And the afghan lived on
Tuesday January 31st 2012, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

You have to post that story, Holly told me.

I was sure I already had. But using every search phrase I could think of on the blog, I’m not finding it. So here goes.

They were about to move away, and I know how the impending sense of loss at such times brings friends closer together and the emotions high.

I was talking a moment to Curtis, the husband, at church on I think their last Sunday before they left California, and in that conversation, he started to say something about an afghan his grandma had knit him.

Only, with such a sudden halting sense to his voice that I immediately picked up on it and went, “Does it need to be repaired? I’d be glad to,” before he said another word, hoping I wasn’t getting myself into too much.

The relief and joy and sudden hope in his face!

When he’d been in high school, his grandma had offered to knit him an afghan. Anything he liked; his choice. Years later telling me this, he said, And I asked for black. I had no idea what I was asking of her.

I smiled and nodded that yes, black stitches are hard to see to work with and really hard as you get older. I sympathized with Grandma with him.

But she had knit it because she loved him and he had been thrilled. He held it all the more closely when she died, love meeting loss and finding warmth in the dark places.

And then his cat had gotten to it. It was torn in four spots. He was heartbroken and had no idea what to do with it except to put it in the closet and hope that at some point in the future something somehow could be done.

I would be honored to give it my best, I told him.

And so later he swung by the house with it, knocking on my door to hand it over. One look and I told him, Oh, good. This won’t take very long at all, if you don’t mind waiting.

His wife was in the car with their two little kids, who were sick, and they hadn’t wanted to expose me so they’d stayed in there and he didn’t want to leave them waiting alone and not knowing how long I’d be.

Well then. I picked up my yarn needle and, afghan in hand, walked out to the sidewalk next to their car and plunked myself down. Let the kids wave hi and watch if they want, and besides, I wanted to see them and his wife every moment I could.

The afghan had been fairly loosely knit out of a nice, soft wool. That looseness made it vulnerable to a good cat-claw snag and there were long pulls in it–all I had to do was work the yarn back into the sides to where it belonged, here, here, here, and a little bit over down here. Not a single break.

I told him he had done the right thing: he hadn’t lopped off the loops and that had saved it.

The whole thing took maybe five minutes. There was such an intense joy the whole time. Curtis, Jenna, the kids, getting a little extra time with them before they left–but it was also as if his grandma herself were standing chuckling over my shoulder, glad to see her work restored to go hug the great-grands with.

Fresh eyes
Monday January 30th 2012, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Knit

I love Stitches West.

I love the deadline that is Stitches West. I got a cashmere shawl finished last year out of yarn I’d been hoarding rather than knitting only because that date wasn’t moving anywhere further away and my ego wanted to show off–well, and I wanted to show off for someone else’s ego, too, since Dianne had dyed the laceweight I ran the Cashmere Superior with.

So this year. There’s some yarn that I started knitting back in September: I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it and I had a reason why only that yarn would do for that mostly-worked-out pattern.

I ripped it totally out the first time around. Took notes, made adjustments, tried again.

I got it going, and it still wasn’t… it didn’t…I dunno… Huh. At that point, I was frustrated.

So into the ziploc bag and out of my sight, and time and again I nearly ripped those two new days’ worth of work out to make myself start from scratch.

Well but let’s not, though. There are two balls; how about I just start from the other ball once I get going again with this, just to make sure.

If only.

So four months later, here I was this morning, suddenly thinking how nice it would be to show that off in three weeks.

And in those four months since the first attempt I’ve knitted all kinds of other things that have let other ideas gradually seep through without my quite realizing it until all at once, as I was pulling the thing out of that bag and looking at it, suddenly all the things that previously were wrong about it were what I wanted about it now. It would do, most definitely, it would do. I finally had it! It had just needed that time and experience. Best part is, the first two days’ worth of work were already finished.

It’s humming along quite nicely. I think it’ll be a little different from anything I’ve done so far; it’s going to stretch me a bit, and I may do the last part more than once. But that sense of long-sought achievement is so close and so compelling that I had to make myself put it down and come here to give my hands a break.

