A snowman!
Wednesday December 31st 2008, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

second piano hatYou can knit a whole lot faster when you already know the road ahead.

Hat #2: down a needle size.  Smaller keyboard (and thus faster to knit), more piano–I like this one.From Kathleen!

Michelle pointed out that it needs to be a thicker yarn to be really warm, and I chuckled at my child who was only eleven months old when we moved to California: college has taught her to appreciate warm clothes.

I regret that my children never got to make a snowman in the front yard. I have memories from when I was a kid of my Dad helping our giant balls of snow walk the plank: there was no way we could lift that midsection, so Dad set up a board and with his help we rolled it on up. The head would be smaller and lighter, so Dad simply lifted those up for us, although I remember one big snowman in the yard in front of my parents’ bedroom where it was a challenge even for him and he went looking for a longer board.  Good timesAnd he knits!.

My kids growing up in California never got to ice skate on the driveway. Or on the Canal.  Or on the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument like we did, with the Park Service running a warming bonfire on the side.  The Reflecting Pool is something like a foot deep, so if you weren’t sure the water was frozen enough, you weren’t going to get anything but really cold if you fell through.

So. No snowmen.  Yesterday I got a surprise package in the mail, one that hadn’t made it in time for Christmas, but all the better for that.  Totally unexpected.  What… From KC?  And it’s a snowman! Who knits! And sings! And waves his knitterly arms, with his ball of yarn glued to his backside (I kid you not).  Who flies through the air in his red sleigh on New Year’s Eve, delivering yarn to all the procrastinating knitters who didn’t get their Christmas presents knitted in time this year!

Santa Snowman, flying in his sled!

And yeah, he waves that nail-needle perilously close to his carrot nose, and I love him all the more for it.  I played it over and over till Michelle put her hands over her ears and wailed, “Make it STOP!”

Ya gotta love a great snowman.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…
Tuesday December 30th 2008, 1:34 pm
Filed under: Knit

I’m almost afraid to blog this because I know so many people who would be hoping I made it for them.

So. I wanted the black keys in sets of three purls each note, because black keys are raised in real life and purl stitches are too–but not if there’s only one standing alone.  A single purl stitch will sink and disappear between knit stitches, but a trio would have them standing shoulder to shoulder, holding each other up high.

I couldn’t make the math of it work in the small stitch count of a hat.  Thus this simplified version.

Leading to the realization that…I can’t count. So I had to fudge a few extra stitches into the white at the start of the intarsiapiano hat.  I guess I’ll have to make another one!

I’m a-comin’, Beanie Boy…!
Monday December 29th 2008, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Knit

So far so good.  But slow.

One thing about colorwork for me is that I don’t care for long loops of yarn hanging across the back side of the piece, waiting to be snagged on something.  I weave the strand not in use across the back of every single stitch.  This makes for slow, patient knitting (Row eight!? I spent all afternoon on this thing and I’m still only on row eight of the stranding colors?!) and a sturdier and I think warmer fabric, well worth the time spent.  (Don’t listen to that person in the parentheses.)

hat-ly begunRight now, my yarn is waiting for me to unwind the two balls around each other to get rid of the twist building up.

Hat to do it
Sunday December 28th 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Knit

Two days of overthinking how to create the marvelous stupendous hat I was envisioning and not getting past a tentative cast-on: 13 just won’t go into 70, I’m sorry.

Today I looked at it and suddenly knew, okay, this works.  Plain and simple.  Enough of the kibbitzing–go.  Given that I was too ill to stay past the first meeting at church, then I needed something creative and I needed to be looking forward to making somebody happy: I needed the therapeutic effects of looking beyond myself, and thank goodness that such a solitary hobby lets love be wrapped into every stitch.

About five rows into it, looking at it, part of me suddenly wanted to pout, but that’s not how I thought it was going to look!  Yes, but this works.  Just do it.

Sometimes I have to create a thing once to look at before I can create it just so.  You need the experience to extrapolate from before making more progress.  There will be more than one hat.

