Instant gratification
Sunday March 16th 2014, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

What I really hope to do is pick and deliver to her in thanks but we’ve got a few months to go on that.

I got a note two weeks ago from a friend asking if I were collecting produce clamshells for my fruit trees again this year?

Yes please?!

She collected them from her neighbors as well as saving her own over that time and gave them to me at the end of church today: not one or a few but twenty-eight identical ones, cleaned, dried, and stacked. Wow.

I went straight home and turned on the oven before I’d even found all the ingredients. I couldn’t use my own blueberries yet but I certainly had some in the freezer (right?) Yes I did.

And so a few hours later, hopefully after dinner was over, a phone call: “Will you be home the next few minutes?”

I got quite a kick out of her little girl jumping as high as she could to try to get the full view of that warm blueberry cake in her mom’s hands as she stood in the doorway of their apartment and her little boy who climbed up on a chair in hopes of being high enough up to see it, too. Cake! The baby recognized me and grinned and toddled a tad uncertainly towards us–he’s walking! Look at him go!

I told her, “I think they taste better the next day”–and added, “but it doesn’t have to wait that long.” She looked at her excited little kids and laughed, shaking her head, “Probably not.”

I got a glimpse of their happy household that reminded me so much of our own family back when I was a young mom like that.

Y’know? I should bake more often.

Sew what? Of corset was
Saturday March 15th 2014, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

The first actual blueberries of the year! (And yes that’s an empty suet cage that somehow was left on the side of the pot when John was arranging the netting over the blueberries. So there it stays for now.)

I figured I ought to put the peer pressure of having a blog to work for me to induce me to start that long-thought-of-but-not-done baby sweater. And so I went looking for my go-to site for child measurements.

Back when I used to sew a lot–we’re talking 25 and more years ago–sewing patterns had not changed sizing the way the ready-made garment industry had been doing, and ready-mades have changed even more since then. When my kids were little I bought a skirt pattern with three sizes offered and remember having had to sew the largest, grumbling that I just was not a 14 thankyouverymuch.

Which I’m only mentioning not out of misplaced pride but surprise. Because I stumbled across that particular pattern a week or two ago, long saved only because I always did really like that style. Still do. Flipped it over to look at the chart on the back out of curiosity.

And this: when I went to Bev’s Country Cottage’s size chart, there’s an adorable picture of her and her grandson by way of illustration with his measurements at five and a half years old.

I stared at her page.

“Twenty-four inches around his tummy.”

At five and a half years old. Judging by her chart, he was on the small side for his age.

A twenty-four inch waist is what that sewing pattern claimed was the standard size for a full-grown woman wearing a size 10. Blink.

I used to think the clothing industry had participated in intense size deflation in order to stroke egos and boost sales, and certainly that didn’t hurt the trend, but,  my stars. Expecting a small-to-average woman not to be the same around as a typical four-to-five-year-old seems pretty darn normal to me.

(Ed. to add, I have started the sweater for Hudson’s first birthday and so far the knitting seems to be coming in right on target at 21″ around. It feels great to finally have that thing going. Thank you all, and you didn’t even know you were helping out.)

Cutting to the chase
Friday March 14th 2014, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Life

The blue silk/merino got frogged again.

The missing W-2 has not shown up (but thankfully we have a month.)

I seem to have taken no notes on Parker’s sweater and thus must do–and trust in–a gauge swatch (I hear all you knitters laughing out there) to use the same yarn and same needles to make Hudson a matching sweater. And not have it fit his big brother instead.

UPS, USPS, and FedEx all steadfastly maintain (I held out hope and didn’t ask the last one till today) that they will not let me ship the $140-each batteries back, even if FedEx shipped them to me in the first place. No can do. So sorry. The magic words “lithium iron” stopped them right there. I left a note with the guy asking okay, now what do I do? I’ve since thought that, well, hmm, we can take video showing the one battery lighting up and the other one dead dead dead, at least.

Sometimes something has to go the way you want it to, which is why I drove to Gwyn of the fancy swiveling scissors this afternoon and she whacked off a bunch for me. It feels great.

(Edited Saturday: I found that note to Starkpower still in my drafts folder today unsent. Which would make it hard for them to answer. Fixed that fast, and my apologies to them.)



