Watch where it jumps off to
Sunday November 30th 2014, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Okay, y’all, I am writing this down for me. Not for you–shoo, run along, go read the ad for the drunk kleptomaniac pet kangaroo that beat a burglar senseless (but didn’t run up the home insurance rates because it wasn’t dogbiting!) and that needs a new good home. Cheap! But only to a serious animal lover! Steel wallboard a plus.

Me, I’ll sit here quietly transcribing this for the ages. My ages. Because, as she reminded me while trying not to quite say it, they’ll be coming down on my head in no time, but meantime…

Sunday School was going on and two people were in that room who were clearly sick–so I quickly excused myself and sat down around the corner instead on the steps to the stage, glad for my knitting. I don’t like the sense of exile; I don’t like the germs; I do like staying alive. Should I have been reading scriptures to be a good example while being a bad example to the random eight-year-old going by? Ya wanna make something out of it?

Okay, then, in baby alpaca/merino/silk it is, the essence of softness in heathery royal blue, and I sought comfort in pretty yarn and good intentions of the season. (Hey, Morgan, now that I’ve already started this, what are your girls’ favorite colors?)

MJ, just a little younger than my mom and not in class just then either, came up to me.

“Have you been painted?”

Doubletake. Have I what? Surely I didn’t hear that one right?

She repeated, “Have you been photographed or painted?”

Total head tilt.

“Because you’re gorgeous.” I looked around to the other side to see who she was talking to, and I meant that.

So did she.

She asked me how old was I going to be next month? (We’re fellow December babies.) She described a little of what aging does to one’s face; I told her I’d had skin cancer off the top of my head and in the surgery had accidentally lost my grandma eyes, but I assured her I had had grandma eyes and said with a grin that I missed them.

“They’ll come back,” she nodded, and said I had it just right right now and someone needed to photograph or better yet paint me as I am. Right now, at the peak of perfection, basically.

This from the most-original-60’s-version-Earth Mother I have ever had the great pleasure to know. I so was not expecting a conversation like this. She was quite serious. (It dawns on me at last, proofreading this, that her late husband had been a serious photographer. The connection clicks: she was missing him a lot today after spending Thanksgiving with family with him absent and I didn’t catch it in time to remember him to her. I will now.)

I told her helpfully that my sister Anne was a professional water color artist, and with that she was satisfied. “Have them take lots of pictures,” she counseled me one last time before she headed for Sunday School, for Anne to work from or for my grandkids to marvel over later or to convince me or what I wasn’t entirely sure.

That stupid hair I was fussing over this morning while wishing I were way better at fussing with it?

For today, it totally would do.

Okay, y’all can come back now, I’ve put the vanity mirror down. Did anybody snatch up that kangaroo offer?

Drive drive knit knit
Sunday November 30th 2014, 12:02 am
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

Celebrated Small Business Saturday at Cottage Yarns and Purlescence. Two 100 g skeins of Cascade cabled baby alpaca/merino for a grand sum of $5.77 from the latter’s sale table, with that AmEx promotion? Yes please.

Three’s the magic number of shops, so from there we celebrated at Timothy Adams for hot chocolate and truffles. We tried first to buy outdoor heating cables from the local plumbing supply place but no such luck, so, the chocolatiers win.

And then, having been up early yesterday and then up way late for an airport pickup and then a busy day today, I suddenly crashed. I was trying to do all. the. things. but admitted how hard it was catching up to me and Richard told me to go put my feet up. Take a rest. Sit. Now.

And that is why the baby hat is (finally) done. The next one will be far faster because now I actually know what it looks like when I’m done with that particular doodle idea. And I’m tired enough that I didn’t realize till I hit publish that I hadn’t even taken the thing’s picture (she edited).

It almost matches the yarn I bought today to make a baby dress with–close enough to look, rather, like I just missed.

So I will have to make a new hat and that new dress and it will all be good. Because you can never have enough baby gifts waiting their turn.

Friday November 28th 2014, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Yeah, I went out there. But not to the malls.

Phyllis wanted to beat the crowds so we got there at nine. Meaning that while other people were out Black Friday shopping the 6am-noon specials, we were at the San Jose Harvest Festival with guest passes via Mel and Kris and having an easy time of it.

