Warm Hats Not Hot Heads theme song
Saturday February 12th 2011, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

My folks arrived home safely and it is very very quiet without them.

The campaign hit 108 hats.

And India started this by wondering if Ellen or I knew the old song that goes, Inch by inch, row by row, Gonna make this garden grow.

Oh yes–I used to play it and sing it to my kids when they were little, all the time, and I used to sing it occasionally with my knitting, only with, Stitch by stitch row by row and riffing from there.

They started playing with the lyrics and emailed me and Ellen happened to start hers off with that same line. I like that.

So here’s what I’ve thought of for WHNHH so far, and I’d love to hear what anyone else might come up with:

Stitch by stitch, row by row,
Gonna let our Congress know:
Got to make your peace, although
There are differing points of view…

Stitch by stitch, row by row,
We constituents are telling you, so…
Work out ways to help US grow
Now you can wear your thinking cap too.

Stitch by stitch, row by row,
Take a stand against the status quo
Speak for me with civility
Take the day, and make it brand new.

Oh, and by the way, you might want to look here (with thanks to Norma for the link). Jon Stewart’s producer. They can’t tell: is this satire or is it serious?

Are knitters serious?

What do you think?

All a mousse take
Saturday February 12th 2011, 12:37 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

(Oh oops. I was adding the hats not committed yet to individual recipients with the number next to it, which was the overall total, not the committed total. (This reading charts thing…) So we’re up by nine to 103 today, and my apologies for the mistake.)

Phyllis and her husband Lee came by this evening, the last night that they could visit with my folks before they go home, and we celebrated with sponge cake, homemade chocolate sauce (zap dark chocolate bars with heavy cream, making sure to first dunk all the chocolate completely so all of it has touched the liquid before the heat is added so none of it seizes into unmeltable lumps) and homemade strawberry mousse (run random amounts of frozen strawberries, sugar, and cream through the Cuisinart for about ten minutes. Turn your ears off first.)

The puns were flying around in their natural echo-system. For instance. My hubby had been one of the computer scientists working on the then-new UNIX system at DEC. (Anybody remember DEC? You know, the then-second-biggest computer company? The one whose CEO proclaimed there would never be any use for a computer in the home?)

Lee asked something about was it genderified?

Me: Genderally speaking.

And a good tine was had by all.

Old friends
Friday February 11th 2011, 12:25 am
Filed under: Family,Friends

105 hats. 17.42% of Congress. Go knitters go!

My dad has an old high school friend who lives in the area and they were looking forward to getting to see each other before the folks leave.

She called yesterday; she knew my health situation, she’s lived through her own and gets it (she would anyway, but, just saying) and she had woken up with a cold. She was very disappointed but wasn’t about to expose me.

Well crum.

After making sure today that she herself was up to it, we decided I would drop the folks off at her house and come back later and get them. I’d love to see her too, anytime–she’s a dear woman. But sometimes you deal with how things are rather than how you want them.

I came back at the appointed hour and pulled out a book in the car, picture windows above me where they would be sitting, hoping to be conspicuously preoccupied so they could keep talking if they wanted to. It was a good try.

She came down the front steps with my parents, the very picture of graciousness; I stepped out of the car and got to see her a little bit after all. And then we gave each other goofy air hugs from a distance. She sent us home with leftover mango mousse. Good stuff.

She and Dad can tell you that being nice to others when you’re a teenager (or at any other age) has lifelong effects and brings a joy that is far beyond what any kid could ever begin to be able to see coming.

Observe for ten
Wednesday February 09th 2011, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

My father being an art dealer, we spent some of my summers growing up going museum-hopping.

I remember, on one such trip at 16, admiring a gorgeous landscape in a room full of natural Western scenes from the 1800’s, and an artist friend of Dad’s, Nat Leeb, asking me, “What’s wrong with this painting?”

Nothing was wrong with it, it was beautiful!

Look again.

*confused look*

Then he pointed it out: the light is coming from this direction, lighting up this area and leaving that area in shadow–but over here, in this one corner, look: the shadow goes in the wrong direction.  The light also should not have caught that detail; it’s in the wrong place for it.

M. Leeb decided to teach me a lesson on how to draw as we waited for our meals at a restaurant. “You observe for ten minutes. Draw for one.” And then he grabbed the paper placemat and drew a horse by sketching a perfect series of quick connecting-Slinky ovals that surprised me: he was right! It was a horse! Here, he told me, you draw it like this and learn the shape of it before you draw it in a different form.

