Red faced
Friday April 30th 2010, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Okay, No-Blog Rachel, the best part is your fault. I only had that cast-off to do. But I kept not doing it.

The good but bad part is, I found myself out unexpectedly in the sunlight in the afternoon–lupus alert!–in a chance encounter with a neighbor I’d wanted to talk to.  Good idea, bad timing and place.  After maybe 20 minutes my face was flaming into a painful sunburn, at which point I reluctantly excused myself.   I’m glad I had that conversation, very glad for a good neighbor, but when I’m reacting that hard that fast, I know what so often happens next. Maybe I should just go schedule the cardiologist appointment and beat it to it.

I will be highly relieved to have the next week or so turn out okay with no flare. Crossing my needles.  Tightly.

But in an antidote to that, I got a note from Rachel. The end result is, she is coming over here tomorrow to help me wind skeins and to simply have a good time hanging out, or rather, in.  Friend time, risk-free!

She felt bad that an earlier offer to do so hadn’t worked out till now. She had no way to know how much I would be needing, today more than any day in a long time, not to let resentment flare up hard against the lupus I can do nothing about.  Resentment that does no good for anybody.  Her timing was the perfect antidote.

And by golly, I wanted to show off that shawl enough, especially after she complimented the color in the comments, that it is finally now finished and blocking.

I needed that. Thank you, Rachel. I can’t wait!

Why, I’ll huff and I’ll fluff and I’ll…
Thursday April 29th 2010, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

They’re so cute when they’re little.

Eyasses, ie baby falcons, grow from their hatching weight by about 23oo% in their first month, according to the peregrine group.  I saw one today, now an adorable vaguely-birdlike white fluff ball with those round black eyes, picking up its foot and looking at it like, wow, what’s this? before plonking straight down on its beak.

Banding will be bright and early Monday morning.  Glenn Stewart from UCSC will rappel down the cliff-face of City Hall in San Jose two stories down to the nestbox ledge.  The babies will be too young to get away from him but already their full size, thus he’ll be able to put the correct and comfortable size bands on their legs. (With a hard helmet on as the parents whizzz by on the fly.)

And then the cameras will start chasing the little ones for ankle zooms as they waddle around their enclosed ledge.

The correct size in my hands has been 4.5 mm this past week.  I think, after that shawl I wanted so badly to get done and get given away but that took three weeks to do–even though that turned out to be the most right thing and the most right timing–I had a pent-up desire to Get Stuff Done.  402 stitches a row? I did 15 rows yesterday.  Nineteen more to finish the knitting part? Break out the icepacks again, it’s done. The cast-off’s tomorrow.

Bright and early, because my other yarns are ball-banding together and calling out, Knit me!  Me!

Next thing you know, some of them will be flying off to someone else, too.  Who and which and when, I’ll just have to listen and find out.

Blink or you’ll miss it
Wednesday April 28th 2010, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

If things are a bit quiet on the porch, if there are no other doves around, occasionally a mourning dove will start people-watching. I’ll look up and there one will be, quietly observing me at my work: sometimes from the patio–they seem to prefer keeping close to the ground when possible–and occasionally, not very often but occasionally, from the back of the chair.

Where I saw that Cooper’s hawk perched, once. The gray concrete and the gray bird, yes, I can see why it would want to keep a lower profile.

It is, as far as I can guess, the younger ones that tend to do this, but I’ve found that when I return their gaze, when it’s just the one bird and me, no other birdly distractions, (the finches don’t count), I can slowly blink at them.

And they will start blinking back.


Blink blink blink blink.

They have found a way to get my attention. Sometimes it gets them rewarded with extra sunflower seeds, scattered at ground level.  Hulled, too!  But the time spent sharing a small moment in time, just the blink of an eye, seems to be its own reward to them, and they are quite consistent about copying me.  I find it utterly charming.  Somehow, I matter to a small wild thing that has no reason it knows of to need me.

And life is good.

It’s Mac-ademic
Tuesday April 27th 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit,Non-Knitting

I think it is safe to say I am not a computer person.  (Hey you Hydes, hush!) I have stuck to my nice safe Firefox PC.

