Rib it!
Tuesday July 15th 2014, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Six weeks and I’m ready to be done and go dive into something far smaller and faster.

But first. I need to add a few rows of ribbing–and then this blankie is *done*.

I had ten 100g skeins of Malabrigo Rios (close to the Bobby Blue here in real life) and I could have made it tall enough for my 6’9″ son to curl over his feet and up to his chin as a good afghan should do–and Hudson’s going to be tall–but when I asked him if he wanted it adult size or baby he said baby.

Baby blankets always need to be at least 45″ square in my experience. I’m somewhere around there-ish, preblocking.

So what I decided to shoot for was this, since it wouldn’t be too big: my birthday knitted right into the thing. A little genealogy mystery for the future.

Now, it helps that for me the number of months and the number of days are only off by one number: so you have this many full repeats of diamonds and this-many-minus-one full repeats of diamonds framed by a half repeat at each end, since the diamonds alternate by half motifs. Go look at the pattern framing this blog to see what I mean–it’s that one, with yarnovers instead of the more-solid make-ones.

I like how lots of little diamonds together add up to bigger diamonds, individual within and yet solid and big all at once. Like families.

I know, it’s not very diamondy looking yet. Just wait till it hits the water tomorrow.

Rocky’s revenge
Monday July 14th 2014, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

August, pried. (Milk jug offers perspective on size.) Animal-repellent cinnamon branch against the trunk, knocked way over thataway.

On the other hand, I really did want to plant a Loring peach but I just couldn’t justify having two trees producing the same kind of fruit in the same month.

It got so close. We now have two almost-ripe peaches inside on the counter next to Sunday’s tomato knockoffs. After taking out some smaller branches, the raccoon simply lopped off the top more-than-half of the entire tree by its weight, thus putting the August Pride back to about what it was when I planted it with about a third of the leaves it started the spring with.

That was a heck of a pruning job, Rocky.

Should have tracked down and bought some of those bird-netting tree-trunk-protection things I’ve seen a few times.

(p.s. But at least he left my tomatoes alone last night.)


Tabletop mining
Sunday July 13th 2014, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

This is the before picture from a few days ago. (There were a lot more tomatoes behind those leaves.)

I had the plants in pots on top of a small table. I taped many strips of mylar bird-be-gone tape to hang from the top of it and it seemed a really good idea; the squirrels raided the neighbors’ but left mine alone.

All it was missing last night, though, was the tablecloth to yank on. One good leap and the table tilted hard into the parched ground on the far side and every single pot came crashing down.

Presumably on the critter’s head.


With the actual tomatoes all apparently accounted for this morning as far as I could tell, clearly it didn’t get much for all that. Whether the plants will survive the abrupt depotting and smashing, one can only hope. They are definitely hanging loose.

Richard helped me separate and pick up so I could get back out of the sun faster–and he encouraged me, when I gouged myself on some rusty metal with dirt all over my hand, to go look up when my last tetanus shot was.

Scanning down the screen for the magic word… 2004. Oh. On the phone, the clinic told me not to risk a delay, so I went in after church (with mental apologies to them for my coming in on a Sunday. Everybody deserves a day off.)

The nurse was about to give me the shot when her computer beeped at her. She did a doubletake.

The tdap booster on my chart that I’d skimmed right past? 2010. That t was for tetanus. (Oh of course.) Dodged it this time.

We have a hummingbird-friendly people-unfriendly cactus-level-sharp-spined flowering don’t-know-what-it’s-called in our yard.

This evening I clipped a whole lot of those flowers, which are several feet long and spent and well past hummingbird prime, and poked the stems in towards the center of the table to do porcupine duty over my coveted heirlooms. Any raccoon jumping up now is going to get a snoutful.

I wonder how many broken pots we’ll have in the morning.

Baked, good
Saturday July 12th 2014, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Lupus,Recipes

Had a must-take-it-easy day so I did. A random mention: my friend RobinM said something about cherry clafouti and I didn’t remember quite what that was and went on a hunt for a recipe and can now attest that this one is really good. (Um, and I changed it to half cream. Because someone had to use it up. And I used a lot less lemon zest because it was after the mega-dyeing thing and I was tired.)