Ten forty
Thursday March 13th 2014, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Life

Where *did* I put that form?!  I know better than to put incoming tax mail anywhere other than right straight in its folder. Guess I didn’t.

Knit night was a welcome relief from a day spent trying to get all that done. At least it’s only once a year.

Rewinding all the blue squiggles
Wednesday March 12th 2014, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Every single day those peaches are bigger (she wrote, distracting herself from the yarn for a little while). There really were honeybees out and about in January. I planted those trees loving the idea of how much whole generations after me were going to be picking fruit off my trees, but I gotta say, though, the near-instant gratification part is pretty darn cool too.

Okay, back to the second edition of that shawl that was nice but never quite just how I wanted it. I’ve spent a chunk of the day going over the numbers and the stitches (rip. rip.) wondering who ever thought I was any kind of designer–while holding in mind Stephanie’s chapter about how the only way to be a writer is to sit oneself down and make yourself write. Just do it. And so I have been. (Thank you, Stephanie.)

So come on, come on and do the cocoa motion with me
Tuesday March 11th 2014, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

You know that moment of discovery that feels so obvious, so brilliant, and so stupid all at once that you didn’t think of it before? Like, to a beginner, that you can knit normal back-and-forth on circular needles, it doesn’t have to be in a circle?

And then a little later I realized that of course I’d thought of it before, I just hadn’t in awhile because I don’t do this often enough. So. Cocoa that has been opened in a humid environment becomes lumpy; my chocolate torte recipe calls for mixing flour and cocoa together before adding them in and I’ve been smushing the lumps out with a large spoon for forever.

Except when I’m not. A wire whisk (duh), the dry cocoa and flour. Smooth now as, well, newly opened cocoa.

Meantime, a little showing off of Parker’s sweater. There would be a video of Hudson walking, too, if I could get it to work here. Later.

Happy to share
Monday March 10th 2014, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Non-Knitting

From Books Inc last Thursday to literally, knitterally, books inc: they increased.

There is a monthly Friends of the Library sale and the Monday after there is often a books giveaway to clear out the leftovers. Notice is posted on

I hadn’t seen those notices in awhile. Were they waiting for the time change and more daylight? I have no idea.

I forwarded it to our ward’s chat list, and lo and behold: the daddy and daughter who were just inside the door last night receiving chocolate torte were just inside door #2 tonight at the former high school as I came in through it. They were quite happy to have heard about this. They were just on their way out and glad to get a chance to say thank you on the spot.

Bring boxes and bags, the notice had said.

No need, thought I, I’m only going to get one or two books, max, I can certainly handle that in my knitting bag.


One twist in that plan was the staff person who was disappointed that a handful was all I was taking: the thing was about to end and please, she pleaded, couldn’t I take more? There are some good ones here if you’d like cooking. Knitting? Crafts, right here.

They don’t say it, but from what I understand the majority of never-claimed books end up in the landfill. One can understand a bibliophile’s plea that they be rescued.

The books vs cane was–well, I didn’t hit anyone all those times I dropped them–and I put the first batch in my car and dove back in. Hardcover James Herriott! Wallace Stegner–still here! And I got there after people were loading up full pickup loads on my way in. A photographic expedition of a river in West Virginia that Debbie would surely love to have (it’s yours, Debbie). Another by someone who boated down the Merrimack River, which runs behind our old neighborhood, and the writing seems to be good enough to spend more time on.

The second trip to the car made it seventeen books and at six minutes to closing, arms aching, I decided I’d better give it a rest.

There will be more Cooking With Fruit happening around here shortly, no doubt.

The doorbell ditching
Sunday March 09th 2014, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

They moved here just a couple of years ago. I know that along with missing old friends it can take awhile to feel truly rooted in a new town, both at work and within the community; having school-age kids does help, and a church community, definitely. I’m glad they’re part of ours.

Good friends of theirs where they’d come here from made the news in the last week or so when they didn’t show up where they were supposed to and concerned family called 911: one of the gas appliances had leaked carbon monoxide into the house and they had been overcome too quickly to get out.

Their old friends were abruptly gone from this earth. It was one of those things that just was and was just unfathomable all at the same time. It hit home for me because that was so nearly us too this past November.