But I have been pushed around lately by the fact that a) I’ve got the falcon cam on the big monitor attached to the husband’s Mac, because b) that site crashes my Firefox Ubuntu absolutely every time. Completely. Gone to lunch, ‘bye. (Which is why this year I haven’t posted the link. Don’t worry, that’s the link to the link.)

So tonight Richard was teaching me basic stuff on his machine, like how to open a new window and why it wasn’t working when I tried to. How to change the size of the window (so help me, that was designed by someone with sharper eyes than mine.)

It’s like knitting lace: it used to be, I didn’t know how, I didn’t (I told myself) particularly want to know how, but it bugged me that it was something I couldn’t do–but it was knitting!  I eventually tried to teach myself, but at the time there was just really nothing out there and certainly nothing that told exactly how one was supposed to, say, purl, much less knit, into a yarnover of the previous row and which way one was to wrap the yarn, much less that it changed depending on what came before and what after.

Now, of course, it’s all as automatic to me as breathing, you just sit down with the needles and go:  the Barbara Walker books from the last big knitting craze of the 70’s were finally reprinted, and I made myself slog through row after row with one eye on her first Treasury of Knitting Patterns directions and the other on the work in my hands.

A swatch. Then an afghan in a simple pattern, trying to drill it into my brain while learning to read my stitches, trying to learn not to panic and what to do if I dropped a stitch, how to put it all back together when it’s not simple knit and purl but with direction and–well, you know. One dropped stitch can unravel two or three below it and then that many more again each from there, and, yeah.

And then a second afghan.  Trying to practice at it enough for long enough to make it worth the time spent learning how.

And how!, now.

So eventually I put my own book out there that prefaced with the laceknitting directions, verbal but also pictorial, that were exactly what I’d gone looking for and could not find all those years ago.

I think it’s a pretty good book. (They’re almost gone.)

But I don’t think that means I’ll ever, ever write one on my new-found expertise on using a Mac.  Trust me on this one. Truly.

Monday April 26th 2010, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,LYS,Wildlife

Kurt at Imagiknit asked Saturday what a peregrine is, after I exclaimed that that soft handspun Peruvian Tweed alpaca in shades of gray would make a great peregrine. (Are peregrines soft? But then, how could feathers not be?)

I so much wanted to show him Evet’s gorgeous Earth Day photos in response. I think they could answer his question better than I ever could.  And man, ya gotta love those last two: someone had slammed a door loudly behind Evet, and Mama Clara announced, Okay, that’s it, you’re done. Bye.

And that was what I’d planned to blog about today.  And then I got an email.

That shawl that I mailed off that had so bugged me that it had taken me three weeks, what with taxes and all, to finish and get done: it arrived today where it was going.  On the most right day, and the delays that had seemed such a problem to me suddenly made sense.  The person I sent it to took the time to thank me right away, which amazes me after all the things she had to deal with and do today–including attending a service for a fourth-grader from her school who had passed on Saturday.

I am so glad I didn’t ignore the impulse to go knit that.  I am so grateful that my hug arrived around her shoulders the first day possible after the loss of that little girl she knew. This is what knitting is all about: sending love forward.

I forgot to tell her one thing, though, which is that if it should ever snag or tear, there is a spare length of yarn worked a good ways across the bottom row.  Anywhere else, surely it would get lost or tossed, but there it is.  Invisible but right there at hand, ready to reloop a broken loop, ready to hold it back together for her, at the ready, any time.

Which is as close as I could do to doing that in person for her from several thousand miles away.

Veer-ing off a moment here
Sunday April 25th 2010, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

One other thing about yesterday’s trip: driving up 280, just north of the Flintstone house, I saw the wings overhead of a raptor riding the thermals with that familiar angle of, apparently, a peregrine falcon.  I exclaimed over it and told Nina.  And then on our way home, in close to the same spot, I saw one again! Kicking the breeze, sightseeing from above.

