Torte-ally wonderful
Thursday September 30th 2010, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends

Old friends came by today: chocolate torte was shared, old stories swapped, all of it far too short but I didn’t want to take too much of the time the two sisters had while the older one was briefly in town.

Gwynn grew up with my youngest. Her big sister used to babysit my kids. I’m not sure why it should feel odd that time passes, but in the presence of good friends it matters not.

Amy reminded me that my wedding present to her had been two 8″ springform pans and the non-perishable makings for her own pairs of chocolate tortes, along with the hand-written recipe, as personal a gift as I could think of given how much she loved those.

Had she made her own since?

Oh, yes!

Cool.  It’s true, then.  Raise up a child in the way she should go, and when she is older she will not de-torte from it.

Who trained whom?
Wednesday September 29th 2010, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

We’re in the middle of a serious heat wave. I’ve been being careful to keep the water outside filled up for the wildlife, amused and gratified at the finches’ tiny feet gripping the edges of the clear cup as they play bobblehead dolls, leaning way over to sip.

There’s nothing quite like making a small thing comfortable. They’ve been drinking a lot with the temps so high.

Last night, cooking dinner, I was surprised to see my favorite black squirrel with the red belly: usually he’s busy running around in the back yard. Just then, though, he had found me.  In the kitchen.  On the other side of the house.  He was doing the monorail act, lying on the fence just outside the window there, legs splayed two to a side, tail stretched out casually with just a bit of a lilt near the end, trying to increase his surface space to cool down, I’d guess.

He’d found the perfect place to relax and people watch on a hot feels-like-summer evening.

I looked up, startled at first to see him right there right outside the window. What are you doing here?

Watching you cook dinner, was the answer: as I went back and forth from counter to drawer to other counter to fridge, chop cook rinse clean, he lifted his head and turned this way and that, that way and this again, steadily watching, watching as I went about my work, while the rest of him stayed splatted out, completely relaxed. Just hangin’ with my peeps.

I laughed.

He leaped up! Oh good! I made her laugh–that means I get a cashew! And he raced over the house to the backyard to where he knew I would put one out for him, his favorite, as a reward.

How could I resist that?

Chocolate into schools
Tuesday September 28th 2010, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Today, I was driving past the block that Milk Pail is cornered in and decided to try again: I was about out of bourbon vanilla, and I’ve found (insert big name brand here) to be watered down compared to theirs. You never know when the next big chocolate-torte-baking binge is going to happen; got to be prepared.

And lo and behold. A parking spot right in front.

The place was crowded as always and there was not a shopping cart nor basket in sight. We’re in the middle of a heat wave, it’s a mostly-outdoors market, and the warmth on their strawberries carried an intense freshly-picked berry smell throughout the place.

With a cane in one hand, that meant I ran out of other hands real fast because honey no way was I going home without some of those.

This was getting difficult. Which increased my incentive.  I looked some more and finally found a cart over that-a-way, but as I shopped there was a young man walking around, I’m guessing Middle Eastern, with his arms full like mine had just been and looking like all he wanted was for this to be over with. He looked tired.

So, let’s see, I got my strawberries, I got my vanilla extract, I got a few extras just because, with a cart handy, I could. (Shelf-stable coconut cream for dairy-free tortes.  Amaretto cookies, 200g, two bucks–yummm.) I glanced over at checkout and saw that by then he’d found a cart too; oh good. His face still looked like he was having a long hard day.

Sign that slip, I’m out of here.

But there were two little boys playing around the bushes and cars in front of the store, including around mine, laughing, running, teasing, being normal bouncy little kids with a parent shopping around in there somewhere, one hopes. I was concerned.

I hesitated. I looked. It seemed clear, but I know how kids can dart.  I got in my big blind minivan and–just then that man came out with his bags, and I rolled down the passenger window and explained and asked if he might check for me.

He not only looked and assured me, he stayed there, waving me back, double-checking constantly, looking out for those kids and me too, staying there till I was moving forward and on my way out.