Neither of us said anything about that to the husband as he stood in the doorway tonight quite surprised at the chocolate torte he had certainly not been expecting to find in his hands of a random evening. It simply was their turn to have a grownup version of a doorbell ditching. You should have seen the delighted anticipation in his face as he looked at all that beautiful chocolate he was about to share with his kids and his wife when she got home.

It was what we could quietly do.

Beginner’s luck
Saturday March 08th 2014, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I was wrong: the first peach tree has not two or three like I thought but 46 peaches visible now. Fourteen months old. They weren’t kidding when they said that variety was precocious and prolific.

One more story on Stephanie’s visit.

A few days before I saw her, there was a comment on her blog that someone should bring a pair of needles they didn’t care if they never saw again and some wool and cast on at her talk and pass it on down and up the rows in the audience, everybody adding a bit for a scarf for Stephanie.

I thought that was a great idea! But now, you know the chances of an actual scarf being done in that hour that she would be speaking were, well, what they were. Still: why not have fun with the idea.

I had a pair of plastic circs, about 5.5 or 6mm, given me by someone who once unloaded her old everything-knitting to get rid of it.

And I had a ball of Malabrigo single-ply thickish yarn in a subdued apricot, not too thin like most of my stash, and hoped the color would do.

And so I cast on at Books Inc and started to launch into a short lace pattern–and immediately realized that not everybody knows what to do when last row’s yarnovers are coming at them and given the number of people there I didn’t want to hog the thing to do a multi-row repeat. So I backtracked and stuck with plain old stockinette and let others decide what they wanted to do on their own turns.

It went down our row, people getting into this idea with mostly grins, and then I tried to hand it to the people in the last row just behind us.

Now, I remember twenty-four years ago (my baby was two, and officially as of yesterday that made 26-2=24, so it’s easy to tell how long my return to knitting has been) I started knitting in public for the first time. I was very self-conscious about it, very sure that someone at some point was going to pounce and tell me no, no, you’re doing it all wrong, don’t you see you’re supposed to wrap it like this? Hold it this way!

Because I didn’t do it at all the way I was taught. My mom, I know now, knits Continental style and taught me thusly when I was ten. When I was sixteen, I wanted a sweater in one of her knitting magazines and she gave me the classic Mom’s line of, Go make it yourself. I wasn’t about to deliberately look incompetent by telling her I didn’t really quite remember how, though I did get her to refresh my memory re the cast-on part. Only because I had no choice but to admit to that. Mom was the only real knitter I knew.

Then I went into my room and hashed out how to work this. I remembered, as I looked at it, how the yarn was supposed to go around for a knit vs a purl. I knew you were supposed to run it between some (which?) fingers first. I grabbed the yarn for each stitch and got a feel for the thing at last and I was off and running: I made that cabled wool vest I wanted, then a wool Norwegian four-color intarsia sweater (Mom sewed in the inset front panel, bless her), all with my babysitting money, a vest in ribbing and stripes, an intarsia snowflake vest in the most gosh-awful acrylic in the horrifying shades of blue that were popular that year, a more sensible all-0ver cabled zippered white wool Vogue sweater. (Mom sewed in the zipper,  and again, bless her. I’m still grateful. And the zippers for the pockets. I was supposed to sew the fabric pockets in behind those afterwards. I still have the sweater. I still fit into that sweater. I still have never made those pockets, so those sideways zippers open to whatever I throw on that day.)

I drove some of my teachers crazy by knitting in their classrooms. My mom worked in the English department at my high school and if my teachers (Mme Whatzits in French I am looking at you) ever said anything to her she did not put a stop to it, though she did counsel me with a wry grin to sois sage.

So. I knitted, and I knitted at a good pace, but I knitted like nobody else I knew because it sure didn’t look like how Mom did it. And years later I still knew only a very few knitters and none of them lived near me now in California.

But when John was two was also when I was diagnosed with lupus and so I was in doctors’ offices a lot and I was knitting in public where there were a lot of people with nothing to do there but watch the one thing in the room that was moving (besides my kids). My fingers.