I knew I was getting a lesson from a master but struggled with my teenage desire to harrumph that I knew what shape a horse was. I had the sense to simply nod and say okay.

My little sister was probably absorbing the lesson too, though I don’t remember: it was where she totally outshone me.  I, being more musical, got the piano lessons from a master teacher; Anne got the art lessons at the Corcoran Gallery in DC.

(Side conversation with the folks just now: Anne rode her bicycle a good ten miles+ each way down the C&O Canal towpath during her summers in high school to get to those lessons. It’s funny what you don’t remember about your siblings that was so day-to-day to them way back when.)

So. Today Dad wanted to see the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. After the Loma Prieta quake, the museum was closed for years and years, needing millions to rebuild and redo, and now he could finally see it again.

It was way better than the building that was destroyed. The marble walls and high, ornately done ceilings of the new, the rotunda at the center, all reminded me of Washington, DC: the Capitol building, the Senate offices, and on and on. I said that to Mom and she gave me a look of, Oh yes!

I’d seen last summer’s exhibit with my niece, but the place is surprisingly large and with her toddler in tow we hadn’t made it upstairs.

There’s no way Dad was going to miss upstairs. He had waited too long for this. There’s way more than all those Rodins and a few paintings to be seen.

Two Picassos up there! I’d had no idea.

But what intrigued me most was one small plaque: it said that with the completion of the transcontinental railroad–remember, Stanford was a railroad baron, and two of the ceremonial spikes from the joining of those rail lines was in a box downstairs on display–with that new transportation, the land that, as the plaque put it, had belonged only to dimestore novels and Twain and Brette Harte were suddenly open now to artists.  At a time that landscapes were considered the pinnacle of art in popular American culture.

And so they came.

We’d been on our feet a long time and I finally sat in front of my favorite there to wait for Mom and Dad to finish. It was a painting of the head of the American River in California. It was huge and the details were exquisitely done. You could almost feel the slipperiness of the moss on the twiggy brush near the river, the white of a rider’s shirt catching the sunlight exactly so as it filtered between the mountain peaks to burst on the area of greatest interest. There were men on horseback, a burst of cloud at the top of the falls, rushing, falling water that splashed on the canvas, twists and turns of desert plants. The thing was just gorgeous.

But dang if the light didn’t shadow one mountain back there the wrong way. I wonder if I just rediscovered my long-lost artist.

The view from up there
Tuesday February 08th 2011, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

(The Warm Hats Not Hot Heads count: we are now at 75 committed hats for the campaign for civility in Congress. Go knitters!)

We drove across the Bay and up into the beautiful, wooded hills, the reason for the folks’ visit to California: Dad had someone he wanted to interview for a biography he is writing.

It turns out the man’s son was there too, and that the man is himself a writer–and the kind of warm, bright, engaged, energetic 92-year-old I can only aspire to be someday.

He gave us copies of several of his books, waving me away when I offered to buy some, and I, having discovered that his daughter-in-law crochets, wished fervently I had a copy of my own book to share with their family, too.

We had a lovely morning of it, time I for one would never have had with good folks I would never have had the good fortune to meet but for the passion both of the older men in the room were bringing to the project at hand.

I’d driven my husband’s Prius, switching cars with him for the day since we were the ones who were going to be putting on the mileage.

And as we walked back to the car and opened the trunk to put away Dad’s equipment from the interview, there it was: a copy of “Wrapped in Comfort” that my husband had proudly put in there to be ready to show off my work and me at any time. I asked him later and he said, “Oh, I always have one in there!”

I hurried back down the walkway and rang the doorbell one last time.

Monday February 07th 2011, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I knew what I really wanted to give my folks for Christmas, but I just didn’t know how to pull it off. I so did not want them to get thrown in a drawer. I did say what my wish was; Dad’s reaction was, “What if I don’t wear them?”

“Fine,” I retorted, “then I’ll stop wearing mine!”

“No! You need them!”


And now while they’re here…

I drove them to my audiologist’s office today for them to fit Dad for my old Oticons, perfectly good hearing aids–for someone with better hearing than I have now.

Joan the technician summoned Dad back to make the earmolds and Mom went back with him; I, knowing the size of the room they were likely going to, stayed put with my knitting.

After they were out of earshot, though, I got up.  I went over to the receptionist and told her I wanted to pay for those molds.

She protested, “But they’re not even back yet!” They have to do an impression of your ear canals, send it out, get it back, check the fit, attach it to the behind-the-ears, and only then are you done. She would have told me all that, but I just smiled and said, “I know.” I gestured towards where they’d gone and–she got it. She told me she didn’t know yet how much to charge me for John-the-audiologist’s time for adjusting my old aids to match Dad’s audiogram, though.