Meet my family
Monday January 30th 2012, 12:27 am
Filed under: Family

This evening the phone rang and we were talking with our daughter Sam, then we were Skyping with our grandson Parker and his family and the phone rang and the doorbell did too and a friend was there and a little while later another call and then the first friend left and then the phone rang and another friend rang the doorbell and it was all crazy-busy in a wonderful way and I wondered if I was going to have to skip the blog tonight.

And in the midst of all that was a request from my sister: she had started a blog and wanted to link to a post of mine; would it be okay?

Blog, this is my sister Marian. I think you’ll like her.

And Blog, this is my daughter Sam. I think you’ll like her too. If you ever wanted to know (or ever wanted to be able to tell someone) what questions to ask, what things to do or say or not do or say to someone who’s been given a major diagnosis, she’s got posts in two parts, last Sunday and the one before, that I wish I’d had when I was new at this lupus thing. Medical jargon translated? There you go.

Not to mention great recipes at the beginning of what she thought was going to stay a cooking blog.

Enjoy. I’m quite proud of them.

Done in reel time
Sunday January 29th 2012, 12:13 am
Filed under: Family,History

I almost could have sworn that was Richard’s dad in the other room: the voice. The cadences.  The chuckles. The song of it.

The words themselves were completely lost to me at that distance, though they did seem more garbled than my hearing might account for and I wondered if the speaker had had a small stroke I didn’t know about.

Was that his grandfather on the reel-to-reel, I asked? I actually would have guessed his father if it hadn’t been for the distortion; it sounded that much like his dad.

No–it was Richard’s great grandfather, recorded in 1957 or ’58 by his grandfather, who also recorded his mother-in-law during a trip back to where he grew up; her voice was next.

I tried to grok how a man whose father had been preached to by Joseph Smith in 1834, a man who had lived his life on a farm in Idaho, could sound so much across the years like how his grandson, who grew up surrounded by all that is official Washington DC, does now in 2012. That easy-going easily-laughing voice. Twins.

The generations are closer together than we know.

My green laptop
Saturday January 28th 2012, 12:20 am
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

I wanted to make major progress today, and found myself reaching for a green sweater this morning before I even made the connection.

It is always easier to get to work on knitting that doesn’t clash with your clothes, and better yet, when the work in your hands will look fabulous with what you’ve got on (even when it’s for somebody else), it’s hard to put it down. A dozen more grams and it’s done.

Oh, and the squirrels and that bag? They quit even sniffing at it. They ignored the nuts in it. Even after I put peanut butter in it. Too scary.

Wow, how do I get them to react to my birdfeeders that way?

I finally took the bag out of the tall flowerpot this morning and put it down across the yard, the mouth open towards where I could see from inside.

It took awhile–and then the bag was suddenly doing a vigorous funky chicken.  A gray was trying the flower pot tactic: if I push this around there must be nuts I can get at underneath. He nudged it. He charged it nose first. He tried to wrestle it out of the way. No dice. He left in disgust.

Hours more and the alpha squirrel approached the mouth of it. (He’s black with a touch of white below his eye, he’s easy to spot.) He stopped halfway across the yard and did an anxious paw up, nose straining forward, tail straining backwards then protectively over him, then he shifted to the other foot and did a little dance.

It didn’t bite him.

A little closer. A little more trepidation. Finally he stepped into the wet cold bag and then freaked as the paper gave way under him and the top of it came down at his head. (The gray had left the thing angled upwards.)

But having gone in once nothing was going to stop him now. None of the others ever did dare come in. Alpha ate at his leisure, then came back for more later when he got hungry again, dashing out to safety the moment the almond was claimed, not staying in there one squirrel breath longer than necessary each time.

Moms rule. I got a squirrel to take just one at a time.