I’m glad for the huge, medication-resistant Crohn’s flare I had five years ago–it helps me see that this one isn’t so bad. It also reminds me of how so much good came from it that I’m actually glad it happened.  There’s an example at the end of this post. It’s having it be in the past that was a part that I’d really liked, too, though.

Re the hat.  I find myself marveling that this design all fell into place so easily once I let go of how I was demanding it turn out.

Saturday December 27th 2008, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Before the number of food items goes into serious decline and the Appleblossom amaryllis starts to sprout, I thought I’d better go blog quick that the KnitTalk Yahoo list has an annual opt-in knitswap, run by Margo Lynn, who gave my name to Rena this yearKnitswap package from Rena.

I opened a box that was ready to burst on Christmas morning.  Thank you, Rena, and wow! The handknitted dishcloth alone would have been enough to totally make my day, and then there’s Zephyr in Elderberry, and chocolate, and the amaryllis, and chocolate, and a notepad, and hot chocolate, and ornaments, and hot chocolate, and a stuffed little pad for keeping my mug of cocoa warm, and did I mention hot chocolate?

I’m displaying it all on top of Robert’s handwoven Medicine Blanket, which has been the backdrop for many a blog photo by now.

On another note, my husband just got a video camera for the computer and I got to teleconference tonight with our older daughter and son-in-law in Vermont and wish Jonathan a happy birthday and actually wave hi. We all made goofy faces at each other like little kids just because we could.  Our daughter held Eve, her black cat, in front of her camera and told us how funny it had been to see Eve running off down the stairs with a ball of white yarn in her mouth, while the other grandcat at the top of the stairs was attacking the steadily-lengthening end of yarn.

Almost present.  Almost close enough to offer them a mug of hot chocolate.

But guess what I sent them for Christmas too?  And that they drank this morning, on a snowy cold day over there?

Thank you, Rena.  I love December!

Her grandmother’s shawl
Saturday December 27th 2008, 10:25 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family

On a more cheerful note: I woke up this morning from a dream of the church doors being flung open, a joyous crowd streaming out, and the narrator to the dream exclaiming, “Let’s celebrate!”

Heck yeahsquaring off!

Yesterday was a little like this square: I was casting it off when the phone rang.  Later, I thought I was done with the thing, went to pick it up, and found out that when I’d gotten up, I not only hadn’t finished casting off, but I’d managed somehow to yank the needle out and it was frogging itself as I’d run for the phone.  I’m too deaf to hear the tinktinktink that had been going on behind me.

Oops.  so I had to reknit a bunch.  Eh.

And I’m sitting here this morning thinking, the trick is not to let the Crohn’s unravel me.  It’s just a few rows in my overall life.  So.

My son and his bride arrived from the airport Christmas night in time for dinner. Her family is having a big reunion tonight; quite a few of them live in this town.

I’d knitted a shawl for her grandmother, and I know I have a picture of it somewhere in my files, but I forgot to take another one just to make sure, so I can’t show it; I’ll ask the kids to snap me one.  She’s a tiny woman, so I knitted her the Constance shawl, which, when done up in fingering weight, is one of the smaller patterns in “Wrapped in Comfort.”

I learned something along the way of knitting hers and my sister’s Christmas present: I’d done them in one strand of laceweight baby alpaca or cashmere and one strand of Claudia’s silk.  Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous effect, with the silk shimmering around the quieter fiber much more prominently than when they’re blended together into a single strand.  But–and this is the big but–if you snag the shawl, the slippery silk tends to pull out merrily while the baby alpaca stays obediently in its place.

It is much easier to work a strand back in that is in tandem with its knitted-along partner. This was a bear to fix–but it was doable and I did it and my sister’s was none the worse for it.

And so I was hesitant to send Kim’s grandmother’s offwhite shawl along, as if there were something wrong with it.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and I would have worn it myself–gingerly–in a heartbeat, but I didn’t; it was hers. I thought about knitting another one, but that didn’t feel right; the one I’d made for her couldn’t belong to anybody else.  It was hers!

So I sent it off with Kim to give Grandma with careful warnings and wondering nervousness as to whether it was good enough.

