On to tomorrow
Wednesday July 15th 2009, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I’ve been trying all day to think of how to post about today while still following Thumper’s Admonition.

Hmm.  I will say that having raised four teenagers (who are all perfectly lovely adults now), I know that the angrier a person gets over something that is unreasonable, the more you know they know they’re in the wrong.

Stanford blew it.  Today I finally got through to someone with authority in accounting who was as appalled as I was–and gave us her name!  Who acknowledged that yes, I had paid my bill in full and right away, sorry for issuing a duplicate billing instead of the requested receipt, it’s all fixed now.

If ever there was a day I needed a knitting pattern that required a lot of attention to help me take a deep breath, well, I’m glad I had Monterey to work on afterwards. I got to where I’d been going to stop, decided it was still too short, and just kept on knitting.

Richard came home from work and made me laugh. I so much needed that.

I have just one more row calling me (unless I go on again…) and then the castoff.   Hopefully tomorrow I’ll show off the finished shawl.

Knitting like crazy
Tuesday July 14th 2009, 10:27 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

So many people to knit for in such a hurry. Go go go!

There’s the first Manos Silk scarf done, I did the second yesterday from the first of Kathy’s yarn (thank you Kathy!) and it’s now waiting to be blocked and the ends run in on both, and today, trying to choose which yarn to scarf down next… I instead tackled the longterm UFO that’s been off alone in a corner.  It simply declared it was its time now. I argued with it for about an hour and then caved.

I love Sea Silk. I love the Monterey pattern with its jellyfish and seaweed and the crash of the surf at the neckline, I really do.  And the idea of putting the two together, and in the Ocean colorway, was just so poetically perfect: actual seaweed turned into aquatic patterns in deep-sea blue, looking shimmery and gorgeous.  How can you get better than that?

So I went down a needle size to match the yarn and off I went.  But Sea Silk is very slippery and the Monterey is a complicated bear if you drop a stitch.  There’s a reason I rated it expert.  That wasn’t stopping me so much as wondering if the woman whom I don’t know that it’s going to will, you know, actually…like it…

I had rubber baby buggy bumpers on the needle tips every time I put it down when I started.  But that was a goodly while ago, months, and I don’t know quite where they are now.  I was afraid those stitches were threatening to be bungee jumpers every time I picked the project up.

So I avoided picking it up.

I found myself needing to finish up old tasks today.  It was time.  I got one and a half full pattern repeats done so far, and at that rate I’ll finish tomorrow afternoon, unless it declares it wants to be longer than I’m planning.

It’s already shown that it’s the one calling the shots.

Taking mint-sing steps
Monday July 13th 2009, 8:59 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

A misremembered start of a fairy tale that was passed around the DarpaNet back when Richard was in grad school:

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut vent two sea irk groin-murder inner fore rest… (no, that’s not spam, say it fast.)

It took it awhile to find the new restaurant, and when it did, it was cute–Michelle and I both wondered at first if it were a large mouse. My! What big ears you have!  With its small size, those ears, and slim build, it had us for a moment.

Till we saw the tail.  Great. A Californian rat, thin and trim, ready to see and be seen, out in the open, nibbling at the offerings from the birds above.

I was none too pleased. If only we had a cat.  A little aversion therapy.

When I was in San Jose talking to the garage-top falconatics a few weeks ago, one told me she’d ditched her birdfeeder after finding she was supporting not only the local rat population but its next generation right there in her yard.

Last week, I got a flier from the Wild Bird Center saying they had just stocked up on seed catchers, and I’m definitely going to go buy me one, but meantime,  I remembered what my daughter Sam had said about rats avoiding the smell of mint plants.

And I do have me some mint plants.

So I cut a sprig from the front yard, hoping it too would sprout roots in water and take off into a new plant, but if not, let it stand sentry till I can get more going, from seed or bought, I don’t care, and I put it in a plastic container on the patio.  I turned a comfortable chair to face outwards to watch and knitted.

It wasn’t long, just a few minutes later, that the rat I’d scared off came out again.

And stopped. Its nose sniffled furiously.

It left.

It came back a few minutes later, stopped and sniffed again, took a few steps to the side to see if that would help, turned back to face the mint–it was still there.  Rats.  It ran away again.