But meantime, we loaned our Aquarium guest passes to our friends Phyl and Lee and they came back tonight with almond croissants from that Parker Lusseau bakery we’d tried to go to down there but that had been closed for the Fourth of July. So we finally got to try their famous pastries–they were worth the wait.

They got the last three almond ones so they added a plain, knowing I’d hoped for a bunch of extras for the freezer.

But the best part was having them over and listening to them talking about and showing photos not only of the Aquarium and Tahoe before that (Oh, we always see a bear *shrug* Wait, you *what?* Oh we always seem to camp next to someone who doesn’t follow the rules even with the thousand-dollar fine) but also of the hyperbaric chamber that as divers they had also wanted to go see, given that there was a tour today. Also in Monterey.

It’s for divers with the bends and for those with carbon monoxide poisoning–so you bet we were interested in what that thing looked like. I would have been airlifted to the one at Johns Hopkins years ago but for the fact that the chamber would have killed the baby I was pregnant with.

Phyl’s eyes got big when I mentioned that that’s when we found out there was no ambulance service back then in the town we lived in in New Hampshire, just a volunteer with a Suburu and hope. Gotta keep those taxes down.  At the hospital, they tested our blood levels and then turned to Richard and exclaimed, You DROVE here?!

(Carbon monoxide alarms are a good idea, folks. And the law in California now.)

I said that chamber looked like a tube-shaped ambulance interior: a bed to each side, ready to go. They described how the thing actually works. They could put up to four in there.

Let’s not. Dive safely, guys.

They do.

Phyllis really liked the deep-sea Outer Banks exhibit and I wondered how often she’d seen a view quite like that from the inside.

And a good time was had by all.

At the okay, coral
Friday July 11th 2014, 11:11 pm
Filed under: To dye for

So I had this silk dress. Classic style. Got it online at a huge sale several years ago for all of I think ten bucks and hoped it wouldn’t be quite how it turned out that yes, it was. I almost liked the color enough. (The first photo totally nails it on my monitor.) It would have looked great on me when the chemo drug for Crohn’s was messing with my skin tone, but I’ve been off that med five years now.

And I just didn’t quite.

And now today, at last, I do.

I got my biggest dye pot out this afternoon and had the Jacquard simmering and stirring away a few minutes before I added the dress, no lumps of vermillion allowed.

And then I did something I would never do with, say, a merino sweater: I went at it with two for-dyeing-only wooden spoons close to nonstop the entire half hour it was on the stove, pushing, pulling, dunking, swirling, poking, stirring, making sure neither dress nor dye stood still at all. I tried lifting it out a few times to let any lines resettle (forget it, I’m not tall enough) and then swished around hard some more.

It came out with no streaks, no spots, no unevenness (that’s a camera artifact along the right)–it all took completely evenly. I am amazed at how thoroughly I lucked out. It’s not as pink as this photo says and the silk most definitely needs a good steam ironing to live up to itself again–but that’s all it needs.

Now, I know full well there are going to be some looking at the before and afters and thinking man, she sure got those backwards. But light orange with a hint of taupe vs a calm coral, for me it just totally validated that purchase at long last.

I’d always known I could change it if I didn’t love it. I just had to want to enough. Enough to risk making mistakes.

And even then, Jacquard is a reversible dye–you can boil most of it back out if it’s bad enough to want to.

Totally perfect. And even the not-silk stitching still looks good on it.


Lunar song
Thursday July 10th 2014, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Life

People here used to call northern California mellow. With a bit of a sense of superiority: we’re not crowded, we’re not Hollywood-shallow, we’re not into road rage. We don’t say the 101 or the 5 or the anything, the freeways are simply 101, 280, 580, etc, not titles nor entitled but simply an uncomplicated way to get from point a to point b.

A generation later the traffic is pretty intense in the Bay Area too and I haven’t heard anyone call this part of the state mellow in a long time.