Silly me.  Her grandmother was ecstatic.  Yes, yes, she’d treat it carefully, okay, but WOW! LOOK at this!  Kim said Grandma had made everybody laugh when she exclaimed, “I have to buy a new dress to go with this!”

And I was worried?

(p.s. For a little holiday cheer, may I recommend Lawdog’s blog post here.  No, (looking at the first paragraph or two), I mean it!)

As one door closes, another stays open
Friday December 26th 2008, 5:03 pm
Filed under: LYS

We got the unwanted message: Commuknity in San Jose was closing.  As in, really closing: their space would be available Jan. 1.

They had been waiting over a month for me to pick up two of my shawls they’d had for a show, and they’re further away than I had been able to muster the energy to drive to and I just hadn’t done it yet.  But I knew they needed to have one less thing to worry about and to have to keep track of under the circumstances.  So.

Richard took me down there today; I needed to be up to it, so that was that and we simply went.  Gail and Tom, the owners, happened to be right at the inner doors at the moment we walked in the outer ones (there’s a little alcove between), and greeted us with much emotion. Gail said, “I’ll go get your shawls” before I even said anything, allowing me to plop gratefully into a chair in the alcove.    I looked at the very long line of buyers and knew I could never make it that long, much though I would have loved to have given one last show of support to my friends, and when someone walked in the outer door, stopped, and coughed right at me, having utterly no idea what she had just done, that sealed that.  No way.  Too risky.  I had to get out of that exposure.

time to cast on

But not before Gail and I threw our arms around each other with her worrying about me and me sorry she was losing her yarn shop they’d poured heart and soul into.  It had been a well-named store.  Crum.

We were driving back up the freeway heading for home and Richard was saying how, chemo and Crohn’s flare or not, he felt cabin fever would get to me and that he needed to take me places at least on weekends till I was back to getting out and about on my own.  I told him I was wanting to knit a hat, and that after four years of knitting shawls and using lace and fingering weight and baby alpaca, I just didn’t have wool in worsted weight in the colors and softness I wanted.  And, I added–that’s the exit to Purlescence, by the way.  He swung immediately over to the offramp and to Purlescence we went.

Where nobody was sick.  Where we happened to catch the place at an unusually quiet moment.  Where my friend Mary happened to come in just then in need of a hug, and Kevin and Sandi got one too for good measure and Kay helped me find the superwash Cascade.

Where I supported my local yarn store, and there will now indeed be a hat.

First bloom of the season
Wednesday December 24th 2008, 6:26 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Antarctic amaryllis varietyMy dad sent me a box of amaryllis bulbs (thank you, Dad!) and told me to open it at my birthday and not wait for Christmas; you never know what might already be sprouting in there in the nice warm house.

When an amaryllis thinks it’s time to bloom, it does what it can to make the world beautiful whether it’s been planted in soil and given the water it needs or not.  Go!  Tall stalks are nice to have, but the flowers are what its life is all about.

I opened the box and this Antarctic one had buds almost ready to burst out of a stalk whose shape was curved by the restricting protective netting around it.

flowering pear Christmas EveFlowers in the color of the snow we miss and that blossomed the day before Christmas Eve. Glorious.

Rudolph tree

Meantime, having shown you my “Part ridge in a pear tree” awhile back, I thought I’d show you what it looks like now.  The tree continues to recover well.  In this climate, it lets its leaves go after New Year’s–not till it’s finished doing its Rudolph impersonation.

Merry Christmas to all, a happy Festival of Lights, and the peace and joy of the season to you and yours.

Home sweet home
Tuesday December 23rd 2008, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Life

Tina, did you see this?! That video–wow.  (They’ve now edited out the part where the wire basket suspended by the helicopter kept getting tossed away by the waves, over and over, as the person inside the car tried to grab it–and it was 17 degrees F while all this was going on.  She did finally succeed in being rescued with her child.)  Thank you thank you thank you Montgomery County Maryland rescue personnel!

