“Just like the cheerful chickadee”
Tuesday June 30th 2009, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Wildlife

A quick note first: I got a call from Don today from the emergency room; he’d broken three bones in his foot.  Ouch!  I’m wishing healing his way.

After I posted yesterday, a new bird showed up. Bonus points to anybody who whistles the song the post title comes from (sorry about the earworming).  I was stunned–in 22 years in California, I have never once seen a chickadee. Anywhere.  Ever.  I assumed they simply didn’t live here.

But there one was, right there on my feeder, testifying to the fact that in life if you want something to happen, sometimes you have to create the opportunities by which it can.

Speaking of which.  Last night my husband was still at work due to deadlines and international time zone issues, while Michelle, who’d planned to take his car, was off having dinner with friends.  Marian and I were about to head out to San Jose City Hall for her to get to see the falcons and meet the folks I’d be giving Margo Lynn’s fingerless gloves to when it suddenly dawned on us that, oh, wait.  What’s wrong with this picture.

And we cracked up at the same moment.  No car!  (Duh…)

While I was typing this, a female ladderback woodpecker looking like this one showed up on my olive tree. It wasn’t interested in the feeder; I guess it simply felt welcomed by the presence of the seven finches and titmice on the feeder.  It was gorgeous and big and I hadn’t seen one of those since we’d had to cut down the ash trees.  Wow.  All I had to do was welcome its neighbors and it felt right at home too.  I wonder what will show up next!

Before Marian’s flight this afternoon, we did get down to San Jose after all, but there were no falcons soaring in sight at that time of day.  We toured the textile museum–and if you can, GO! The Jack’s Falling Water Quilt is worth the trip all by itself.  For anybody who’s ever been to Watkins Glen in upstate New York, picture a rocky waterfall like that one transfigured into a watercolored quilt with cascades of blue dropletted silk falling around the picture, dappled leaves above the falls, the movement of the water in the pool below and a deep green strip that you almost don’t see at first but then notice as it gives depth and life and summer to the water .

I so wish I could create something like that.  And this Friday admission is free. Go!

Meantime, Don, get better! Your homebirds are waiting for you.

Margo Lynn!
Monday June 29th 2009, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

imgp7919A pair of house finches discovered my birdfeeder last week. And now, at last, the birdword is out.  It’s a grand party, with five often on the feeder at a time and one on the branch impatiently waiting its turn.  Squirrels have been on the ground (they seem to have realized that trying to land on the feeder directly is a kamikaze experience) busily playing mop-up crew, taking turns with the jays and the occasional graceful mourning dove that walks in delicate steps among the spilled seeds.

News flash (an hour after typing the above):  I just got my mail, and there was a surprise package.

Marian and I had already decided that for her last evening here tonight, we had to take her to go see the peregrines flying around City Hall in San Jose.

It turns out my friend Margo Lynn had listened to my wishing out loud that I had something other than lace scarves to hand out to the group of falcon watchers–maybe something to keep their hands warm in the cool brisk evening air, something the men too could enjoy.  I was thinking for Eric, who takes and shares so many of his photos, (there are some new ones up) and Craig, who writes up beautiful reports and lately has even showed up at 4:30 am to observe the falcons’ dawn risings.  For Glenn, the biologist at UCSC who has been caring for these birds for thirty years and has played an integral part in bringing them back from near-extinction.

imgp7923Margo Lynn knitted four pairs of fingerless gloves for me to go share.  (Those three will know better than I who most deserves the fourth pair.)  It was a total surprise. They’re gorgeous. Three pairs are Noro Kureyon or Kureyo Patora, one is a Berocco superfine merino: they’ll all be nice and warm, without getting in the way of one’s fingers nor one’s dexterity while holding a camera. Perfect.

I dearly hope they will be as gobsmacked as I am.  Wow.  Thank you, Margo Lynn!

The twenty-ninth
Saturday June 27th 2009, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Family

imgp7906imgp7903Making reservations online, stopping a moment to go, what’s today’s date–oh, wait, *duh*…

Just like my big sister
Friday June 26th 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Conversation at dinner: Marian was talking about when they first bought their house in the Seattle area.

She stepped outside one evening and encountered a neighbor standing by his curb staring to the southeast. Had she heard?  Had she seen this?

Heard what?

Uh, about Mt. St. Helens? You know, the volcano?

The what?!  So Marian looked over thataway and you could see the plume in the distance.  Whoa.  She’d had no idea there was anything other than Mt Rainier, which she could see, anywhere nearby. There was a fine layer of ash on everything the next morning.