It was such a small thing. And yet. He looked as if some of whatever it was in his day had suddenly been lifted. I was so glad he’d done that; glad for his sake. He’d earned that.

The greatest human need, I am convinced, is to be needed.

I went home and finished Don‘s chocolate torte–finishing off the last of that cream.

And Don, in turn, inspired by Friday night’s bidding war on that other torte, made a donation to Central Asia Institute, founded by Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, to help fund building schools for girls as well as boys in the most remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where most NGOs refuse to risk going. CAI funds the materials and the teachers; the locals do the building (up to code, too) and the teaching, making the schools theirs, not outsiders’.

Mortenson writes that his nine-year-old daughter asked him, after the major earthquake that devastated Afghanistan, what the children who’d survived all that did to play? To cope, they needed to play, what kind of equipment did they have?

He hadn’t ever thought of that.

She told him to start off with jump ropes but that they needed to have playgrounds. And so, through the wisdom of a child, the schools he was building started having playgrounds for the children.

A group of Taliban elders approached one of them after that, saw the seesaw and the slide and the swings, put down their automatic weapons, and played on the equipment! And then said, everything’s cool, carry on.

A small donation. A chocolate torte in thanks.

Another man willing to direct the traffic of one woman’s car so that someone else’s little boys would be safe.

It all comes together, in ways only God knows the extent of, when we look out for each other.

Sock: it’s what’s for dinner
Monday September 27th 2010, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Knit,Recipes

I’ve been scarfing down the Malabrigo Sock.

Now, I’ve often said that if you have a project you’re stalled out on and want to get going, put on an outfit that matches it: it’s really hard to stare for long periods at clashing colors. Happy combinations on the other hand practically knit themselves.

I got some work done on the baby blanket but found myself feeling restless and putting it down. I looked around my stash, and my Malabrigo Sock in Archangel (which matched the shirt I was wearing a lot better) leaped onto my needles and refused to leave.

Several hours’ worth of work later, it suddenly hit me: it wasn’t just the shirt.  I’d been knitting dinner. The very last homegrown tomato, a diced purple onion, the small bits of late-season peach, the dash of olive oil that I’d simmered together before throwing in a splash of good balsamic vinegar and the leftover chicken–those vegetables, right there, in that project, preserving that so-long-tended tomato on into the winter season.

Well, that’s a first!

A fast re-torte
Sunday September 26th 2010, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Okay, so here’s what’s been going on in the background:

Richard came home from work sick the other day. Thursday, I was afraid I was catching it and not wanting to expose more people, stayed home from Knit Night.  Friday, he was better and I was fine other than that I was still very very tired.

That night the Boy Scouts were having a fundraiser spaghetti dinner. There was to be an auction of desserts at the end.

Anyone who knows me knows that means one of my chocolate tortes had to be there.

And so I pulled myself together enough to get out the door to buy manufacturing cream, one of the key ingredients, at Milk Pail. It’s 40% butterfat, no additives, and it has a short shelf life.

Now, that place is a good one for locavores, good produce and cheeses, and it is very popular. It’s also in a badly-designed lot with minimal parking unless you’re willing to walk a ways (and climb through bushes and walk through a blind intersection and never mind).

Willing is one thing.

I went. The lot was as full as if Thanksgiving were coming.  But there was one spot, right in front, right there–and their employees had commandeered it for the moment.

I had nowhere else I could safely go, sunwise, and I just barely had the oomph anyway, so I put on my turn signal and figured they’d finish up shortly.

Every single car that encountered mine after that as I waited had some totally stressed-out person for whom I was just the last straw.  Pounding their steering wheel. Yelling. Losing it.

I had done not a thing wrong. I’m still trying to understand it.  I wasn’t even close to blocking anything.  Maybe they were all trying to run a quick errand on their last bit of energy and couldn’t find a spot except for the one already spoken for?