Eighteen and a half minutes and a gap
Friday January 27th 2012, 12:00 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Politics

First there were the tapes. Family voices from long ago that Richard digitally transcribed for his mom for Christmas. She was absolutely thrilled that she could now share them with her brothers and sister and children rather than having them sit in a drawer. Most. Successful. Present. Ever.

That having worked out so well, a box from his dad showed up two days ago despite our saying we had no such player. Reel-to-reel tapes. Now there’s a reely current technology.

Could we would we?


A check of Ebay revealed non-working machines and one listed in the hundreds; Richard remarked that there’s a rubber part that wears out, and at the ages of these…

But the box was here.

Oh and. His dad mentioned that Uncle R had had a machine and had donated it to a tech museum and it was in our town! Maybe we could ask to borrow it back?


So I put a note on our ward chat list, feeling like that was our last chance. Someone from church responded almost immediately, saying her husband was determined to hold onto one of every technology that might have family recordings on it, and so, yes, they had a reel-to-reel; would we like to borrow it?

Blessings on Sue and Ken, the problem is solved and now we just have to get started.

(Anyone get that Rose Mary Woods reference in the title?)

p.s. Watched my first Republican debate tonight, transfixed by the political theater. Gingrich wants a lunar colony with hopes for it to be the 51st state by his second term. Really. Maybe they could just aim that $99 billion railroad at the sky.

Blackberry cobbler
Wednesday January 25th 2012, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Recipes

A Costco-sized package did this to me. They looked so good and they were so cheap but there were so many!

And I can never follow a recipe, so here’s my version. I rinsed the blackberries and then rolled them gently from paper towel-covered plate to paper towel-covered plate, patting them on top too to dry them off as much as possible.

Oven ready at 350.

Melt a stick of butter and pour in a 13×9 pan and swish around. (I greased the sides with a little extra butter.) Cover the bottom with 18 oz blackberries, ie one Costco package’s worth, trying to spread them across as they hit rather than pushing them around a lot afterwards so that the butter stays distributed as evenly as possible.

Meantime, have 2 c sugar, 2 c flour, 1 tbl baking powder, 1 tsp salt mixed together; pour in 2 c milk and beat. (Okay, so I substituted about 1/4 c super-heavy manufacturing cream in there for that much of the milk.) Pour over the berries and get it quickly into the oven.

Bake one hour. Makes something between a popover and a pancake with its own fresh jam. Note that the measured volume of berries, at about 5 c, nearly equals that of all the other ingredients together.

But be careful: the original recipe said to melt the butter in the pan in the oven, take it out, then pour the milk mixture over and add the berries. That, my friends, is a good way to have exploding glass all over your kitchen unless you’re using a metal pan. Cold liquid should never come in contact with hot glass.

Oh, and the knitting? Got past my roadblock and knitted up most of an ounce of fingering weight today. Love love love how it’s coming out, with credit for the exquisitely soft, beautiful yarn going to Lisa Souza. The cobbler was to celebrate and to get my hands to take a break.

Bag it
Tuesday January 24th 2012, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Lupus,Wildlife

I emptied a 20 lb bag of birdseed into the metal minican outside and closed it up. The raccoons have bashed the lid a good one but they haven’t beaten it yet.

Behind me was a two-foot-high big empty flower pot.

You know, we could have fun with this… I plunked the tall bag in the center. Yes it looked as odd as the squirrel that tried to bury half a paper cup to grow more whipped cream. Threw a few stale nuts inside it and a few in the pot outside the bag. I like to mess with their little minds.

I’ve done this before, actually, but this is a new crowd, staking their claims on my yard as the season demands of the young and as the old give way to Nature. We do have hawks…

It took the whole morning of sniffing and standing then shying away, all of them. They knew their favorite food was in there, and I got a lesson in the keenness of their sense of smell; I’d wondered. They demonstrated. Eventually, one got the courage to climb up and then held on tight by its back feet, trying fervently not to touch the bag, its nose disappearing into the abyss, then pulling itself back up the same way.

There you go. The nuts in the pot  were claimed.