I can tell you the names of the families living at the cross street where this happened. If you look at the pictures, there’s a traffic light ahead at Seven Locks: turn left, go maybe half a mile, turn into the neighborhood and you’re at the house I grew up in. Turn right instead at Seven Locks, and you’re in Tina’s.  The teacher on her way to work who had a suddenly bursting wall of water and mud bury her car was going to the elementary school that Karen and Scott went to.

Everybody’s safe.  Cars and roads and 96-inch (the Post now says 66″) water mains can be replaced.

And the firemen marveled that they just happened to be heading out for breakfast right when it happened so that they saw it and they were right behind that teacher and were able to call out immediately for massive reinforcements as they pulled their truck from car to car, pulling people out.  The helicopter reached the ones they could not.

They were immediately at hand when they were so severely needed.  The choreography of God.  Wow.

Rock quarry at River Road(Edited to add this picture I took on River Road last year of the rock quarry that is halfway down the hill there where the water main broke–we were not allowed to play near the quarry growing up.   It was at the end of our street.)

Taking good care of m’boy for me
Monday December 22nd 2008, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Okay, first, here’s the recipe:


Cookie crust: oven at 350.  Grease edges of 15x10 cookie sheet.  Cut
1 c of cold butter into 2 1/2 c flour; don't use a cuisinart or anything
that would pulverize the butter, you want it lumpy to come out crisp.  Add
1/2 c sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Press firmly in pan, bake 20-23 minutes or
till golden.  Top with filling right away and bake again.

Filling: 4 eggs, 1 c. corn syrup, 1 c sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 3 tbl melted 
butter, 2 c
coarsely chopped cranberries, 1 c. coarsely chopped pecans.  Beat eggs,
corn syrup, sugar, and butter.  Stir in cranberries and nuts.  Immediately
pour over hot crust as it comes out of the oven, spreading it out.  Bake
25-30 minutes or until set.  Cool; refrigerate it to be able to cut it
really cleanly.

Now the story:

My son John has been on a mission for the Mormon Church for a year now. Like his brother did, he’s serving in the South.

My friend Bonnie, whom I’ve known online for ten years and have long wanted to meet in person, got to meet John instead.  He had something that needed mending; she told me her shop’s address (she’s a seamstress) and warmly welcomed him in and waved away any offer of reimbursement and then told me what a nice kid I have. Look who’s talking.  Thank you, Bonnie!

I got a phone call a few weeks ago from a member of John’s ward (congregation), asking me for a recipe for his favorite comfort-food cookies and for a few photographs of his childhood; she was going to throw a surprise Christmas party for all the missionaries around her area.

I sent off a few pictures and typed out my cranberry bar squares.  And then John got transferred to a different city last week, and that, I thought, was the end of that.

My phone rang this afternoon: the woman had the cranberry bars in the oven and wanted to know how to tell for sure when they were done.  Till the edges look golden, I told her.  But–he’s been transferred! I added, not wanting to disappoint her, but.

Yes, Christy said, she knew that.  But she was so sure it would make his day.  (Well, yeah, it totally would. He could snarf half a 15×11 pan of those by himself.)

And then she stunned me: she said her husband was a pilot and they were going to go fly the quick hop skip and a jump and take him those cookies, warm out of the oven.

Oh. My. Goodness.

She told me her own son was serving a mission in a place where she’d sent him a Christmas box in November and he hadn’t gotten it yet and probably wouldn’t in time.  She couldn’t fix that.  But she could help my kid feel loved from home and by the people around him.

How on earth can you thank someone for something like that?!

She did it again
Sunday December 21st 2008, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I called my mom yesterday to wish her a happy birthday, and she told me that, reading my blog, it was clear to her that I’d been having a particularly happy week.

I answered that my flare had actually gotten worse during the week and that things were being pretty rough.

But you know? I got off that phone, thought about it, savored the tone that had been in her voice as she’d said that, re-read the week’s entries, and realized she was right. It *had* been a happy week!  No amount of Crohn’s could change all the things that were wonderful.  The surprise party and all the kind comments that flowed into the blog afterwards, Richard and Michelle being marvelously helpful, the two friends who came over during the week as well as the ones who came to the party, Mom’s silk blouse arriving in time for her birthday…

And in a rush of gratitude, I sat down and yesterday’s post just poured out of my fingertips.