I can’t begrudge other people moving here–after all, we did.

It was 7:30 and I was on my way to Purlescence. Past the one-time failed mall being taken apart, hundreds of trees down, the place raw and open, the rebuilding part not yet begun. Twenty-seven years of having that at the foot of the neighborhood and I’d never actually seen the sides of the place before but you sure can now.

I hit lots of green lights and things moved mostly steadily, rare at rush hour, to be rarer soon.

The moon was huge and full. Gentle light, unlike the painful intensity of the sun behind us, it was bright and white against the turquoise of the late sunlit summer sky, dancing a duet with the road, bouncing off the top of that pine, then that long tall redwood, always ahead and always on our side of the expressway. Those singing cartoons from my childhood with the bouncing ball jumping across the top of each word as it was sung so you could follow along (and maybe learn to read to the music)? Like that.  And so big it took up a lot of the view.

I came to the major intersection where two different large roads feed in from the sides and type A drivers are always trying to elbow ahead, always, always pushing to get past all these countless others in the way of them and their dinner and wheredidallthesepeoplecomefrom.

They’d had to drive down ramps that had them facing into that moon, too.

This time there was a nod and an aye for an aye, tooth for a tooth, smooth unhampered zippering all the way, not a single slamming of the brakes just a steady flowing together in the moon’s river.


I could only wonder if anyone else noticed that it had made their cars behave so well.

Sometimes all we really need is a silent moment in the presence of Nature.

What has he got in his pocketsis
Wednesday July 09th 2014, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

While I finish up one project I’m trying to plan the next. My grandkids need matching sweaters come Christmas and just for fun I thought I’d put a link here to bookmark the Ugly Christmas Sweater (TM) that did itself in in its enthusiasm. With thanks to Richard Thompson, whose Cul-De-Sac strip is the best.

(While thinking, you know, I bet I could get a soundtrack doohickey to stick in a sweater pocket, and and and… oh wait–and wouldn’t the people at church have fun when one of my grandsons pokes the on button sitting hidden in his handknit sweater in the middle of services and wheredidyoufindthat! Okay, never mind then.)

Maybe just a plain t-shirt for everyday.

Tanks a lot
Tuesday July 08th 2014, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Get your name listed privately with the auctioneer, now you can buy your very own.

The guy inherited a fortune.

The guy liked tanks.

And so the guy collected…tanks.

And the guy built a house that had clearly been designed to mimic a very spacious one.

And he built a room (to use the word expansively) off that house with a huge pipe organ in it and seating for a crowd. He invited our friend Jim to play it–the former-world-traveling-concert-organist music professor who helped a Catholic priest brush up on his skills because he was going to go play for the Pope. That sort of thing. (Jim also taught our son Richard, who would go on to minor in organ performance in college.)

Jacques Littlefield invited the Boy Scouts to come tour his tanks and listen to Jim play.

I remember staring at Jim’s email and thinking, he wants to show us his…tanks? Like, real, TANKS? And he has them HERE?!

But so we did, and we got a tour with the enthusiastic owner himself. Each tank had a history to it that Littlefield knew well. They were still functional, too, all or most I don’t remember, although the town required him to have them disarmed before they could come.

There at the end of one driveway was the propeller from the Lusitania.

Turns out the man found out he had cancer not long after that day that we met him.

Reading about the breaking up of Littlefield’s collection after his passing, that building, we’ve been there. There were certain tanks that all those young boys were allowed to climb into to check them out as the guy grinned.

He told the tale that Hollywood had come calling, wanting to have such a perfect period-specific prop in their movies. They set a bond in case anything should happen–and then they blew the dang thing up and happily paid up, having planned to do just that all along.

It still stung and he never allowed it again. Let them find their own $@# tanks if they couldn’t respect his.

There will be a museum now in Massachusetts. And some will be sold.

Y’know? My collection of wool and silk and baby alpaca yarn and fiber? I mean, to each their own and that’s fine, but I think I get to feel supremely reasonable about it all.

And it would be a darn sight easier to give away.

Oh wait. Post-assembly, I already do. Knit on, then.