What changed everything was the woman with the British accent in the eye doctor’s waiting room who stared, and stared, and stared some more at my hands as I worked as I got more and more self-conscious in response, and finally she exclaimed, I wish I knit like that! That looks a lot easier on the hands!

That saved me then and forever after. She gave me a great gift and never knew it. Knit on!

So. Thursday night, there we were, adding rows to the apricot-scarf-wanna-be, and we handed it to the people in the back row behind us.

I had no idea we were going to be putting anyone on the spot. Several people there did not want their hands to be the ones to mess up that Malabrigo. They did not want to be seen struggling with it. There were all these people there wearing fancy handknits….

Everybody starts out a beginner and there could not have been a more encouraging place for a newbie. We said, it’s okay, this is only if you want to.

And I wished that that long-ago British woman–I was trying to *be* her–could step right up and tell them the beauty of the evening was way more than skein deep and adding on or not, they were there and that was the important thing.

I have no idea where that Malabrigo ended up after we left. We were near the end of the line when Stephanie was signing books but that still left a fair number of people. Did anyone cast it off? Did it join the squares she’s been collecting? Did she even see it?

Last I saw it at a distance someone had added maybe feather-and-fan, but whatever, a lace pattern that spread it out at the top like a tulip opening up in the spring.


P.S. Happy Birthdays John and Kim!

A lemon, orange you glad?
Saturday March 08th 2014, 12:38 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I found Chris S’s link: it’s here. The penguin sweaters story has gone viral again, and no, they don’t need penguin sweaters–but a wildlife rescue center north of San Francisco could make good use of knitted baby bird nests.

I spent today laughing over a good book, mentally thanking Stephanie for every word and marveling over and over at the feeling like I had a double out there in the world.

We moved to California in March of ’87, coming from intense cold and old grayed snow everywhere (and 269 miles southeast of Montreal) to blooming and spring and as green as it gets here.  Paradise. I’ve told the story before of juicing up the oranges from the tree in our new backyard and everybody taking a swig together–

–not knowing what  a Meyer lemon was nor that as they get ripe, they round out and smell orangey. They’re less tart and have more complexity than the usual grocery-store Eureka lemon, but they are definitely lemons.

I figured it would be great to squeeze some in her tea back in her hotel room. While not wanting to impact her luggage overly.

So I picked just the one: a little roundish, a little bit of orange, a few leaves still attached. I told her I wanted her to have the full March-in-California experience in her brief fly-in-fly-out here. (I didn’t add, I so remember what March in New Hampshire was like.)

Stephanie was delighted.  She took a deep whiff and asked if it was an orange or a lemon?

(Boy did I know that question…) A meyer lemon from my tree, I said.  (I also gave her some dark chocolate-covered edemame for vegetarian munching on the run, but anyone anywhere could do that.)

I wanted to get a picture of the two of us but forgot to hand anyone my Iphone for it. Ah well. Next time. Keep writing, Stephanie, keep writing!

And thank you Joe and the girls for lending her to us. She is treasured.

At Opera Plaza
Friday March 07th 2014, 12:57 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

It was 3:30 when I headed out the door to get my husband so I could get to my carpool so we could get to hear Stephanie on time. So we all grabbed a bite before heading home after the 7:00 talk in San Francisco.

But before I crash, I had to share a picture. Baby Jack (whose mother drove Mary and me) is not quite three months old and is just starting to nail this idea of smiling back at people–and his smile lights up the entire room.

Stephanie’s does, too. It was so very good to get to see her finally–been too long. The bookseller was putting names on post-it notes in book copies as the line inched forward and Stephanie grinned at me for the woman’s sake, “Oh, I know how to spell HER name!”

Made my day, I tell you.

Midnight. Saw DebbieR. Saw the neighbor a block away sitting behind me, who did not know that I knit (and vice versa, obviously).

More later.

Zip it
Wednesday March 05th 2014, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

The first peach of the season–there, right above the ladder as the camera aims. Then I looked closer and there were several more, like under that leaf to its right, which somehow only shows up if you click on the photo. I’ll see how they grow the first little bit and then thin them down to just one or two. I type that hoping the little tree can really do it in its second year. Squirrel-busting clamshells here we come!