The last woman’s behavior was such that I was afraid of her screaming at me in the store. Bag this–I went home.

Where I put a note on the ward chat list, not mentioning the screamers, just saying I hadn’t been able to park at all and I’d really really wanted to make a chocolate torte for the Scouts; if anyone else more hale and hearty had the time to try for me, I would so happily make them a torte too as a thank you.

And then I put myself on timeout and took a quick nap, realizing that if I were complaining to my whole church about the disappointment over such a small thing, I was having a meltdown and needed a nap.  Bring me my blankie.

I got up a short while later, much refreshed, checked my messages, googled, and found out that hey! Smart and Final carries manufacturing cream too–who knew?

So I sent out a second message saying thanks, all’s cool, I’m getting some after all.

I got my usual pair baked but with not the time left to cool them. I improvised: I put the cakes on a metal baking sheet to conduct the heat away, moving them to another baking sheet as that one heated up. It did help some.

Ten minutes before we were supposed to be there, I started the glaze. I tried too hard; I zapped the chocolate and cream too long. I wrecked the top of this one; I decided, oh well, I’ll have to take that one–the one that lost a piece to the side because I took it out of the pan before it was cooled.

It still hadn’t entirely cooled. It melted the top even more.

You’ve seen those lava cakes? I had a volcano in full flow with the side of the mountain given way for it to pour down.

We got there late.  By the time they got to the auction, it had set–looking like that, but at least it had set.

I noticed the scouts picking up all the desserts but my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree one and leaving it quietly behind. I grabbed a scout (whom I didn’t know) and told him, Tell them it’s Alison Hyde’s chocolate torte. They’ll know what it is.

Okay, lady.

It was one of the last ones, then, and some of the crowd had taken their little kids home to bed by then.

Dave, bless him, held it up high and asked, What am I bid for Alison Hyde’s world-famous CHOCOLATE TORTE!

My friend Phyl started it at $20. That quickly went to $40.

And I thought, Thanks, you guys, but–did you SEE that thing?!

Phyllis was having company Saturday night and told me later, I didn’t care, I knew what it tasted like!  But Jessica outbid her and got it with great glee.

Earlier in the day, Mary, bless her, had seen my first email and had immediately jumped in her car to go get that fancy cream for me.  But for all that, Milk Pail, alas, was out by then.

Tyler, bless him too, emailed me to say he would go in a flash if he could, if it weren’t for being at work, even before he saw the offer part of my email.

Those messages (there was another, too, but I’m not done yet) completely and totally made my day on a day I so much needed that. Just their acknowledging me made it all feel better; the fact that Mary ran immediately to go help meant the world.

Now.  A half gallon of manufacturing cream is a lot of cream.  Eight tortes’ worth.

I went back to Trader Joe’s: I stocked up on their bittersweet 500g Pound Plus bars. Baked, cleaned pans, baked.  And then I started calling/emailing/knocking.

Phyllis’s guests stopped me today to tell me how good that torte had been.

When I offered to bring Mary one, she and her husband instead came here and picked it up.

Ditto Tyler and his wife.

Jessica got a prettier one, two for the bid of one.

I’m not done yet!

Bookbricks popping up all over the place
Saturday September 25th 2010, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Knit

What a cool way to use books rescued from a fire–just don’t check out the ones at the bottom of the librarian’s desk there. (I’m noticing the titles are turned in out of sight just in case.)

I wonder who first thought that books would make not only great bricks, but a mushroom farm–there’s this one in Quebec.

Creativity rocks!

All but one thing
Friday September 24th 2010, 5:26 pm
Filed under: LYS



Dear Webs,

You had the much-anticipated Malabrigo Rios in before anyone I know of; my friend RobinM saw it and gave me a heads-up. She ordered some, I ordered some.