Richard buried his head in his hands in mock dismay over his dinner, teasing us: “One sister who can’t hear the fire alarm” (no hearing aids in, the building being evacuated, and me totally oblivious on the day he was referring to) “and one sister who doesn’t know there’s a volcano in the neighborhood,” shaking his head.

I guess she hadn’t heard hers go off either.

Sisters.  Whaddyagonnado.

Thursday June 25th 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family,My Garden,Wildlife


…And I need me a good bird book.


A little more water on those tomatoes.imgp7892

That plum tree is going to be so hosed, no doubt about it.

And I still need a goofy picture of Marian. Shouldn’t be hard.

(Note added an hour later to draft: imgp7899write it and it shall happen…)

Book sale
Thursday June 25th 2009, 11:02 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

Knitpicks has “Wrapped in Comfort” on sale at $14.97 at the moment.  I’m not very good at pushing the commercial side of things, but I am pretty proud of that book, so I thought I’d mention. Thanks!

And six to go
Wednesday June 24th 2009, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family

I told my son John about that plum sauce and A.’s visit, and he emailed back, Please leave me some? I’ll be home in December!

He’s been on his mission for the Mormon Church for 18 months now.  Homemade plum sauce for winter sounded t0 me like a marvelous way to anticipate and then celebrate the day he comes home.  So there is now a container in the freezer marked for the occasion to come: memories, neighbors, family, fruit tree history, it’s all in that Rubbermaid, waiting and ready for him.

Remembering Fred
Tuesday June 23rd 2009, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I just put a container of plum sauce in my fridge.  My next-door neighbor knocked on our door earlier today with a large bowl full of plums from her tree. It was aging, she told me, and not producing as many as it used to, but she knew I loved to make jam from it and there was more than they could use.

When we bought this house, Fred had been the gardener here and for her for many years and we were asked if we might keep him on. We couldn’t afford a single extra thing, I told the sellers honestly–but what I didn’t say was, even if we could and did, then it would feel to me like it was more his yard than mine at a time I was trying to adjust my brain to feeling that this really was our place now and that the house we’d built in New Hampshire was not anymore.  Moving is hard enough.

Fred had really gotten into the art of grafting at one point in his life when a client had asked him to help them move part of their favorite fruit tree to one at their new home.  It worked! Cool!  From there, he grafted a few other things–and from what I understand, he didn’t always ask first.  Since he also worked for our next-door neighbors and they had a plum tree, the ornamental plum in our yard could use a little spiffing up.  After all: he needed to trim the one over there, and the elderly Japanese couple living here didn’t need a whole tree’s worth of fruit to worry about, so, hey!  The solution!

I don’t think they knew it was coming.  But that is how the ornamental plum with deep burgundy leaves in what later became our back yard had one large green branch off to the side that was loaded with fruit. Just enough.

I have to tell you, it was one really odd-looking tree.

It’s even odder looking now, the trunk distorted and lumpy; the producing branch, which lasted while our kids were little, died off quite awhile ago.

So my kids planted me my own plum tree for Mother’s Day last year, as I’ve mentioned, and I absolutely love it.

But having A. knock on the door with plums from her tree, the one Fred had lifted a branch from for our house so very many years ago, brought back many pleasant memories of a gentle soul.  I did get to know him over time by his working at her house for our first ten or so years here, while his health held. He loved his work and friends and kept at it into old age.

There’s the memory of the time I waved hi at him when I saw him trimming our olive from across the fence–it had gotten pretty overgrown at top and had gone from being carefully bonsai’d to looking like the branches had mohawks, and it bugged him.  I was grateful; he, though, was embarrassed at being caught and scrambled quickly back down the ladder on the other side, while I was going, no, thank you!  He was a sweetie.

I do miss him.  Maybe someday I’ll learn how to graft in a different variety plum onto my Santa Rosa to extend its season in his honor.  Or an apricot.  Jester trees are the way to go.

Siblings forever
Monday June 22nd 2009, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

You know how when you point a camera at a kid they give you a goofy face?  All I had to do was tell Marian I was going to take her picture and she gave me a goofy face. And I missed it.

The plumber agreed to come tomorrow, having an all-day job today–which he then finished early, called, rushed over, and rescued us.  Yay!

And life is good.

What were they smoking?
Sunday June 21st 2009, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Family

Really, it’s all just a matter of coming Bach to basics.  You know, like the garlic ice cream they sell in Gilroy.imgp7880

In the Happy Father’s Day department, one will note that I seem not to have been the only one with the idea: there was only one left in the whole store Friday.  I snatched it.  Mine.  And then, briefly, his. (He let me taste some, but the thing disappeared surprisingly fast when I walked back out of the room.)