They reneged
Monday July 07th 2014, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics

And poof, just like that it was gone.

Merlone Geier informed Steve Rasmussen today that their shared parking agreement that would allow Milk Pail to stay in business is, sorry dude, so last week: Phase II didn’t get city approval and it was contingent on that and oh well, tough to be the guy who’s not the multibillion-dollar company with major clout, huh.

It was all just a ploy to pressure the City after the Planning Commission had come down unanimously against them–vote for this while we don’t even tell you how we’re going to make this surprise change to the plans happen. Moving the parking structure? You don’t get to know, just do what we say.

Except that.

I keep thinking of that moment in the city council chambers a week ago where their rep called Steve up to make his bombshell announcement that after two and a half years, at long last, “Milk Pail will be able to stay as it is where it is and into the foreseeable future.”

And every face on that council was stunned speechless–and each was one thrilled. Deeply, deeply gratified. Now, it may be that for some it wasn’t for Milk Pail’s sake but rather for the relief of no longer having angry, vocal voters coming after them from now till Fall.

But I think it was about much more than just elections: in that moment, they every single one of them knew if they didn’t before that this mattered to them personally and that they wanted Steve’s business and all that it represented to the community to survive. That they wanted Steve to succeed after all these times of seeing him being the kindest man in the room no matter what, living up to his ideals when it could not have been easy, never showing the least degree of anger, always assuming the best of those utterly set to take him down after all he’d given to the community for so long.

It may well be that their reaction was a surprise to a couple of them. But I saw it and it was real and I saw the relief even in the face of the younger rep from that developer to be finally doing right by that good man.

But now Merlone Geier is back to playing the bully. They know that role so well.

Five local and city newspapers that I’ve found so far from San Francisco to San Jose had trumpeted the saving of this beloved small business and written up how glad the community was.

Merlone Geier has lost. They just don’t know it yet.

Chocolate Cherry Lava cakes
Sunday July 06th 2014, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit,Recipes

If I do this row it’ll be done (meaning the row). If I do this next row I’ll never have to do it again. If I do this one more row it’ll be done.

And so on.  The baby blanket is coming along.

Meantime, I’ve been playing with a recipe. It’s the brief time of year when our Costco sells big bags of frozen tart cherries.

Chocolate Cherry Lava Cakes for two:

Mix a spoonful or two of sugar and a half spoonful of corn starch (optional) and stir into about a cup of frozen tart cherries; cover and zap for several minutes, long enough for the corn starch to have had its needed one minute of boiling time. Let cool a bit, then blenderize or cuisinartify to make sauce. Set aside.

Melt 2 tbl of either butter or coconut oil with 1/2 c of bittersweet chocolate by zapping about 35 seconds. (The original recipe calls for it to be chocolate chips.)

Whip two eggs with a pinch of salt; add the chocolate mixture in slowly as you beat it with a wire whisk so that the heat of the chocolate doesn’t cook the eggs. Add 2 tsp flour and whip a bit more, then pour into two greased 8 oz ramekins. Or two cupcakes’ worth or hot cocoa mugs or whatever works for you.

375 for 12-13 minutes (note that my oven is slow).

Serve lava cakes with cherry sauce.

I’ll add pictures later. I’ve been too caught up in finishing up the knitting for now.

Sea otter cameo
Saturday July 05th 2014, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The promised otter pictures. (The computer is being quite insistent that they post mostly backwards, sorry.)

Peeking out from under its blankie.

Nope nope nope not getting up.

Alright, I’ll get up (dragging its blankie behind the rock for safekeeping.)

Looking more like Smokey the Bear.

You talking about me? (I’m thinking of Don as I type that–that is so something he would have said.  I miss him, and if you read this, Cliff, I hope things are going well for you.)

Smoothing its fur against the glass on its way by as the camera tries to keep up.

Giving us a good look at its flippers.

Side notes: sea otters tend to keep their paws above water to keep them warm because that’s the only part of them that isn’t well insulated and they hold paws when they want to keep from getting separated in the current.