Then over the next little bit I watched it try to take a wide berth around it to the right to get back to its intended dinner so infuriatingly close.   No go–till the squirrels, who didn’t pay it nor their little cousin no never-mind, had a fight and knocked the mint clear thataway.  Yay! And the rat made a break for it.

For about a second till I reached the door, anyway.

On the next round, it took a wide berth around to the left this time, putting it out in the open air away from even so much as the protective covering of the awning overhead, the kind of exposure a rat hates.  But the only way it could figure out how to get to those easy pickings.  Smart little thing. In broad daylight, too!

So I upped the ante.  I wasn’t going to use glass containers; I’m too much of a klutz and I’d seen how much momentum quarreling squirrels could produce. No shattering allowed. I took a plastic container from Costco that had held Alphonso mangoes, ie it looked like a giant clear egg carton, and cut it into two-section segments.  I filled them with water and cut another sprig for each segment. I set all my containers on the patio fanned out in a wide circle encompassing the reach of the fallen birdseed, four times the intensity of the mint that had stopped the thing in its tracks before.

It has not come back. The birds don’t care about that little bit of leafy green down there, the squirrels ignore it, but that rat gave up unfed.

I have some mint seeds.  I have pots.  I have plants to top off as needed in the meantime.

One mint-woodcutter, to the rescue.

(July 24–one caveat. Since I wrote this, I found a site selling mint plants warning that they must be kept in pots: saying that the first year, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. The second year you’ll start to find out. They can send underground runners as far as 20 feet past weedblocker, whatever weedblocker is, and will take over everything. I knew they were fairly invasive but that’s more than I knew, so I thought I’d better put that in here for anybody coming googling by.)

You say tomato
Sunday July 12th 2009, 5:56 pm
Filed under: My Garden

imgp8001A week or so ago, I was watering my two tomato plants.  I keep adding more tomato cages around them as they grow.  One is an heirloom variety.  The other I have no idea what type it is:  I looked at the baby plant in the nursery awhile back and decided, okay, then, whatever you are, surprise me.

Given a hose that doesn’t reach the spot and a contractor who shut off the nearer outside water valve in such a way I can’t get it open again, this involves my filling old milk jugs with water and dousing them on a near-daily basis.  That’s okay; it keeps me actively involved in the process of nurturing them.  Leaves starting to droop on a hot day? I’m on it.

But I am a klutz. Which is how I managed, to my great grief at the time, to lose my balance and break off a branch that had two layers of flowers and the tiniest beginnings of a tomato on it.

Lost.  Crum.

imgp7994But I had some memory way back in the brain of some gardening advice I read once who knows where or when that tomato branches can sprout their own roots, and took that broken piece with its ugly jagged gash and stuck it hopefully in a small flower vase.  Couldn’t hurt.

It looked so small and so woebegone.  All that potential it could have had if I’d been more careful.  In the intertwined leaves outside, I wasn’t even sure which plant it had come off of and didn’t want to spend the time I can’t risk in the sun to track it back to the main stem to find out.

I put it by the window and checked it daily, and it didn’t die, but it seemed to just sit there.

Till two days ago, when there was the tentative small white start of a single root in the water if you looked close enough.

Today there are twenty-four, including a cluster at the ragged bottom, spreading out, searching for nutrients. That 1 cm tomato is now a third of an inch across, a new second one is 2 cm across so far, and the plant suddenly seems to be growing like dandelions.

Tomorrow I go looking for a large pot to plant it in so that I can have it growing next to the house.  I’m thinking that will help keep its growing season going longer; it’s getting a late start for reaching full size, and should it get cold enough to kill off the parent plant in the yard, this one might just keep on going strong from the warmth radiating from our home.

Life has its own inner strength.  One little sprig of tomato growing steadily now into full root and bloom, saying quietly, you don’t know the outcome till it begins to show.  Never give up.

How tweet it is
Saturday July 11th 2009, 7:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Wildlife

I noticed this morning that the birdfeeder, which had been a bit low last night, was down to the bottom portholes; time to refill.  Got my measuring cup for scooping, filled it and put it down on the picnic bench, moved a chair under the feeder, and got up to untwist the feeder top.  Picked up the cup, poured the seed/minced peanut mixture in…

…And before I could finish twisting the thing back together, there was a tiny finch perched on the twig right next to my face: canIcanIhuhhuhisbreakfastreadyyet?