Meantime, Veer, last year’s male peregrine fledgling, has been spotted safe and sound a few miles northeast of where he grew up on San Jose City Hall’s 18th floor nest. His beak and talons are starting to turn yellow; next, his chest will turn more fully white, and by next spring he will be a full-fledged (well, yeah) adult.  The band on his leg verified it was him as  Eric the photographer snapped photos of Veer here.

Did my heart good, I tell you. Meantime, this year’s three surviving eyasses are growing by the day.  And to think there were only two surviving nesting pairs in all of California and zero left on the East Coast in the 1970’s.

We can create much good out of imperfect circumstances–if we pay attention, if we care enough, and if we believe and pray to get it right and then go and actually do.

Saturday April 24th 2010, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,LYS

It had been two years since Nina and I had done a yarn crawl.  Last year’s medicalnoise simply, neverendingly got in the way.  We were long overdue for some time together, so today we threw our things in her car and headed north.

I introduced her to Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco and snagged the last hank of Malabrigo Sock Botticelli Red in that dyelot, just to make absolute sure I had enough for my project–you know, the one I ripped out four times in my perfectionism before I got it right.  Having a lot of yarn left over, just in case, so much beats the alternative, and  I want to be able to be more generous on that shawl’s length that I would be for me, personally, if that’s what feels right when I get to that point. (I will add, the yarn held up just fine to all that ripping. Makes me more willing to buy more.)

The owner grinned to see me right back and right back in that Malabrigo basket, and she welcomed us warmly.

And then we went to Imagiknit in San Francisco, a marvelous shop full of light, both in the people and in the shop itself.  As we drove closer to it, looking around and at our map, (hey, I know that park!) I mentioned to Nina that my cousin Dan lived in this general neighborhood.

She dropped me off and went hunting for that most endangered species, a parking spot in The City.

I had only seen Imagiknit in the wild, at Stitches.  The store itself has two big rooms: the animal fibers in here as you walk in, the plant fibers over there in that one.  I imagine that would make it easy for the vegans or for the allergic. (I appreciated that the angora rabbit yarn was on a table by itself in the center, thereby far less likely to accidentally intermingle fibers with the wools.)

I bought a little Malabrigo here, too, some laceweight in exactly THE shades of rosy reds, and the gorgeous many-shaded skein less than perfectly pictured here, a colorway not quite like anything else around; it had a tag that said “test” on it.

Test? I asked. Am I allowed to buy this?  Did you dye this? Did Malabrigo?

The lady laughed and said yes, Malabrigo dyed it, and then explained it was a line that wasn’t out on the general market yet.

It’s a two-ply superwash merino worsted, super-soft.  They’d put in just the right amount of twist–not too tight, that would add too much friction to the hand, not too loose, that would let the fiber ends pop out. They’d done this exactly perfectly right.  Bravo! (Okay, Malabrigo, so let me buy more, okay?  Could you like, maybe, shear your sheep a little faster or something down there in Uruguay?  While those little lambs are just, you know, milling around like that, waiting impatiently for my needles. Whatever it takes.)

I told them I hadn’t been much of a hat knitter, but there was a family that had lost a child whom I’d knitted hats for and their little boy still doesn’t want to take his off ever.  His attachment to that hat had sold me on knitting them, so this worsted skein would be the next one I make, for…whomever.

I now know what I want to make the next piano hat out of, too, once there is more than the one skein in my world.  Can you Imagiknit?

The kicker? As I waited for Nina to swing back afterwards to pick me up, the guy who stopped at the stop sign across the street from the shop as I opened the door:  I could not believe it.  “DAN!” I mean, c’mon, what are the chances?! But it was him.  He looked slightly around but not all the way to where I was standing, shrugged ever so slightly, must be just city background noise, and drove off and away.

Leading me to thinking, you know?  There are others I love that I also need to go spend more time with, now that I can.  I’m so glad Nina got me to stretch my boundaries and go farther than my usual path and to see that I could. I’d needed that.

Actual knitting content
Friday April 23rd 2010, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

You know the cliche of that galloping horse image? How, if you couldn’t see your knitting mistake from one, don’t sweat it?