Phyllis and I both bought some of their pottery (no surprise) and they offered to hold it for us so we wouldn’t have to lug it all around, since we’d just gotten there.

Mel happened to mention to me that some of their customers had asked them how to keep squirrels away from their birdfeeders, now that they sell ceramic hangers stuffed with fleece from their sheep for birdnesting materials.

(And wasn’t that piece a birdhouse? That was new.)

“Bubble wrap,” says I.

“Bubble wrap?!” as he started to envision…

Kris blinked, “Yeah–their claws…!”

And the light reflections and the fact that it doesn’t hold still and I’m still waiting for that first loud pop.

“GENIUS!” He added, “Did you think of this yourself?”

“Only took me five years,” I grinned. Or five decades, but never mind.

I found the pomegranate folks again; I said to the woman, Remember how I told you the bottle I’d given my daughter had been bad? (She’d apologized that they must have accidentally handed me the opened demo bottle last year and she’d replaced it when I saw her in San Mateo.)


Well, she absconded not only with the new one but with some of the other stuff, too.

So I was there to buy a new batch and we swapped mom stories, our kids being the same age, and she laughed when I said with just the right amount of teasing petulance that my daughter was “Just going to have to buy. her. own! next time.”

She said the show special was one of everything they had there plus this many of the less-expensive items, your choice, this price. I bought not only that but another three of the fruit spread. Yeah I could mail-order it. No I didn’t ever get around to it but once this past year. So my goal was to buy what I wanted for the whole coming year (as if!) But I could try.

We turned to go and I glanced back just in time to see her do an overhead high-five with the guy she was working with. Caught! More laughter. Priceless. And good, I hope they do a fantastic business, Skylake deserves it.

Bought great olive oil from the couple that owns those trees.

We left when the crowds started picking up, stopping by to pick up the pomegranate box–more teasing both ways, more laughing–and then to Mel and Kris’s.

I still have two more to go before I have a dozen bowls to match the number of plates and mugs, but at least I’m now closer by two. Another toddler mug against the day of breakage and a spoon rest.

That bag looked big but I didn’t think anything of it.

I got home and started putting things away.

Wait, what?

I pulled a big box of Ghirardelli chocolate squares out.

I found a paper bag with a note from Kris.

There were handmade soaps and lotion from the milk from the goats on their farm.

Those big grins on their faces, if only we’d known. I love it. They totally got me.

Thanksgiving Day
Thursday November 27th 2014, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Torte, pies, *spiced pecans, did we forget anything? Past the cities, up into the mountains, winding through redwoods and over the reservoir (still looking awfully empty, but it’s about to rain for four days) and to the aunt’s house.

I debated explaining to a small child that her Aunt Allyson was our cousin and I, as her cousin (once removed), was Alison but I was not her aunt.

Eh. Just give her a few years. She was still figuring out that two people were answering to the same name.

The eleven-month-old started screaming during the prayer over the food, suddenly turning into hiccupy giggles. I didn’t peek to see who got to so thoroughly charm the baby back to happiness in the middle of the solemn pronouncement of thanks for all our blessings. Probably half the table.

Six and seven year olds, cousins to each other, taught me how to play the game Blink–and then, *blink*, they both pushed it away out of reach, done. We hadn’t played it yet: the fun part was teaching the grownup. They had taken turns carefully going over the instructions, each getting to do so twice, making sure I’d gotten it.

I was all ready to try it.

Nope–the younger one had won two games the last time they’d gotten together and clearly that success was not to be outdone by me. The pride, it needed savoring awhile, and her slightly older cousin was looking out for her like a big brother and backing her up on that with pride of his own in doing so. Both had big grins.

Dinner a little behind us, it was time for a–well, there were a lot of desserts. We had fourteen people and cherry, pecan, pumpkin, apple, chocolate silk pies, plus that chocolate torte. Fourteen, that is, if you include the baby. Uncle Nate felt sorry for the deserted pumpkin and helped himself to a slice–a small one by that point.

And then we braved the traffic, where so many other people were likewise returning from time with loved ones, and made it safely home.


*Spiced pecans

Have ready about three cups pecans toasted single layer ten or twelve minutes at 350 till they smell done. Will get crisp as they cool.

