humbling in the extreme to have people–old online friends, to be sure, but still–take that kind of driving time and make that kind of effort to come to let us meet each other in person. I hope I lived up to their expectations, while feeling like, no, I really can’t do anything as wonderful at all as they did by comparison; but I am so, so grateful they did.  Thank you everybody, and thank you, Jill.  

Off to tour the Ben and Jerry’s plant in a few minutes…