As soon as one does something they all can. One came by a few minutes later that even got up the courage to stand on the lip of the pot to try to get a good pawhold on the top of that bag so it could jump in there, too.

Paper being what paper is, the squirrel found itself doing a wild grab in the air and twisting back to earth and that was that.  And when it clearly worked out badly for one none of them wanted to try. The almonds are still in there–no chew chew through train of thought has arrived at their stations yet.

…And I’m not writing about the knitting because I haven’t yet during what has been a very busy day here. Wait: let me just go do one row, again, to get me started…

Compost me a blog entry
Monday January 23rd 2012, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Amazing how much stuff needing doing around the house gets done when the creative side of the brain needs to work something out on its own. How to get the yarn to look like…

The hard part was making myself sit down finally this evening with pen and paper to try to work out the details of what I was beginning to visualize, to actually start to do the hard work. And if you ever want an answer to a teenager whining about what their algebra is supposed to do with their future real life, send them over here to give me a refresher course to tutor us both–I could really use it right now.

As soon as I get off this blog I’m going to cast on and hope I got the first word problem right. Yes, it’s bedtime–but “Begin; the rest is easy” holds ever true. Even if it’s just one row. Start.

In the meantime, our neighbors have a compost box, *with earthworms and kitchen and garden scraps turning out good soil for their garden to grow more food with, with the remains becoming kitchen and garden scraps and good soil to grow more food with, repeat from *, just on the other side of the fence.

And today after the rain stopped, there was a black squirrel totally splayed out on the fenceline. Ahhhh…heat!

Immediately below him there was steam rising from where I knew that box was.  (I bet they get all the robins.) And that happy squirrel looked for all the world like a cat that has claimed the top of the radiator on a cold winter’s day.

You’re it!
Monday January 23rd 2012, 12:12 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

I was talking to a friend today and showed her a quick sequence of shots of Parker on his birthday: face coated in cupcake and grinning with his mom, then contemplating whether to eat more or smash more, then arms thrown high in delight: Taadaah!

She loved it; then she showed me her niece and nephews on her own Iphone.

Oh cool!

She flipped through a few and then stopped at one of her eight-year-old niece, the oldest, running happily in front of the incoming tide. She told me why she loved this photo so much.

Her brother and his family had been visiting recently and it was the first time his kids had seen the ocean. His little girl kept running after the receding water, then running back in to the beach just in front of its return, over and over and over and over, till finally my friend asked her what she was doing? (Clearly there was a perspective here that the adults weren’t quite in on, and she wanted to know.)

“I’m playing tag with the ocean!”

And a great time was had by all
Saturday January 21st 2012, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Friends

Our friends Nina and Rod were throwing a birthday celebration. And so we went.

We need a word for this: “party friends” doesn’t do it at all. Friends you really like but you only get to see when the mutual friend who knew them first brings everybody together, and then you happily catch up on the years missed. We have all always liked each other a great deal and it’s clear why Nina and Rod have been such great friends with them, and this being Silicon Valley, our lives have kind of run in parallel over the years.

But somehow these are the only times we actually see each other.

As Lou put it, “The difference between Heaven and Hell is the people. This is Heaven.”

So, um, we tried to figure out how to ask Nina to have her birthday more often. (We did suggest a potluck with great enthusiasm; there is hope. You know who’ll bring the chocolate torte.)

A leap of fate
Saturday January 21st 2012, 12:50 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit,Wildlife

I was curious to see how the lace pattern from Tara’s shawl would look in a hat. One skein of worsted baby alpaca, 3.5mm needles, there you go. (I’m told Martingale now sells a pdf of the book; Purlescence has physical copies and ships, and I’d be glad to sign one if you don’t mind waiting till I get to Knit Night on Thursdays.)

And on the wildlife front.

Young squirrels don’t have object constancy before maturity. I have thrown a nut into a large flower pot as they’ve watched and they were unable to figure out it was in there. Come Spring and a year old, though, they will.