So, 1 c. sugar mixed with dash salt and a tbl cinnamon. Add 1/2 c water, stir, heat till it starts to boil, turn it down a bit, and let bubble away (not too high a heat) for at least ten minutes, NOT stirring, you don’t want crystals forming, till the temp is 236. (241 in the center in my pot, 235ish at the outer edges, using the infrared thermometer–good enough.) Add the vanilla (stand back, it’ll steam a little), then–and this is where it turns into real work–mix those pecans in, stir stir stir with a big wooden spoon, trying not to break them. Keep going till the mixture no longer makes long sticky threads but it’s all adhered to the pecans (and the pot). Turn onto a buttered (better) or sprayed (we had another dairy allergic there and didn’t risk butter) pan to cool.

Feed to people you love.

Wednesday November 26th 2014, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life,Wildlife

Should have thought of this years ago.

Weird light reflections. A (very faint) smell Nature never made. The edges randomly flying up when a bird flutters down nearby and probably making a squeaky sound when they do.

Nothing has dared yet actually step on the stuff but I’ve seen some grand leaps sideways in avoidance.

We had been having so many squirrels of late.

Bubble wrap. That’s all it took. Just for a little while, while they re-learn some manners. I popped a bubble or two going by but resisted the impulse to squish them all–gotta leave some to do their job.

Maybe the peach clamshells next Spring could use an outer liner against raccoon prying–Christmas packages will be coming soon and let’s hope for no packing peanuts this year, I have other plans.

Meantime, we staked out the Page orange tonight and made it ready for a tarp come hint of frost. The weatherman says our nights are still eighteen degrees warmer than the norm but the fuzz and the fat on the squirrels and the layers of sweaters on me say that no, it really is getting chilly out there.

May tomorrow be warm with laughter and good folks and good times shared. Travel safely. Happy Thanksgiving!

Granny almost-Smiths
Tuesday November 25th 2014, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

If you have room for a pot, you have room for one of these new-variety trees, although you’re going to need two for pollination if there aren’t any other apple trees around–but aren’t those cool? Eighteen to twenty-four inches across fully grown, eight to ten feet tall.

Our next-door neighbor’s Gravenstein, a locally-famous old variety, died some time ago and she was lamenting to me the other day that she misses it still.

Between our properties there was once a towering but dying pine tree  just over on her side. We had been concerned it would fall and the direction it was most likely to fall was on our house. Taking it out, though–one guy knocked on my door wanting seven grand for the job. Gack.

Then came the time in ’03 when I was in the hospital trying not to die of my Crohn’s disease the first time. Our neighbor’s response when she found out was to want to do something: so she picked up the phone and got that monster tree cut down.

We like having that part of the front yard opened up. And yet… It’s been long enough that the pine roots are pretty much one with the soil now.

Twenty-four inches and straight-up growth. It won’t block our way, it won’t block her gate and outgrowing its space will never be an issue. We can put it just to our side of the property line and still have plenty of room, and Stark Bros tells me that my other apples on the far side of the property will be all it needs to produce.

These won’t be Gravensteins but they will be tart ones; I went for the Tangy Greens to keep the critters disinterested. I have friends in the area with a Granny Smith that their squirrels leave alone.

The tree ships out Monday and with Fall planting they say the roots may well make enough headway for it to start producing the first year.

We’ve already told her they are hers for the picking. Anytime.

And then I told her why.

From see to shining see
Monday November 24th 2014, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

I’m tempted to talk about how stupid the cuts to the National Institutes of Health’s funding are, but let’s just go straight to the point (even if the research relevant to this post was paid for pre-sequester.)

So: there’s a drug long approved for treating HIV that they knew had interesting characteristics, they just didn’t know what all else it might be applicable to.

And now they know at least one new thing.

Thirty million Americans. That’s how many they expect to have dry macular degeneration within the next five years, thirty million people going slowly blind and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Till now. AZT and its newer, easier forms can be used off-label right now and they hope for testing to begin soon for this to become an approved use.  Ebola may turn out to be another and if so, they want to know. And they don’t have to spend hundreds of millions to find out safe dosage levels, whether humans can tolerate it at all, etc, etc., since that’s all been done long since.

AZT was first tested not for AIDS but as a proposed cancer treatment, which it failed at. When you do medical research you never learn just the thing you set out to learn. There’s always more to see.

(Like this, for instance. I mean, who would want to miss out on that little moment?)