Finished the Water Turtles-riff shawl I was working on, grateful I’d gotten that second Silkpaca skein yesterday–I did need it.  I was knitting it alongside a larger skein of the same 70/30 baby alpaca/silk blend from Alpenglow. To quote Kathryn at Cottage Yarns when she saw the two together, “Oh, that’s gorgeous!”

Okay, after ditching mid-row a vest I was wearing for one with buttons, I have a random question to throw out there: am I the only one? Or do you avoid wearing jackets or sweaters with zippers down the front while you knit so that you don’t catch the yarn on the teeth?



There’s no business like shawl business
Wednesday March 05th 2014, 12:26 am
Filed under: Friends,LYS,Wildlife

Two miles from home, so its territory was close enough that it could have been one of our fledglings of several years ago recognizing me: I was stopped at a light and an adult Cooper’s hawk zoomed out of the trees lining the street and straight towards me. Wow. About six feet over the center of my car while I sat there not blinking, really grateful for that red light–and wondering if the other drivers had even seen or had had any idea what they were seeing. I wondered if it was the baby I’d seen hopping around my amaryllis pots back in the day, close to the window with me on the other side like his papa likes to do.

I was across the street from the high school, and I wished I could tell all those teens that when I was in high school the bigger birds had all vanished from the skies. And look!

I saw five more raptors just on the way up 280, and on the way back a first-year redtailed hawk was standing in the grass just off the side of the freeway, presumably having just taken down lunch. It was near the reservoir where bald eagles recently built a nest for the first time in a hundred years. But no, not a juvie eagle. Someday…

Where it was, it looked like it had stopped to smell the daffodils someone had decorated the little hill with. Random acts of gardenership.

And against all the odds after having bought the original skein in December, I was able to match my dyelot with the help of Kathryn at Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco. Yay!

The shawl must go on.

Dry humor
Monday March 03rd 2014, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life,Lupus

So how was your day? he asked.

Well, I finished the purple cowl I was working on on our trip down yesterday–I’d had about an inch on it before we left, it was about 2/3 done when we got home, and today I finished the knitting waiting at the lab;  I rinsed it and now it’s blocking.

“I never saw a purple cowl, I never hope to…” he teased me with an impish grin that finishing that line might get him in trouble and skipped over to, “But I can tell you anyhowl…”

Re the lab. I guess the hyper- and hypo- thyroid autoantibodies evened themselves out: my counts that they affect are back in the normal range. No surgery and no thyroid meds needed at this time.

Roger that
Sunday March 02nd 2014, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

California’s idea of winter snow… Those are strawberry fields, the white a plastic mulch lining the rows of plants.

Richard’s cousins were blessing their baby in church this morning and so we set the alarm and drove from cities to countryside, on past Monterey to Salinas, flatness giving way to steeply winding road then to towering eucalyptus forest swallowing all but the road immediately ahead then eventually to strawberry field after strawberry field in the clouds, the occasional, blessed rain opening up on us three times and three times we left it behind as we continued on, discovering places we had not gone before.

One cauliflower field was playing ball and looking ready to harvest, then quick! Back to the strawberries, for the most part. (My table pleads guilty to agreeing with that.)

It was Sunday and the fields were still, the machinery unmanned, not a farmhand in sight. A day of rest. And of thanking for and asking for more rain.

I got about 2/3 of a cowl knitted during the long drives. I had a shawl project going at home, but I have learned to stick to larger needles in a car so that the tips are less likely to get bounced out of an ongoing stitch.

The baby was beautiful (all that hair!), his two big sisters were happily distracted by young cousins to play with in the enclosed back yard, and it was a reunion of the families of his mother and father: like a wedding, only more relaxed and with time to really get to know each other better over lunch. People brought great food.

And–earlier at the church I saw–couldn’t be. Had to be. I called David? after him as he started to disappear down a hallway without having seen us, then I thought, no, of course, wrong brother. Roger!

He turned and was suddenly startled and we did a mutual What are YOU doing here?!

He lives there. He grew up in our neighborhood (ed. to clarify, here in California, after fielding emails Monday from my siblings of I don’t remember them…) We know his mom well, attended his dad’s funeral, he’s seen us during many a visit home over the years for his kids to see Grandma. We bought his classmate’s old house over on….

Small world.

Not too far at all. We can definitely do that again.