Chirp thing, friend.

imgp7993Later, I went back to Purlescence with the smallest scrap of Manos, pulling it out of my pocket saying, “You know that yarn Kevin wound up for me yesterday? It’s” (sniffing ever so woefully) “all *gonnnne*…”

They cracked up. Okay, show us!  I did. I’d decided the scarf was long enough as it was.

But Kathy of yesterday’s comment had come too and she still insisted on handing me the three beautiful Manos balls she was coming to my rescue with.  I promised her I would put them to good use–I have some serious lace-scarf knitting to do.

Just gotta git
Friday July 10th 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Something compelled me to drop everything and go off to Purlescence this afternoon, even though I was there last night and had other plans for just thenimgp7987.  I did, and there were three friends in the store who’d walked in just ahead of me whom I hadn’t seen in ages–the timing was exactly right.  Serendipity!

Not a major event to anybody else, and it probably doesn’t make for much of a blog post except that it just so much felt like I should go; I did; and I’m so glad I did!

And on that note, one small ball of Manos silk blend followed me home. I don’t know why; the orange and sage green mixed in with the raspberry are not my colors; I don’t know who it’s for; but it needed to be knitted up on my needles, so here it is. It elbowed its way past all the pretty blues and greens and yelled, Me, me!

Okay, yarn. You and the needles you’re in cahoots with: now tell me the rest of your story.

Chapter one
Thursday July 09th 2009, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit


The trajectory of a simple act of kindness goes beyond what its giver can ever know.

I was debating leaving the cast-off row here as a bit of mindless work to do at Purlescence’s Knit Night tonight, and laid the project out a moment to look at it and decide.

And laughed at the tune from my childhood that instantly popped into my head as I noticed the outline I hadn’t been trying to set up but did: M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E. Mouse ears, dimples, and a goofy smile via the cast-on row!

It’s all Robin’s fault. Remember when she surprised me with those dishcloths in cream and gradations of earthyimgp7977 reds?  Knowing that I love such things but hate to knit cotton, myself? Those extra bits of unexpected friendly color in my day helped propel Karin’s shawl into getting finished, and then, with that not feeling like quite enough, now this one in Lisa Souza’s baby alpaca/silk in Ruby.  The blue I’d planned to work with next suddenly wasn’t doing it for me; it had to be this yarn for this shawl after Karin’s.  Something in me needed to respond to Robin’s gift with colors in kind in celebration.

I wonder what the rest of its story will come to be.

Dude. Do your homework.
Wednesday July 08th 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Life

This came today. Michelle and I both about died laughing.

“Dear” (misspelled my name),

“As the medical director for” (community hospital not covered by my insurance, touting its cancer program), “I am pleased to bring you some important news”…

“You may have been reluctant to schedule a colonoscopy procedure because you have the idea that it’s unpleasant”…

“Take a moment and schedule your colonoscopy today.”

Right. I’ll get right on it.

Karin’s dyework
Tuesday July 07th 2009, 5:36 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Wildlife

The camera battery died, the post office was closing, so this photo will have to do for here.  I can’t go to Sock Summit, much though I wish I could, but my shawl will–if you go, say hi to Karin at the Periwinkle (my fingers want to type it as Peregrine) Sheep for me.  This is her soft sock yarn, knitted in the golden-eagle-wing-inspired Constance pattern,with the colorway coming together in a way that reminds me of Clara and her brood.

imgp7970Speaking of which.  There is another nest right here in my own town, and as I was coming out of my doctor’s office this morning, what should I see but a gorgeous peregrine falcon soaring directly above me, coming closer in than I’d ever seen any before, not in the dim light of dusk but with the bright sunlight glowing off its feathers.  It was absolutely breathtaking.

And nobody else seemed to look up to notice it at all.  What they missed!

Monday July 06th 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: To dye for

imgp7959I did it!  (Pictures now up.)

I bought a 70/30 silk/linen Orvis blouse at an online store’s closeout for $5 brand new, even though the color, Elm, didn’t grab me. I was hoping it would look better in person.

I tried it on.   I looked like a case of Dutch Elm Disease in it.  It truly was not flattering.

But I’d bought it knowing that if I really wanted to, I could change the shade if I got desperate enough to risk wrecking the thing. First, I asked myself: would I ever wear this ahead of everything else in my closet? No, definitely not. Michelle, would you wear this?

As pants in that color, she answered, okay; near my face, no.