Fine, not a problem, we’ll deal with that part later, just, quick before they come out.

She grinned. On it!

Joan told us, coming out to talk to me too when she was done, that the one thing is that the length of the tubing is a question. Yes, John likes to check the fit of everything and Mom and Dad won’t still be here, but tubing or fit, Dad can take it to an audiologist local to him for that last little bit. Or we might just totally luck out and have it come out right.

As I handed her my old aids, she smiled, “Oh, I like these. These are good ones.”

Not as good as my Sonic Innovations, but then, Dad doesn’t have a musician’s ear so he wouldn’t care about sounds being pitch-perfect. (Note that I have no idea what Oticon’s latest might be, this is simply what I had.)

And the thing is: I told Dad these were my back-ups in case my new ones ever had to go in for repair.  And then I told him how much the Oticons had cost.

“Well then I can’t take them.”

“In two and a half years I’ve never had to repair them. ” Then I told him how much my new ones  had cost.

Because by golly, I knew those hearing aids needed to come with the gentle pressure of John and Joan asking if they’d worked out well for him; I knew that if Dad knew I’d given up something valuable to me for him to have these, he would wear them out of sheer gratitude; he’s a good guy.

I told my mom she was going to need patience too with how things were going to change for him–having the world suddenly much louder is going to take him some getting used to, no question about that.

But I remember how, back when my older children were babies and I would start my mornings with a long racewalk before my husband left for work, there was the day after I got my first-ever set where I stepped out my front door in the quiet of the early day.

Only this time it wasn’t quiet.  I stopped dead right there on the doorstep, stunned.  What on earth were all those sounds.  Where on earth *were* they.

Birds. There were birds singing, greeting the new March morning. I hadn’t heard birds like that since age 12. I. Had. Forgotten.

Back home again, sitting down to lunch, Dad suddenly realized, aghast, “We never paid for those molds!”

I looked up. “Yes we did.”

“No we didn’t!”

“Yes. We did.”


The hat’s out of the bag by now
Sunday February 06th 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I made it through the first meeting of church today. I had a plan.

It didn’t quite go that way.

I recently gave someone new there a baby alpaca lace scarf as a welcome; in conversation, I found out she had two daughters.

I asked a mutual acquaintance, since I’d never laid eyes on the kids, and he told me the teenager likes dark colors, the younger one, rainbow. Bright.

Sharp eye for a guy, I thought; I was impressed.

So the last pink sparkly cashmere hat was to go to the nine-year-old. As for her sister, I knew just the thing.

But this morning as I went to pull that waiting blue scarf for the teen out of its ziploc, something wouldn’t let me. It just wasn’t it. But I…! Nope.  Just wasn’t.

Huh. Okay, I’ve learned not to argue with that feeling, even if I wish it would explain itself. But then, what then?

Going through ziplocs, I found a baby alpaca lace scarf I couldn’t quite place. But it instantly felt right. Curious. I took it out, examining the pattern and the soft hand of it. Yes. Okay, then, and I put it with the hat and took them to church, touching both of them as little as possible and trying not to breathe on anybody.

That scarf was from yarn I’d hand-dyed awhile ago, as a matter of fact, it’s a remnant of one of the overdyed balls shown with the original light blue color at the center in my “Wrapped in Comfort” book.

I remembered later: I had taken it out several months ago, looked it over, and thought it would look great on someone Hispanic. I didn’t have anyone in mind but it became my carry-around project for those odd moments, eventually bugging me because it simply didn’t get finished but rather kept nagging me in my purse with no sense of accomplishment–because it had no intended recipient to motivate me.

So I finally simply sat myself down one day, probably around November, and spent hours on it till it was a length that pleased me. There. Done!

Now it just needed someone with coloring to match it.

And then I totally forgot it existed.

Yes, they’re Hispanic. Yes, the color would look perfect on any of them.

But then no, I didn’t see them at church. So much for that.

I was fading and asked Richard to take me home. First, though, I saw the person who’d told me about their color preferences and handed him the ziploc, despite his hesitancy, saying, he would see the mom before I would, here, you take it.

As we were getting in the car, two more meetings yet to go inside, guess who walked past us on their way in.

I explained why I was leaving and told them what was waiting inside for them and who had them as the grins on all three of their faces got bigger and bigger.