You had seven skeins of Solis left and I bought three of them, but by the time you got to filling my order (they were going fast) you had two in one dyelot and one in a different one (a lot of places wouldn’t bother to notice that; thank you!)  The Azules I wanted was on backorder; rather than just putting my order on hold, you emailed me to ask, what did I want to do?

To which I answered, if it’s not too difficult, could you just send me the two and add one more to the Azules when it comes in instead of a third Solis–but could you send the Solis now? I can wait however long for the other to come.

The woman on the phone answered, understanding, “Well, it IS Malabrigo.” It’s popular, the quality is high, the price is low, there’s only so much, and sometimes you have to wait a long time.

What neither she nor I knew was that the backorder would come in the next day (or was it two).

Which means I got my package of Azules right away.  With no Solis. With (oops)  a packing slip saying both were in there. While the website said that even with that new order in, you were now back down to, you guessed it, two skeins of Solis.

Now, I think this is mostly my fault for asking you to make two shipments out of one and not canceling the order and redoing it as two. (The skein-quantity discount made it worth paying shipping twice.)  You were trying hard to do the right thing, but someone in shipping saw something irregular and apparently thought there must be some mistake and thereby they made a mistake. Happens to the best of us.

What I’m getting to, is, out of three dyelots of Rios Solis you’ve had come in, what happened was, I’m guessing I got THE one that best matches what I already had.  The new is ever so slightly darker at one point in the blue, but, the fact that this art dealer’s daughter has to read the tags to be sure which one is from which dyelot…

Thank you thank you thank you. You filled that order perfectly.

Except for one thing: you really should have charged me the shipping on today’s package. I owe it to you.

In the bag, out of the bag
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I ordered more Rios. I have to wait a week to find out if it matches well so the baby blanket can get bigger than 43×40″ (I will knit in alternating dyelots if they’re really close) or if not, the two new skeins will become a mostly-matching outfit while I go buy a contrasting color to put in ribbing all around the thing: I like my baby blankets generous. I’d bought all that Golden Fleece had in that lot, hoping 840 yards worsted would do it. It won’t.

My son told me tonight that my daughter-in-law had been secretly hoping I would knit something for the baby.  I just might.

So. Back to Lisa’s Blackbewwie.

I measured and was sure I had enough to do just one more pattern repeat. It’s always nice to see how far a yarn will go, right?  I know my electronic scale gets a little wonky the closer you get to zero, but it looked like I would have two grams left over, maybe three. That’s cutting it far closer than I like, but the results held steady.

I decided to give it a try.  I confess to knitting perhaps less loosely than usual–I had visions of having only a yard to spare.

It took me three hours to finally cast off, not because it took three hours to cast off, not because I couldn’t bear to see, if, if…  but simply because I could.  No worries.  Clearly, looking at that ball at the very end, I had enough. Alright! Six grams left over! That would be about 30 yards.

Then I threw the shawl in the bag. Done! At last! Two weeks to knit that. I never take that long, but it was 1090 yards of light fingering weight and 72 rows of 439 stitches on smaller needles than I often use and it simply took a lot of time. (Not to mention there was this other project…)

Go do something else!

Like that lasted. Out with you. I was curious.

In the crumpled tinfoil stage, I got 12.5″.  It is now drying in the other room at 26″: add a little water and it’s like Wile E. Coyote after the steamroller went through.

And here I am bouncing back up again and off to the next.

Fire breathing little one
Wednesday September 22nd 2010, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

After much trial and error on the baby blanket that did the sturdy Malabrigo Rios not the slightest harm, I ripped to the beginning yet again today and went back to the pattern I’d started out with in the first place.  (After going up three needle sizes on this fifth attempt; I’ve been out of worsted-weight practice.)

This is what I’d wanted all along:  Barbara Walker’s “Dragonskins” pattern. Good and solid, and what it needed to be.  Because every little boy deserves to be dressed in dragons.

Rolling stones
Tuesday September 21st 2010, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Knit

I wanted to go back to reading one of the most important books I have in a long time–Greg Mortenson’s Stones Into Schools about his work setting up a school for girls as well as boys in one of the least accessible areas of Afghanistan. He is one of those rare people who changes everything.