My horse could have won the Kentucky Derby and that yoke would still have had to go.  Sometimes, the visual difference in a knitting pattern between slip two stitches as if to knit, knit the next stitch after that, pass the two slipped stitches over the knitted one, ie, sl2-k1-p2sso, vs. the faster slipping just one stitch, knitting two together, then passing the first one over, ie, sl1-k2tog-psso, is striking.  The first gives you the middle stitch pretty much going straight up with the other two leaning in towards it from the sides, the second gives you two stitches leaning sideways against the third.

I have leapfrogged over that little problem: that yoke is ripped, reknit, and on beyond.  I find it always feels better to get past where I’d been the first time, if possible, before I put a frogged project back down again.

And now it’s blooming again on my needles and I totally love it. It was well worth the rip.

Cream of whisker souffle
Thursday April 22nd 2010, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Happy Earth Day!

The Slinky got totally upstaged today. Even after Michelle suddenly noticed it this afternoon and stopped speechless mid-sentence, her jaw slowly hitting the floor as it entered in what that was out there and what it must be for.

So how do I one-up that moment?

Looking in the fridge for a glass of milk, I see: the whip-cream whipper, not yet empty.   Hey.  It has fat. It has protein. It has what I’ve read that momma squirrels need this time of year (and after the hijinks going on out there, I guarantee you there are momma squirrels this year and which individuals they are likely to be.  Look for the one with the white spot in the center of its back where it got nipped in the action.)

So I took a paper cup. I cut it way down to about two inches tall. I squirted some fresh whipped cream in (don’t forget there’s that little bit of sugar mixed in there, too, just a touch), and of course the gadget sprayed way more than I intended, they always do–quite the sundae there.  Add a little sunflower garnish on top.  Voila.  Then I put it out on the patio.

The black squirrel came to it pretty quickly; she danced around it, a hilarious combination of severe lust and fear of the unknown.  Come close, dash, close, sniff, dash.  This strange set-up sure wasn’t going to take a day of acclimatizing.  Forward and away, forward and away.

A dove took a quick peck at it.  Well, then.  Not going to let some dumb bird show her up.

The next thing I knew, that squirrel was sampling, oh, just the seeds, not that weird white stuff.  Don’t you pay attention to me. (As the camera comes out…) Then holding the cup still with her paws while eating away at the top of the white swizzle. Then suddenly throwing caution to the wind, grabbing the whole thing and running for the grass, where she wrestled it to give up every last drop of cream.  I started to step outside at one point, worried that somehow I’d done damage because it was on her head and she was falling over to the side–but she grabbed it back up from the ground and stuck it back on her head and did it again and again, pulling it down over her ears, trying to reach every smidgen in the bottom seam of that cup. I glanced upwards for the Cooper’s hawk, just in case, but the coast was clear. She fell sideways in ecstasy again.

I tell you, that little animal with its white-fringed whiskers twitching in delight was the funniest thing ever. Then she stashed the magical cup near a tree, hoping it might sprout more later.  Maybe start a whole forest of whipped cream.

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

(Edited to add: about three hours later, she came back on that patio, plunked herself down facing me through the window, and just stared, willing me to turn around and look. I had this feeling of being watched and glanced out the window.

May I have more nirvana? Pretty please with whipped cream on top?  I laughed and turned away. She picked herself up, moved a foot or two closer, laid back down again facing me–no time for shyness, this was serious business here–and resumed staring.  BRING. ME. MORE.

When that didn’t work, she stomped off.)

Wednesday April 21st 2010, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I googled, and one of the sites that came up was Walgreens. Following that, I found that the one closest to me apparently had it in stock.

And so I found myself walking down the half-aisle of cheap breakable little kids’ toys, looking totally out of place, because, honey, ain’t nobody gonna think I’m a young mom, and grandmas are supposed to buy the expensive things the young parents can’t afford, right?

Twice up and down, and then I went and looked for someone to ask.