For the man who lived in France for two years on a mission for the Mormon Church, came home, and taught me what True Chocolate was supposed to be like, lifting me from my Hershey wilderness into true European dark bliss.  And now you know why I really married him. Heh.

Vosge’s Haut.Chocolat to celebrate the day.  What could be more manly than an applewood-smoked bacon chocolate bar?

The repair guy is plumb-eting in the polls
Saturday June 20th 2009, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Our neighbor across the fence once asked me if we’d lived in this neighborhood in ’55 when…

And I told her I hadn’t been born yet in ’55, much to her chagrin, judging by her reaction; my hair was grayer than hers, and I guess she’d just assumed…

But our house was.  Which is why today after I’d bleached and cleaned all three bathrooms (we added the third to keep our then-about-to-be-teenagers from killing each other) yet again after the second go-round on the plumbing we thought we’d finally fixed, I was not entirely Little Miss Sunshine today when the shower pans announced yet a third time that they really really needed a Zofran equivalent in their system.

I have my sister flying in from Washington State on Monday afternoon. We were going to wash the already-clean linens on the guest room bed, just to make sure they weren’t dusty.  Right now I would settle for being able to tell her she can use the bathrooms safely.

I will have a plane to meet.

And a plumber who should be making good on his short-term warranty, who came out last month, who doesn’t work weekends, and I’m too cheap to call someone else and we’re still trying to fix it ourselves.  It keeps starting to be okay and then–not.  So someone has to be home to meet the plumber Monday, assuming we’re still at it, and at round three, I think the squirrels are slapping their thighs and telling human jokes on us.  (They lost rounds two and three on the birdfeeder so far and could use the comic relief in the face of their dire deprivation.)

Happy almost-Father’s Day!  (Toilet snakes are a manly art.  No, no, I insist, Dear, go right ahead.)

(Edited to add:  So I did what any reasonable knitter would do: I blocked the seacell/silk shawl on that guest bed while I still could, keeping the rinsing water in the sink to the most minimum possible in doing so.)

Come again?
Friday June 19th 2009, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

(Falcon photos owned by SCPBRG.  I love the kids-home-from-college-together shot.)imgp7875

Karin’s yarn: I love how the darker/lighter patterns match the fledgling’s. In adulthood, the stripes effect on the juveniles will change from going up and down to side to side with the chest going white.imgp7868

You know you’ve really been caught up in this whole peregrine thing when you pull up behind a car at a red light and read the nameplate on its back as saying it’s a Toyota Tiercel.  Well, and it was little, too, and the males are smaller!imgp7859

By their words shall ye know them
Thursday June 18th 2009, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Politics

I’ve been debating writing this all day.  It would be far more fun to talk about how cool Karin’s yarn is starting to look in my new project. And I do try not to go on and on on such things.

But I think this is compelling, and I think it’s terribly important. I read this article today, thanks to Lene: about the executives at the nation’s major health insurers admitting Tuesday before incredulous members of Congress of both parties that yes, it is true: there is a list of about 1,000 expensive medical conditions which, if you have, and if you have private coverage (ie, you’re not protected by the laws governing HMOs about pre-existing conditions) they will scour your medical records as far back as 20 years looking for a reason to drop you. Something, anything, you didn’t disclose on your application.  And they will find one.  Some have whole departments set up for this and give bonuses and positive performance reviews to their employees who drop expensive patients.

One person’s doctor had once noted that he had gallstones but didn’t mention it to his patient. When the guy later found out he had cancer, his insurer canceled him for fraud for not disclosing what he didn’t know.

This was not an isolated case; this is simply how they conduct their business and they freely said so. They told the congressmen that it had saved them $300 million over five years.

I recommend that these lovely individuals put a Bob Marley cd on and go read Charles Dickens: “Business? Business! MANKIND was my business!”

Note that in California the insurance commissioner proposed fining one of the Blue Cross companies $12.6 million. And then did not do so.

There is a case underway, finally, in which the insurance company did not notify a couple they were considering them for rescission during the period during which the wife could have switched their insurance to her employer’s; then, after her husband was in a car accident, which, as I read the article, the company apparently knew about, they continued to collect premiums from them.

Until the husband submitted medical bills that were more than that monthly payment.  And then they dropped the couple and refused to pay a dime.

All three executives said they would continue their policy of rescission regardless of whether the insured had knowingly lied in filling out the application or not. They said it keeps their costs down.

You got a problem with that?