It’s up there (only at distinctly higher elevations) with Mountains Beyond Mountains about Dr. Paul Farmer, the Harvard doctor who set up a medical clinic in Haiti. And then a school. And then decent housing. And so on.

Still, I had a deadline I wanted to meet. I kept going at that Lisa-yarn shawl till I finished the third repeat, the end point I was going for, but found I have enough yardage to do an edging after all. Well, cool!  So much for being done tonight.

Wonder if I’m too old for sneaking a flashlight under the covers.

Peregrine at the speed of sight
Monday September 20th 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

With thanks to Margo Lynn for the heads-up: I have to show you this. I’m just glad the birds’ cameras didn’t catch on anything, especially the goshawk’s while going through those trees Star Wars style. Wow.

I was in the Martin Luther King library in San Jose once when one of the peregrines from the nest across the street suddenly flew down the narrow treeline along the side of the building, so fast I had to blink a moment and question whether I’d even actually seen it–I knew I had, but it had gone by too fast to even begin to make out anything other than the sheared-off vision of speed.

(Oh, and, while we’re at it: a few Eagles. Congratulations to my sister’s sons!)

Hug my kid for me
Sunday September 19th 2010, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

I heard it from both sides today.

Our friend Jean, Marguerite‘s mom, flew off to go visit her grandson, Marguerite’s nephew. He’s in the bishopric in the student ward where he’s finishing his doctorate.

And there, sitting in that church in Ann Arbor, was our daughter Michelle.

Jean has known Michelle since she was a year old.  Both of them had this jaw-on-the-ground moment of, What are YOU doing here?!

The answer, of course, was, finding themselves feeling very, very loved and treasured and suddenly very much at home.

Like AT&T: lacks coverage?
Saturday September 18th 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Knit

So: January baby. Cold climate. Needs warmth. Right? I keep thinking of the Afghans for Afghans campaign, where they specifically say, We need animal fibers for warmth and we need the patterns solid, no yarnover holes.

Nice and solid first baby blanket attempt: I think you could have arranged it in a circle and had it stand upright like a box.  A little too earnest in the endeavor–not to mention, using 20g to get less than an inch, um, we’re not trying to create bulletproof here and there isn’t *that* much Rios Solis. R i i i p that hour and a half’s work.

Then, frog four rows because I changed my mind again.

Now it’s back to about 45×4″ so far, and I keep dithering. It’s the background pattern to this blog, with the M1s turned into YOs.

It’s lace. Not a very open lace, but still, there are holes. And after 23 years of living in California, having fled 75″ of snow in 17 days, my memories of Cold with a capital C might be a tad warped. Should I start over again? Should I go up one needle size even more to let the fabric relax a bit more (the yarn would say oh thank you thank you very much) and just think of it as an indoor blanket?  I’d get a bigger blanket if I did.

I keep thinking, oh just wind another ball and start again on the 9s and don’t tell the 8s you’re doing that till it’s too late and the 9s are going hahatoldjaso and the 8s are screaming noFAIR but they lose.

Or something.

You know, if I’d actually swatched *any* of these ideas…

Hey! How about that Lisa yarn over there?

I finally put the Rios down to just let ideas simmer a bit while I went and read. I needed to relax about this and not try to knit thirty things at once. This is a baby blanket.  This is not (name your favorite major political crisis.)  This is just a few skeins of good wool. And when it’s all knitted up, honest, there will be more.

I know, because the more is sitting there drumming its fingers over there wondering why it didn’t get to go first and trying to tell me shhhh, Lisa’s!

Santa Cruz yarn souvenir
Friday September 17th 2010, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

I explained yesterday’s post to Nina and told her, So I have to choose the blackberry flavor. She laughed and allowed as how, yes, I did.