We gotta hold hands and stick together in this whorled.

Monterey again
Friday July 04th 2014, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Him, a few days ago: So what do you want to do for the Fourth?

Me: It would be fun to drive down the coast, dip our toes in the ocean. Wait–beach traffic. Holiday traffic. Never mind.

One of the facts of life here is that there are a very few very tight windy roads over the mountains between the Bay Area and the coast.

So he proposed going back to the Aquarium. The southern route around wouldn’t be bumper-to-bumper. (Just a little, it turned out.)

Sure! I was quite surprised. How about… (Googling for the perfect almond pastry.) Maybe throw in a bakery exploring?


Except the place I wanted to try was closed today so we didn’t get to find out if the almond utter nirvana described per Yelp was true or not. But we had to love a place whose first name was Parker.

Our year’s membership was ending July 30th and at $275 to renew with guest passes again, that would likely be it for awhile. Hang in there, little bakery, we’ll get there someday.

Two weeks ago I was focusing on seeing everything; this time I was taking a lot more photos so as to bring more of them home with me.

I took a picture of the California red-legged frog for all my fellow knitters: our mascot, local version.

The Sunfish photo came out surprisingly well, given how dark the tank is and that there’s no flash allowed. But it moves so very very slowly that the Iphone got it. That’s almost the whole fish–there’s a slightly scalloped edge just to the right there, feather-and-fin style and you’re done.

I asked the receptionist to verify that our passes were good through the 30th. She checked, grinned, and said, August 30th.

August?! Really?!


She so loved being able to say that. Sometimes they offer a baker’s dozen of months when you sign up for a year and I guess since we’d come in twice in two weeks they were out to make us happy and she had great fun surprising us.

Well then. We just might have to come back to explore Parker Lusseau when it’s not a holiday. We’ll see. Oh and? The Aquarium employee who told us last time that the  place starts emptying out 4:ooish? Genius. We had the whole upper level of the sea otter exhibit to ourselves and that has NEVER happened. …Well, till the one in view woke up from its nap, whereupon a family came upstairs to see. Their kids were adorable.

Otter with its blankie pictures tomorrow.

High-altitude cat
Thursday July 03rd 2014, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

On a lighter note of utter randomness, just because I’m intrigued: have you ever heard of a Pallas cat before? I sure hadn’t. Here’s a short video of one in the wild captured on camera.

And here’s a long one of some of them climbing through jack o’ lanterns. The size of housecats, tails like someone put hairbands down them, profiles like a monkey’s, fur like an oversized chinchilla, and movements like a squirrel. Too cute.

(Ed. to add, oh wait, did I just post about cat videos on the Internet?)

In the Council chambers
Wednesday July 02nd 2014, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Politics

A member of the Mountain View City Council finally found out an hour before the meeting last night that no, he did legally have to recuse himself no matter how much he wanted to approve the project. He lived too close to it. That may well be why our agenda item scheduled for 6:30 was finally taken up at 9:00 pm.

Right there is a reason for people who don’t yet know how to knit to learn: portable, useful, gratifying, calming, and you don’t miss a thing while listening to people drone on when they’re in power and you can only hope that they hear what the community has to say.

Stitch. Stay.

They then spent three and a half hours on the Merlone Geier project that threatened Milk Pail. Geier was hoping to get final approval at long last and hoping that that guy would be the swing vote. Didn’t happen.

I wasn’t sure my 66g of Malabrigo Rios would last and it actually wouldn’t have but that my hands gave out by midnight.

When I arrived at City Hall, there was a small rally going on in front. If this passed they had a week to gather signatures to demand it be put on the ballot to try to stop it.

I said to the man addressing the group, when he said he was new at this, that I lived in the next town over and we did exactly that and we did defeat a poorly thought out development. Not only did people gather signatures but they put a copy of the petition online so that you could print it out, sign and mail it, and we won.

One of the women had made a whole bunch of signs and when she asked me if I wanted one that said I (heart) Milk Pail, I exclaimed eagerly, Yes please!