City Hall, round two
Wednesday June 17th 2009, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

So tonight I improvised with the garage band.  Besides, all great ideas in Silicon Valley are supposed to start at garages anyway.  I drove to downtown San Jose again, this time having been coached in the use of Richard’s camera, which is much better than mine, and joined the Fourth Street Garage fledgewatchers in the open air of the top floor.  Introductions all around.  “Oh, *you’re* the one who wrote the lyrics!”  And I was going, so you must be the Eric of the photos, and you must be, and…

The peregrines flew right overhead several times, and with Eric’s help I got to see pictures of some things I’d just missed by being a few minutes too late. I can’t wait to see them posted online.

But could I take my own?  I did remember to take the lens cap off–yeah, after about two minutes (smacking forehead).  But even so, I just wasn’t fledging with that camera yet; I told Eric my husband was going to have to come take his own.  I’d quickly realized I could look down at the thing and inwardly fuss at my own incompetence, or up, to see the peregrines in their last little bit before they settled down for the night. I chose the peregrines. Sometimes life demands that you simply pay attention, now.

There were two on the louver, then a third landing with not quite the grace of its parents, but definitely getting there.  A fourth stood watch on the ledge above, and then a parent soared in but then hid halfway down on the far side of the building from the little squawkers. They’d eaten enough for one night.

Eric told me some of the history of the nestings at City Hall, pointed out where Kya had been rescued, described where Clara’s favorite tree was–and I was delighted, because when I’d been in the library last week, I’d seen what had to have been her going right through there to that tree, but whizzing by so fast she left my eyes almost in the dust.

The other reason I went tonight was to drop off some lace scarves as a thank you for some of the people who’ve done so much work to delight and teach and share with so many.

Listening to Eric and laughing over the teenage antics of the young’uns, I was thinking, you know, I do need to branch out on this lace scarf thing for my little carry-around projects in my purse.  Gotta add something less gender specific.  The FO pile could use a fingerless glove project or two added in for cold hands holding heavy equipment outside on that top level, and it does get brisk.

He told me there was a music fair downtown last summer and that one of last year’s juveniles, at a time when its siblings had dispersed, hung around it squawking overhead loud enough to be heard over it all: hum a few bars and he’d happily sing it for you.

I can throw in some lyrics for the little tiercel.  But then, as Glenn the biologist can tell you, he’s already got his own bands.

Black hole time
Tuesday June 16th 2009, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

imgp7851(Falcon image property of SCPBRG, a marvelous organization that has brought peregrines back from the brink.  Look how those babies are growing up!)

Stephanie wrote awhile back about the black hole effect in handknitting. I’ve put hours and rows into this shawl today, trying to wrap it up, and it still stretches out to, roughly…18″.  Huh. (Probably because I’m not trying quite so eagerly to prove to myself it’s farther along than it is.)

The yarn is 40% silk, and silk yarns knitted up, especially when they aren’t spun tightly, have a tendency to stretch out over time.  (A side note: I once knitted a 50/50 kid mohair/silk vest, with much cabling work in the front and then knitted plain in the back because I was afraid of running out of yarn.  The vest buttoned down the front, which turned out to be a very good thing: the heavier weight dragged the fronts about six inches downward, coming down, if I wore it unbuttoned, to look like I’d knitted points on purpose, while the back stayed primly in place just covering my waistband. Moral of the story: be careful of mixing dense and lightweight stitch patterns when working with silk.)imgp7854

So.  This shawl will either still be rather on the short side, which is fine with me, or it will stretch out surprisingly far when I block it and grow even more over time and I’ll have something long and swoopy from my gorgeous, shimmery yarn. Either way…

…(launching into storytime here, folks)…

My husband and I met for the first time when my parents decided I was an old enough newborn to be taken outside and to church.  (Or maybe when Mom had had enough of cabin fever, right, Mom?) It is safe to say I really don’t remember the event.  Thus, given our 15″ height difference in adulthood, the jokes that are, by now, a tad shopworn: we grew up together, he just did more, I knew when to quit, yadda yadda.

So we were just old friends who started finally actually dating in college.    I had a classmate, about 6’2″ or so, who saw us on campus one day.  The next class she and I had together, she took me aside and reamed me in great indignation. “All the short girls take all the tall boys!”

What could I gracefully say? I beat you to it?  Neener neener?  I told her simply, “I took him in the size he came in.”

I thought of that as I measured this shawl and wondered what its real dimensions will turn out to be–just like I wondered once what married life was going to really be like.  After 29 years come next week and four fledged kids, I think I’ve got a good idea on the latter.

I don’t quite think he wants me to knit this for him as an anniversary present, though.  It would be too much of a stretch.  I’ll have to think of something else, huh?