So.  In the If You Try This At Home department, know that the thread used to sew a silk garment will not be of the same fiber as the fabric and probably won’t take up any dye–so you don’t want to change the color so far that the newly-contrasting stitching clashes with it.

I also knew my Jacquard acid dyes would take up into the silk fibers but not the linen–although, yellow is the easiest color to obliterate from view. I decided I was safe there.

I got the water to a good simmer and the dye well stirred in while the blouse soaked in hot water. I then lowered the blouse in bottom first, wet sleeves dangling down–not all in a balled-up crumpled heap, but pulling it downwards with my wooden spoon as it went in quickly.  During the half hour I had it on the stove, I stood over it almost constantly, stirring often, lifting it out and letting it back down time and again so that it didn’t develop strong and weak spots of color–no tie-dyeing effects wanted. That in-and-out action also helped keep the water temperature even so it wouldn’t get up to a hard boil.

imgp7965And it all worked. I absolutely love how it came out. Not bad, for five bucks and a little time and work!

Monday, Monday
Monday July 06th 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Life

I thought I heard the doorbell this morning when I was just barely up and functioning, and went to check just in case. I opened the door to see my older next-door neighbor standing there.

He took one look at me and did a doubletake, then tried to recover by saying he’d tried to call first and nobody had answered. I explained that my hair was wet so, sorry about that, no ears in yet.  We took care of what he needed–we’d already told him and his wife it was fine if they plugged their fridge and freezer into our system while some work was being done at their house, our meter’s running backwards these days, no skin off our noses, glad to help. His contractor was here and he just needed to plug it in now.

After I closed the door I fled to the bathroom mirror. Yup. It really was that bad. Ah, well, (gotta love Silicon Valley) at least the Google truck didn’t drive past just then to take pictures of the street to post online forever.

Sunday July 05th 2009, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I was outside yesterday watering the fruit trees. I suddenly realized that in the quiet of the evening, I was listening to birdsongs, and wondered what species I was hearing.

And thought thank you oh thank you, Sonic Innovations, from this previously-untreatable-110dB loss-at-8Khz user. It had been the $6400 question (literally), and they are so worth every penny.

Mourning doves walk so delicately with their tails brushing the ground like a bridal train and the slightest curve to their beaks in perfect counterpoint to the roundness of their heads; they are graceful birds.  This surprised me. I’ve always known what a mourning dove was; I’d never really spent time observing them before.

I write this as one perches close just outside my window, patiently observing *me,* looking me steadily in the eye every time I glance up.

I’m beginning to be able to tell some finch individuals apart on that feeder. The one that amuses me most is the red male that sticks his whole head in the opening and tosses it madly side to side, sending down pinata showers–licorice, eww, hershey’s kisses, nah, till he finds the one variety seed he likes best.  Sweets to the cheep.

A new-to-this-yard interloper of a squirrel with a particularly bushy tail that had never met a predator in its protected little life is clearly remembering its first: after she got incensed that his insolent teenage reaction to her opening the door was, Yeah? So what, lady? without even bracing itself, she became a screaming “GET OFF THAT!” wild woman running at it flailing her arms.  Followed by his five-foot flying leap to the ground, heart pounding, after not getting any seed anyway.

It’s never tried to jump on the feeder since, and if it sees me coming near will even stay away from the stuff on the ground, looking at me, hesitating, pleading tremblingly at me, Don’t DO that.

(I was afraid it would learn the one way to beat the anti-squirrel system and I wasn’t about to give it a chance to.)

But.  I would rather have it hoovering the concrete below that male finch than stealing my apples. Come to think of it, I’ve only found one chewed apple so far this season–on my fence, the top half gone, so you know what put it there. (Mentally calculating birdseed cost vs. the dollar value of homegrown apples.  Oh.  Well, it’s just apples and orange birds…)

Forget it, chickadee: you can’t peck a hole in the bottom by hanging upside down and going at it from down there. And if you could you’d be in for quite the surprise.

I found a place that sells dwarf mango trees with full descriptions of habit, color, fruit fibrousness or lack thereof, shape, and flavor, shipped in three gallon pots and that could grow here if it doesn’t freeze.  The site says put Christmas lights on it if the temps threaten.  Hey!

Richard’s immediate reaction was to not want to be the neighbor that never seems to take the Christmas lights down all winter.

To be continued.