I could just picture the moment inside right after that, the glow spilling over onto the person left holding the bag.  And probably anybody else around.

Sometimes the plans are bigger than mine.

Some things never change
Saturday February 05th 2011, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

Fifty years ago and then again today: “I think you need a nap, dear. Go to bed.”

I’m not tired.

“I think you need a nap, dear.”

(I don’t wanna. I don’t often get to visit with my parents, even if I’m trying not to breathe on them.)

“You need a nap, dear.”

Alright… (I’ll lie down for ten minutes and make everybody happy.)

Zonk…. And it did help a lot.

Meantime, I think Parker’s got that Mona Lisa thing down just so.  And Warm Hats Not Hot Heads is at 60 hats! Go knitters!

In plane sight
Saturday February 05th 2011, 12:24 am
Filed under: Family,Knit

My folks have nonrefundable tickets and are arriving Saturday, Dad’s got business here–and I’m still sick.  I took Parker’s suggestion and got a bit of a nap today and am hoping that does it.

But at least I got another hat finished!

A thousand paper cranes’ worth being knitted
Friday February 04th 2011, 12:20 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

An old friend whom I’ve known since college has of late been a visiting professor in a country not known for its journalistic openness.

And thus my stunned staring at his vacation abroad photos he recently posted after leaving there. Talk about spring break.  Duuuuude.

I didn’t say it, but someone else did, and he answered, yes, that was him and his wife on camels near the Pyramids. Last Friday.  They had no idea.

Wow.  We have it so easy in the US.


I started a new soft wool hat tonight–it seems to be a trend–and looked again at the spreadsheet Ellen set up: even though constantly checking there is like watching stitches grow on sock-size needles, it’s–like watching stitches grow!  In qiviut! Cool! Forty-four hats this afternoon, 49 now as I type this with 2 extra at the bottom there–I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to see each new one show up. Thank you thank you everyone.

And there was one so far for an entire state, being offered up by a member of one particular Congressional district there in Arizona, for the one person in thoughts of whom all this began to come about:

For Gabrielle Giffords.

Perfect pitch
Thursday February 03rd 2011, 12:39 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Knit,Life

I finished my Abstract Fibers scarf, though it’s bleached here by my flash. There is no pooling other than what I created by how I laid it out.

And while I was knitting–221 yards’ worth of fingering weight this evening, the math side of my brain needed to figure out repeats vs repeats done tonight vs weight etc–I was listening to whatever random CD came up on the player. If the music keeps playing the needles keep dancing.

The album cut by the old high school jazz band started up.

Okay, I think I’ve mentioned this before, but… When my son Richard was in middle school, his jazz band teacher also taught jazz in the high school and he aspired to join that group in a year or two.  They won a place in the high-school jazz competition at Monterey, so we drove down there that Saturday to cheer them on–and they were good enough to be invited back later to play as professionals in the main Monterey Jazz Festival, thus that album. *That’s* what a great teacher can get kids to accomplish.

We cheered on the kids on another team that had driven in a bus all the way from Maine for the competition. Now that’s heart!

We later went to the end-of-year school concert too, and again they played a piece that I’d liked so much: Bedtime for Bigfoot. I think it was the one that had been written by one of the kids as an AP Music assignment and it was hard not to get up and dance to it on the spot–you knew those kids were having a ball when they played it.

Richard-the-younger and I did a quick grocery store run afterwards, and as we got out of the car I asked him to sing the first note of that song.

He nailed it. Perfectly on pitch. The kid is good, and I about burst with pride.

When I was naming one of my shawl patterns, it seemed only fitting that making a giant version of my Rabbit Tracks lace should be called Bigfoot by comparison.  It wasn’t till later that I realized why I loved the word so much.

A teacher who believed in his kids.

Kids who learned what they could really do.

A rocking, happy song that celebrates that.

And I bet you my son could still sing it starting on exactly the right note. And his new son is trying to tell us he could too, just let him get the talking thing out of the way first.

We’ll get there
Tuesday February 01st 2011, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Blockage: clearingnowohthankgoodness. Cold: from me to Richard and back. It surprises me as if it were all something new–which is a good sign, I like being used to being well.

But I needed not to feel sorry for myself so I finished another hat (my Congressional hats being done.)  Then I made good headway on some lace in the Grape Hyacinth colorway from Abstract Fibers and found that just looking at it puts me in that familiar, magical place where I feel like I’ve never knit anything so pretty in my life. They do nice work.

Thank you Kim and Richard-the-younger for the Parker pictures. Stop the germs, we want to go hold him!