A clearly new-around-here young gray spent a fair amount of time today trying to figure out how to reach a treat I’d made quite inaccessible; then, having spotted what he thought was a good idea, he explored how to get to the top of the barbecue grill. Which was not close.

It seemed to throw him that it didn’t feel like a tree. He wrapped a paw around the leg. Didn’t like it. Finally, after many tentative steps and much scouting around that took quite some time (can you climb up inside a closed plastic pipe? No you cannot), he managed that little bit of rocket science leap by leap to the shelf and then, standing at last on the cold metal at the top, king of the mountain, he turned his head this way and that, taking a good look around.

That huge sugarpine cone full of suet and seeds was still dangling above the porch. Getting higher up, though it might fulfill an inner squirrel imperative, hadn’t gotten him one inch closer after all. Dang. But… But…! He’d worked so hard for it!

But then…wait…how do you get out of here? He seemed to have forgotten how he got up in the first place. Down was not an option from that height. He studied how far away the olive tree was, the fiberglass ladder (he’d clearly already figured out you don’t want to leap onto that.)  It was leaning against a lopped-off trunk we’d left for the woodpeckers. And there, over there there was nothing but grass.

He was stumped.

And then I happened to open the sliding door. He panicked and took a massive leap to the tree trunk near that ladder–eight, quite possibly ten feet away. I was stunned. He was at the downward part of the arc by the time he landed and scrambled up, but he made it. Olympic Gold! The crowd goes wild!

The Washington Post declared it squirrel week, asking for photos; included in there is a black one with the outer rings of its ears and the bottom half of its face bright white, so odd that I had to look closer to make sure it was actually a squirrel. There are many reminders there of why these little animals are so funny to watch.

PIPA and SOPA box
Friday January 20th 2012, 1:05 am
Filed under: Friends,Politics

According to InfoWorld, John Boehner has been paid nearly $1.5 million by supporters of SOPA. His mouth is where his money is.

If you want to see an interesting chart of where your congressperson stands, go to Propublica’s page here. But note that half of Congress isn’t telling yet as I write.

Where are your representatives on this? Do they have any technical expertise or, if they’re uncertain, are they willing to learn from people who do? Do the merits of a cause matter to them?

Rupert Murdoch presented himself as an arbiter of moral authority on the subject of SOPA/PIPA, bashing opponents of this poorly written, poorly thought out legislation.

Follow the money, because he certainly always does.

Okay, let’s go back to InfoWorld. They have a story about seven people running two companies that allegedly raked in $175 million via pirated movies, books, software, etc, the very thing the supporters of SOPA and PIPA are talking about. The alleged perps are in various countries oversees.

And with the help of the court in Virginia and the help of those countries, four have been arrested and the sites have been shut down. All done under current law here and abroad. The system as it now is worked. Are there still problems in some countries and on other sites? Yes of course–my own book has been pirated and there are dishonest people stealing it and I know that. Life is imperfect.

But throwing out the due process clause of the Constitution–it’s just unfathomable. Utterly unfathomable.

Progress has been made but it’s not over by a long shot. Please keep writing/calling/emailing your representatives to defeat SOPA and PIPA. Your Internet and mine depends on it.

p.s. On a happier note, I got to see and hold Jasmin and Andrew’s newborn daughter Genevieve tonight. Dimples and thick dark hair and the cutest face you could hope for. She’s absolutely perfect.

Yet another hat doodle
Thursday January 19th 2012, 12:16 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

She liked it! Hey Mikey! Thank you, Deb, whoever you are, and so I felt inspired to launch into another blue and green hat. Funny how that works.

Malabrigo Rios in Teal Feather and Azul Profundo for this one.

Go Parker!
Tuesday January 17th 2012, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Family

Thanks to Skype, we got to see Parker taking his first steps on his birthday, but he was good and fast at crawling and he was just not interested in slowing down to try this walk-and-tumble thing much for awhile.

Till now, when he’s ready to go straight to running, just like his daddy did. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. Baby giggles are the best.