There was a young guy at work in the next aisle, certainly willing to peel off from the older woman I took to be his supervisor and to come help me find it but looking like the day was one of those where work just drags on and on.

And then I told him *why* I was looking for a Slinky. To hang from the awning, an old Easter basket hung from it, and put nuts in it for the squirrels to have at it.

He looked at me like he was going to die laughing any moment, but first he had to make sure I was serious.  His eyes and mine met.  Both twinkling now: I was serious.

I came away with the impression I’d just given him his funniest-customer-ever story.  I’m dying to know if he bought the next Slinky himself.

It stretches a bit much and a bit far for that basket, so right now we’re making do with a clear plastic cup so they can see what they’re missing.  So far, the set-up has been the most effective squirrel repellent you could imagine. Okay, well, I’ll take that, too.  But hey, I’m a good sport, and I moved it away from the birdfeeder so they could at least graze underneath the finches while they acclimate.

Give them a day. Just one day.  And then maybe I can shorten the thing and add that basket after all that they won’t be able to see into from below.

Just putting a spring in their step, is all.

Happy Birthday, Richard!
Tuesday April 20th 2010, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

While trying to get a birthday pulled together and trying to help a friend move and a family member go on a trip and trying to–well, I had a cool little post simmering away in my brain just waiting for when I actually had a moment to sit down and write it.

I can remember none of it.

But the others approved of the homemade angel food cake just the same.  Richard got to make use of one of his favorite earlier-year presents, one of those squirting thingummies that you pour your cream into with maybe a little sugar mixed in, (I assure you we paid nowhere remotely near that price, but on the other hand, ours, an older model, is not dishwasher safe) and poof! You’ve got that fancy-shaped canned whipped cream splurting out, only it tastes good!  Throw in some crushed Heath bars, and you have the only kind of cake he considers acceptable for birthdays, the cake of his childhood and our kids’.

I’m a rebel.  I like my cake different.  Anything, please, after all these years and all these birthdays, as long as it’s not angel food cake with whipped cream and crushed Heath bars, and does it even have to be cake?  A little variety is a good thing.

(That post is coming back to me…)

I saved, for a long time, a cartoon where the mom couldn’t find the birthday candles so she just stuck a lit flashlight in the center of an angel food cake. That is SO us.  Which is why Richard now has a hidden stash of birthday candles, and today he had to tell us where to find them.

He always buys three boxes just to make sure.

That was the last box.

Y’know, we really should know where the flashlights are.

Oh, and: when it was Michelle’s birthday, for once, I couldn’t remember the recipe off the top of my head and actually had to go look it up.  The bells didn’t clang when I did, either. Huh.

We all had the same reaction at the first bite–wait. Something’s different.

It took awhile to figure it out: I had long ago reversed the amounts of vanilla vs almond flavoring without realizing it, and had been doing it that way for lo these many years, very heavy on the almond.  That’s our cake.  We like it that way. So when it came out tasting of vanilla, even tinted slightly by it, with only barely enough almond essence to nag at one…

So yeah. We needed a do-over. Richard got his cake, it got done right this time, and having another angel food cake in one month was definitely the right thing to do. We celebrated him right.

And it even had candles.  The tens figure on this side, the ones figure on that side, we can stretch those 36 as far as they need to go, over the hill and on beyond, his smile lighting up the place.

Monday April 19th 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",LYS

Wandering about ten years in the wilderness, driving up 101 as it got closer to the City, (I took the much more scenic 280 home), I was stunned when I found the place.

“How long have you been here?”

The woman answered with the owner’s name which I didn’t catch, “…’s been here 34 years.”

“I’ve been here 23. How did I miss you?!”

A search for in-person Malabrigo Sock had gotten me here.  Jade, this is all your fault–you gave me some as a very lovely, extremely soft Sock Summit souvenir and I’ve been wanting more ever since.

But in all my years of knitting here, I had never heard of this place.  I couldn’t believe it.  The entrance was at the side of a building that had the names of its other businesses facing the street–and the Cottage Yarns sign was pretty and big, true,  (not the one pictured on the site, which I was looking for) but it was sideways to the road and if you missed it on approach, looking for something else, and went past, you missed it.  You could not see the store itself till you walked past the gate.