It turns out that opposition to the project had grown to include those dismayed at adding a million square feet of work space with no housing to balance it, further skewing the jobs vs housing ratio that has driven even the most modest studio apartments to $2500 rents here.  They wanted one of the proposed offices to be homes instead to at least ease some of that pressure.

And so we went in and waited.  The chambers were beyond standing room only–there was just no place left to put any more bodies in that room without the fire marshal hustling people out. The mayor asked people to be careful not to let their signs block their neighbors’ view. We were good.

The Council went over their slides and their stats endlessly. A few drawings had changed, the ten-then-eight stories were now to be six, etc.

Finally they announced that Merlone Geier’s representative would speak, followed by Steve Rasmussen, owner of Milk Pail.

The young guy with the slicked-back hair, shiny shoes and expensive suit, his face familiar by now, got up to give Geier’s spiel, trying as always to impress. Up pops a slide: a long list of all the meetings they’ve attended with the city over this.

(Well yeah dude that’s part of your job and part of their jobs. You wouldn’t still be doing this after two and a half years if you didn’t expect to make millions off it.)

But then–at the end he turned and gestured expansively towards Steve and darn if the guy didn’t smile, I mean, really smiled Steve’s way. I realized suddenly I’d never seen him looking anything but majorly stressed before.

Steve got up. He said that Merlone Geier had been helpful (while I thought, Steve, you are the salt of the earth and the nicest guy ever but that’s not a description I thought I would ever hear, not even from a saint like you) and he went on to announce that he and they had come to an agreement on the parking.

Yes it would cover the required number of spaces for his business.

Yes it would be for a long time to come. (Having his daughters inherit his business and being able to continue there for another generation had been a huge issue to the community.)

The Council sat there as stunned as the rest of us. We all clapped. The mayor reminded us we were not allowed to clap during a hearing. Okay, let’s see how loud our faces can smile, then–but the councilmen were grinning bigtime, too.

But Steve offered no details and he sat down and they had to go on debating the project while not knowing just what changes the developer was thinking of doing to make it so what Steve had just said would be feasible. Were they talking about relocating the proposed parking structure? Just rededicating some of the spots still a good hike away? Nobody seemed to ask, or if they did I sure missed it.

The planning commission days earlier had unanimously voted the project down, a complete turnaround on their part, pending the completion of the Concise Plan for the overall area. Etc.  I’m thinking surely all the public pressure in support of Milk Pail played into that.

Two hours later…

One Councilman finally asked the crowd, which at midnight was down by half and everybody could actually sit down in the seats now, how many people wanted this continued rather than put to an immediate vote. Nearly every hand went up.  And he asked Steve what everyone had been dying to know: what were the specifics of this new agreement?

Steve clearly didn’t want to endanger this shaky new truce but he tried his best. It was contingent on this Phase II being approved.

In the end, the vote: item delayed till this date.

So maybe Steve has an agreement and maybe he doesn’t now.

We poured out of the chambers at long last.

In the second picture is Jac Siegel, the one Councilman who after all this I’d vote for if I lived there. Really knows his city and a decent human being.

The senior Merlone Geier representative shook Steve’s hand, and then as he continued on by I said to the guy, with a warm smile in gratitude at their change of heart (however it happened, I’ll take it), “Take good care of him,” (motioning at Steve, now talking to another supporter.) “He means a lot to us.”

The guy went from approaching me, looking at me, to abruptly turning away and avoiding all eye contact as if I suddenly didn’t exist.

It hit me that maybe he was wondering if anyone in *his* business world would say words of support like that about him in such personal terms–maybe that’s not fair of me, but his sudden stricken change of demeanor was memorable. My heart went out to him, not that he would know that.

Steve loved my sign. I told him I really couldn’t take credit for it. The woman who had given it to me had gone home, though, so when I knew he wanted it, absolutely, I’d be honored.

He sent me a short note today thanking me for coming and saying that sign was in his kitchen now.

I took great comfort in that.

Wednesday July 02nd 2014, 12:59 am
Filed under: Politics

City Council meeting till 12:30 am. More tomorrow.