Happy Fourth of July!
Saturday July 04th 2009, 10:18 am
Filed under: Life

Okay, so all it needs is a little apple pie on the side to complete the Americana of it. Artistry, creativity, and a goodly amount of spunk in taking his idea and running with it…

Glenn Donnellan, a violinist for the National Symphony, created this backstage at the Kennedy Center, borrowing drills and tools from the stagehands working there.  Go enjoy, but forgive your dog if it howls along.

Friday July 03rd 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family

Having bragged on my grandmother yesterday, I’m going to add a bit about my grandfather.  I think his eulogy was one all politicians should aspire to.

Grampa died at 95.  The man who had been his chief of staff back in the day spoke at the funeral, and one of the things he said was this:

As a young man working for Grampa, he’d been approached by the frustrated staffer of another congressman, who told him, “You don’t know how lucky you are.”  The guy said that when a vote came up on the floor, “You always know how your guy is going to vote.  He always votes his conscience.”

The man he worked for, on the other hand, he said, would hide back in the coat closet to watch how the vote was going and then add his voice in only when he knew which side was going to be the winning one.

That congressman never got that Grampa’s way of living his life triumphed over any momentary appearance of success.

Gram and the chef
Thursday July 02nd 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

I was talking to someone tonight, and she wrote me that she’d laughed at my “Oh honey. You betcha,” telling me my roots were showing–that nobody native to the West Coast talks like that.

Oh honey. You betcha I’m from Maryland.

I mentioned to her the story of a few years back of some uptight Yankee twit who’d charged the sweet old black lady in the U.S. Senate’s lunchroom with sexual harassment: she was always saying, Thank you, honey, or, See you later, sugar.  He thought she was coming on to him.

As if.

What I didn’t mention was the reason that news story had stuck in my craw so, aside from the obvious cultural disconnect and self-centeredness of the man. It was a little more personal than that.

And so after puttering around with the strawberries in the kitchen for awhile, I thought I’d come back to the computer and explain exactly why that was so.  I want the grandkids, whom I grew up with, of the man I’m about to write about, and then their future grandkids to know what he did. I imagine it’s a story they haven’t heard.

My grandmother was the wife of a US Senator who served for 24 years.  When she arrived in DC, as she later wrote in her autobiography, “Here we were told in no uncertain terms what was required of all wives of new members of Congress.  Calling requirements had been modified, it was true; but we were expected, once a year, to leave cards at the White House, and at the homes of the Vice President, The Speaker of the House, members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court, the chairmen of our husband’s committees, and all members of our state delegations whose husbands outranked our husbands. Still quite a list!” as compared to the days when new House wives had to visit every ranking House member’s home.  There were still strict requirements as to how many cards to leave vs. how many women were in the household, how and under what circumstances to carefully fold the edge of the card down properly…  Arriving by horse and buggy was no longer required, at least, but it was a near thing.

Living in a place where segregation was the law of the land and casually expected was a shock to my western-born grandmother.

As Grampa grew in seniority and rank over the years (and defied ranking members of his party and voted for the Civil Rights Voting Act–hard to believe now how fiercely he was blasted for it, but he was very proud of that vote), Gram eventually became president of the Congressional Wives Club.

And then came the day this story is about.  There was a big to-do held in the Senate lunchroom honoring various people, and when it was over, Gram (protocol, shmotocol) went back into the kitchen to thank the chef for pulling out all the stops.  The food, the presentation–everything had been just exquisite.

While they were chatting, somehow Gram happened to mention that J. Willard Marriott had been there.  The founder of the chain that bears his last name.

The chef was upset.  “Why didn’t anybody tell me J. Willard was here!?” she exclaimed indignantly.  “These congressmen. They all think they’re such hotshots.  J. Willard!  If only I’d known!  I would REALLY have put on a show!”

Then she proceeded to tell my grandmother that as a young woman she’d been suddenly deserted by her husband, left with a small child and no income and no skills and basically thrown out on the street.  (How literally, I’m not sure.)  J. Willard Marriott had randomly encountered her one day and hadn’t cared what color or accent she came with; moved by her plight, he offered her both a job and the training for it.   He had personally taken great care of her, just a random woman out there on a random day, and had helped her back on her feet and had gotten her established in her new career–and look where she was now!

“Oh, Mrs. Bennett, if only I’d known!”

And if only he’d known it was her, he would have been back there too, throwing his arms around her and rejoicing in her hard work and success.