I pulled over anyway, figuring that had to be it, looked back to the sign, and went, well, duh, Alison. I walked down the sidewalk and there you go.

The ironic thing is I had had lunch once at the cafe kitty-corner from there–with the employees of a competing yarn store, no less, a LYS now gone.  I was right there.  And I did not see this place.

Advertising is a good thing.  Meantime, now I know who stocks a lot of Malabrigo!

“Give me your phone number and I’ll ball it up for you and call and tell you when to pick it up.”

That was very kind of her, I told her, but no, thanks; by way of explanation, I told her what town I’d driven from.

Oh.  She chuckled.

But the best part? Besides getting really nice yarn and being able to check the shades and match up the handpaint skeins in person?  I tell you.  I asked her with a twinge of shyness as she checked me out if she were familiar with the book “Wrapped in Comfort,” (note that Amazon has now dropped that last, three-cent discount–their stock on hand must be really low, and when they’re gone, they’re gone) and she smiled and said, “Oh, yes! We’ve got it right here.”

“That’s my book.”

The oh cool! look on her face made it worth every mile.  Every. Single. Mile.  Thank you, whoever you were.  I will be back.

Ashes to…
Sunday April 18th 2010, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Wait, I thought–you’re still here?

He commutes here once or twice a year from Sweden. I’ve never met his wife, although I’ve knitted her a scarf; I figure, when you live that near the Arctic Circle, a little warmth sent one’s way is always a good thing.

He was there in church last week, but then he was again today too.  I did a doubletake.  He’s like the Brigadoon of the ward, y’know?  But two Sundays?  He was talking to my husband and as I came up I overheard–oh of course. The volcano.

He had discovered Walmart, in answer to my asking.  He’s close to our taller son’s size; if we’d known we could have given him some great hand-me-downs.

We offered him dinner any night every night any time till he can get a flight back out.  He smiled, thanked us, and told us he had plans: his daughter was in college about 800 miles away and her semester was ending this week.  If by then they were still grounded, he was going to take his rental car, go get her, and they would do the sightseeing road trip they could only otherwise have dreamed of ever having the time to do together.

“Vol,” French for “fly,” can? No.  So. Don’t miss Carlsbad and the Grand Canyon on your way!

Congratulations Sara and Juan!
Saturday April 17th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

This first part’s just background noise: I hadn’t worn my Malabrigo shawl before.  I hadn’t been planning to, either, for quite some time to come, but it really did match that outfit well and it was almost time to go.

Oh, wait, I realized as I pulled it out of its ziploc–weave in that last end and snip the other one before we go, quick!  It had been carefully put away with its instructions, safe and sound, not quiiiite done.  There.  Done.

Nina liked it.  “That one’s different–I like that!”

We were at a wedding this evening.  We’ve known the bride since she was a small child.  There was much celebrating, many reunions between old friends going on, many people who rarely see each other but love each other dearly, all coming together in joy.  I found the grandparents of the bride, the grandmother having been a fellow swimmer at the CAR therapy pool when my kids were little; we threw our arms around each other.  I saw others doing likewise, over and over. How ARE you these days!

Congratulations, Sara and Juan!  It was good to see you being the happiest of all.  Dancing for well-deserved joy; you’ve both chosen well.  Our best wishes for happily ever after and always.

Friday April 16th 2010, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

Three weeks!  I started this three weeks ago.  That’s way slow for me.  I told one friend yesterday I just needed two more hours to finish it, and today I took that time.  Taxes were over.  I could finally do what I wanted to do. What a relief!

One skein of Plymouth Dye4Me merino/silk/cashmere, down to the last 4g.  This was one of these times when I was glad I had a second skein in reserve, just in case, and when I was glad I had a  scale that measures in grams so I could safely judge whether I had enough yarn left to do one more pattern repeat or not.  Made it by the skein of my teeth.

It is sprawled out in the other room, off the needles, taken a break from being all wound up.