So I have to offer one correction: Mom didn’t just teach me to see the best in others.  She taught me to look for the best in every situation as well.  She did it again.  Thanks, Mom!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78
Saturday December 20th 2008, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Honeybee Lane

I had a friend, growing up, who felt she was not supposed to come home with dirt on her clothes. A young lady was not to do that.

Which is how I learned early on to treasure my mother’s take on us after a good day down at the creek or in the woods in the back yard: she would give us an appraising look with a grin on her face and pronounce, “You must have had *fun* getting THAT dirty!”

She had this big bicycle horn she would raise high and honk to call us home from all over the neighborhood; all the other parents and children knew that sound and if we didn’t hear it would go, Hey, you, your mom’s calling you.

We would hold back and go one at a time, then run from our game of four-square or what have you on up the sloping street to Mom, especially in the summertime when the light continued for so long after dinner: run run running trying to pick up speed and at the end leaping up into her arms where she would swing us around and around and around on the grass next to the street, often till we were so dizzy we would fall down in delight when she let us down into the grass (or if that didn’t work, airplane our arms around and around till we made ourselves dizzy enough).  Just every now and then, she would fall down laughing too.

We learned we couldn’t be jealous and try to push ahead of the next kid–Mom couldn’t catch two at once.   She was perfectly capable of turning her back and chirping cheerfully as she walked away, “Nope! Lost your chance!”  Awww, MOooooommmmm…”  We had to take turns.

I wrote in my book about my friend Lisa, who 18 years ago volunteered to watch my preschoolers Monday through Friday mornings so I could go do swim therapy after my lupus diagnosis.  And like I did with my own kids, I used to swing her preschoolers around and around like my mom had done with me.

When Lisa’s family flew back to this area for her mother-in-law’s funeral, I swung her two little boys and their little sister around and around till we all fell down, for old times’ sake, even though they were beginning to be a bit big for it.  Arthritis shmitis.  I was not about to miss the opportunity. They’d been such a big part of my life for the three years we’d traded off watching each others’ kids, and I wanted them to remember the fun parts.

Lisa later had one more child, who of course had no connection to his older siblings’ California memories.

A few years ago, they decided to come vacation in Washington DC to coincide with when we were going to be there for our oldest’s Maryland wedding reception.  We had them over to my folks’ house and had a grand time.  And before they left, in my folks’ grassy front yard, to the delight of the youngest, I ditched my now-cane and picked him up and swung him around and around and around till we both fell down laughing. (There was no way I wasn’t going over too, nowadays.)

What delighted me was the instant reaction of the older siblings to their little brother: “NOW you’ve had the Sister Hyde experience!”  They still remembered being swung around! And they were glad for him that he got to have that!

My mom taught me how to do that.

My mom taught me to laugh when life makes you dizzy.

My mom taught me to see the best in others.

the back yardMy mom (and Dad, too, I should add) taught me to go play in the woods and splash in the creek.  To admire the box turtles munching the mayapples but leave the snapping turtles be. To fill the birdfeeder without fail when it was cold and to laugh at the antics of the squirrels trying to get at it (and not to mind feeding them, too).

My mom taught this high-strung child how to chill out.  When my then-bachelor brother told her he could never have six kids like she had had, that he just didn’t have the patience, she stared at her older son a moment and then guffawed, “How do you think I *learned* it?!”  On the job training!

Happy birthday, Mom. Thank you.  I speak on behalf of all of us when I say, your six kids love you. Very much.  Wishing you a little bit of creek, a little bit of dirt on your new silk blouse, and go twirl till you’re dizzy!

Thinking outside the boxes
Friday December 19th 2008, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

This time of year, the UPS drivers around here all have an extra on the truck: someone to dash to the door with the boxes while the regular driver drives to try to speed up the process with all the extra deliveries going on.  So it was an unfamiliar face that rang the doorbell, and he was halfway back to the truck by the time I opened the door and called after him my standard, “Thank you!”

The guy looked startled.  It amused me.

The second time, a few days later, same guy running, he waved back with a smile.