We were at (psst–Nina–what was the name of that place? Miriam’s? Marianne’s?) Makes all their own ice cream. In Santa Cruz.

Nina’s on the email list of the Golden Fleece yarn shop down there and they were having not only Malabrigo Rios in stock as of today but were putting it on sale–IF you bought ten skeins.

The hottest new yarn out there, with a lot of stores on a waiting list, and an incentive to go buy lots of the stuff? Hey. Turns out some of her customers showed up last night to see if the box had arrived yet, it just had, and they were going through it before the owner even got to see in there, picking out their favorite colorways they’d been waiting for.

Meantime, no way no how was I going to go buy ten skeins of yarn right now and I doubted the two of us together could, either. But I wanted some Nina time, and I do like seeing Malabrigo in person because the colorways have enough variation from dye lot to dye lot and you know how it goes…

(I can just see all the knitters nodding, oh yes, we know how it goes…)

Rios is the yarn I’ve been waiting for all this time that I snatched up that test-marketing skein of in April.  It is THE softest merino worsted I have ever come across.  Superwash, too.   Someone (thank you RobinM!) gave me a heads up that Webs had it now: I’ve been watching that page–they got some in on Wednesday and it is going fast. (Guilty as charged on the credit card. I did not know I was going to get an email from Nina right after I did.)

I did not need to up my supply in Santa Cruz. Really, I didn’t.

And then we got there.  I have a grandchild on the way, and new moms need good warm things for their babies *that they can throw in the washer*.  (Because at 4 am after the baby’s already gotten you up twice it’s probably going to end up in there anyway just because you’re too tired to think straight. I vividly remember a knitting grandmother I know scolding her daughter for turning the baby blanket she’d slaved over for x months into a, quote, postage stamp that way. I want my knitting gifts guilt-free.)

You see that photo in that old post?

Golden Fleece had that exact colorway.

They had it in two dyelots, and when I separated them and stepped back, it was clear they really were separate dyelots.

They had some of their sock yarn with that same Azules nametag on them, and it was markedly different. Not baby friendly, either; much darker, and where did that almost-black-in-this-light streak come from?

I have some Azules coming from Webs.

I have no real idea what it will look like till it gets here.

I want to start serious baby knitting, like, NOW.

You can see where this is going.

And so I bought the Solis green.  To match that hat I made.  And that’s it!  (Yeah right.)  I bought the Azules, to have  on hand for sure the colors that were exactly the way I wanted.  If that means an adult gets a Webs-yarn vest to match our little one, worse things have happened.

We stopped for ice cream on the way home, because it was another Santa Cruz institution Nina didn’t want me to miss, and I picked the flavorway I did in Lisa’s yarn‘s honor.

Which I now need to finish up, like, really really fast because I got me some serious Rios knitting to do.  Twist my arms.

Berry flavored
Thursday September 16th 2010, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

Hey, Lisa? Your Blackbewwie  Sock! Merino is coming along nicely on that second ball–about two more days and I’ll be done. (Colorwise, mine is between her Blackbewwie and her Mulberry photos and the yarn is soft with a lot of shimmy and shine to it.)

When the first of my nieces got married years ago, my brother, parents and I flew to Seattle for the wedding and before we left, we ate at a restaurant that served me the most perfect one-person mixed berry pie, the best comfort food one could ever hope to find. There was just barely enough crisp crust to contain all that good dark fruit; it was a meal to remember all by itself.

That yarn color reminds me of that constantly as I knit.  I keep wanting to go make berry pie! I aspire to make one as good as that one was; I’ve never yet achieved it.

Or maybe I could at least zap up some berry sauce and let it start to melt a little ice cream to celebrate when I finish this project.

It looks like I will go right down to the last 25 g or so of that wool.  Small electronic scales are very useful for measuring how fast a yarn is disappearing into the fabric.

Went to Purlescence with an old friend tonight and got one whole long row done. Too much listening and laughing to get more done just then.

It was needed and it was perfect.