The third time…

There was a woman I’d known whom I’d thought had moved away years ago after she’d been widowed. She kind of dropped out of sight.  Come to find out through mutual friends this week that  she did still live here, and I said how much I’d love to see her.  I didn’t have a phone number for her.

Monday my phone rang.  They had passed the word along, and she was just as glad to hear I wanted to see her as I was that she was still in the area.

Wednesday she came over, and had just gotten out of her car when the UPS truck pulled up alongside it.  She was parked right in front of my door and was on her way to it; I had heard her car pull up and was just then opening the door to come out to greet her.

The new guy handed her my package after she told him sure; meantime, I was on my way.

I hadn’t seen her in probably ten years.  She’d changed enough I probably wouldn’t have recognized her on the street had I not had any context, unless I heard her voice, and we threw our arms around each other in great joy at seeing each other, made all the more intense for wishing we hadn’t waited so long to look each other up.  Hugs!  With that package in her hand against my back as she held me, a cane in her other hand.

I glanced up to see both men in that truck.  They’d hesitated rather than revving up the engine to go, watching, not wanting to miss that moment.  Their eyes were big and their smiles as wide as ours.

As my former UPS guy once exclaimed to me, “I love my job this time of year!”

Thursday December 18th 2008, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Family

“They didn’t plow the highway this side of Point of the Mountain, Dad, I’m going to miss my flight!…

They delayed my flight!…


And she made it! Yay! Merry Christmas! Welcome home! To semi-sunny California, where it was cold enough it could have snowed here last night too.  Our heater huffed and it puffed, and it blew the front of the house to a balmy 61.4 degrees F in the living room.

Could y’all throw some snowballs for us out there, if you’ve got the makings?  Freezer scrapings just don’t have that certain oomph, and I think the Bay Area’s done as good a job as it can do.

(Ed. to add: My husband’s offer letter for the job here promised, in writing, “No home delivery of snow.”  We were shoveling snow higher than the top of our garage–sold!  Take it!  We did.  But our kids missed out on the whole build-a-snowman or make-a-snow-angel experience, which left me a little wistful at times.)

More partying!
Wednesday December 17th 2008, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Life

Marlene sparked this one.  I didn’t have a lot of birthday parties either growing up; December’s a busy time of year, and we weren’t all that big on getting around to doing them anyway.  But there was a memorable one when I turned 12.

My folks one year had found someone selling kits with molds and plaster of paris and paint for making your own Christmas ornaments: add a snip of twine for the hook to hang from, add water, pour, tweak twine, dry, and decorate as desired. (Come to think of it, candy molds would work for this, although they’d be small.  Flexibility for the sake of the unmolding is helpful.)

Those molds got used for years, long after the original plaster supply ran out.  Sometimes (usually as we got older) we painted our names across the backs.  We glued glitter, we debated the merits of traditional red/green colorways vs going for broke and using them all.  We painted in the lines created by the molds, or not.  Remember–we were the children of a modern art dealer.

You could see the progression in the growing collection of young child to creator of ornate perfection.  Part of me thought, in protest, but this isn’t what my friends’ trees look like, struggling with the pride in, hey, this isn’t what my friends’ trees look like!

Mom and Dad had a cathedral ceiling in the living room, and we cut our own trees at a tree farm every year.  Writing about those trees could be a whole book to itself, but the best was the time we got one just too tall even for that ceiling and Dad decided to cut off the top and put it on the roof, so that to people going by looking in the window, it looked like this huge pine was growing right through the house!  Like I say, my dad has a sense of humor and a delightful bit of the imp to him.

We had a lot of space to fill up with ornaments given how big those trees were.  The collection grew.

And that one year, when I was almost a teenager but not quite, my mom molded a whole bunch for my friends to decorate at my birthday party.  Paint, the smell I had come to love of fresh plaster, glitter, glue, with multi-festival-able ornaments amongst the Christmas ones for my Jewish friends, and then everybody got to take their works of art home to show off (and my friends too now got to have homemade plaster of paris ornaments made by them at their houses)…

Best. Birthday. Party. Ever.