Buttoned down
Sunday November 23rd 2014, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So here I was in the last meeting at church today, where we were sharing experiences of moments in our lives where we felt the nearness of God and how His love makes all the difference–and how we had been able or had come to be able to recognize that in relation to the experience being discussed, because we don’t always. Sometimes you have to wait for time and perspective to give you that ah-hah.

And sometimes it’s pretty darn obvious right then and there. There were some profound experiences shared.

This was not one of them: while all this was going on, I looked down and suddenly noticed the button had popped off my blouse right at belly button level. Somewhere, some time, presumably at church. Great. I was wearing a silk T underneath so modesty wasn’t the issue here, just, the loose overblouse was also silk and the two being quite slippery against each other, that gap showed nicely any time I moved.

I wanted my silly button back.

And I wanted this not to have happened the very first time I wore that pretty blouse–knowing, though, that for $12 at clearance I really didn’t have too much room to complain. (But I’d *liked* those buttons on that blouse!)

It finally dawned on me that I was sitting here listening to a discussion on how God cares about us individually while I was letting myself be distracted by a small inner crisis of certainly no particular account. I apologized to the Above for not paying enough attention while saying a little prayer of, if it’s findable, if it’s in this building, if I could get it back? That would really really be nice right now.

I had already lifted my purse and looked under it three times. I had already glanced all around me, trying not to be distracting to others. But at the inner “amen” I looked down again and there it was right there right between Alice’s feet right next to me. No need to worry about vacuum cleaners later.

I dived down quickly and held up my prize in triumph for a nanosecond, way too pleased.

Nobody else had any idea, of course.

Object lesson to the lesson, I laughed with Alice afterwards. Human cluelessness, divine caring…

…And a cosmic chuckle: Go my child and sew-‘n’em more.

Winter coat
Saturday November 22nd 2014, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Other food sources must be low this time of year because this past week or so I’ve suddenly had a ton of squirrels arriving here. Usually there’s just one or two or none, but these were all over the place (six, seven, eight, okay, who else out there? Get out of my tomatoes!) being both destructive (do not dig up my baby trees’ roots and you. will. not. come close enough to chew on my house) and getting into fights. Remembering the time one bit off part of another’s ear, I knew how violently territorial they can get–but for the first time I actually saw one work so hard at chasing all those newcomers away that it got slower and slower and finally was too tired to continue.

All for those nasty hot safflower seeds they don’t even like.

I picked all the cherry tomatoes that were big enough to have any chance of ripening off the vine.

Several times of late, too, I’ve seen one stay right there on the patio under the birdfeeder with Coopernicus just feet away, deliberately ignoring him other than quickly flipping around when he changes places so as to always be facing him: he has always come at squirrels from behind where teeth and claws can’t hurt and a tail can’t thwap in his eyes. I have twice seen him strafe them as if to grab but I have never seen him actually intend to catch one.

And clearly they know how he would hunt them. So a few have been brazen enough to dare him to try. They’d be heavy for him to try to lift and away with.

Remember, though, that female Cooper’s hawks are about a third larger than the males and that we now have a mated pair.

I have no way to know which it was.

I guess Wednesday’s rat tasted good.

I guess someone wanted a bigger helping.

This morning I woke up to soft tufts of fur right outside the door that I don’t let the squirrels get close to: black, a bit of gray, one bit of white–belly fur. Having gone there, it had had no room to escape.

It took about an hour before it even occurred to me to override the no’s from all the childhood parental rules about touching wild things much less from dead wild things and to tell myself, Listen: you’re a fiber artist. You’ve wanted for years to stroke their fur and see if it’s actually soft and now you not only can, you can spin it!

There’s about enough to make a shawl for a squirrel. A small squirrel.

And it is very, very, soft. I finally know.

(And then after gathering it into a jar I washed my hands thoroughly, twice. My Mom and Dad read this blog. Just sayin’.)

Friday November 21st 2014, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Wildlife

Coopernicus swooped in around lunchtime, perched on the lawn mower handle and communed with me a few minutes and allowed me to admire him up close.

Right when I needed it in my day and right on cue. Time to put down the stupid health insurance company why-are-they-charging-us-out-of-network and just go be one with nature for a moment.

Needed that…

Four o’clock good?

Yes, sure, c’mon by.

And so, curious, I weighed today’s two bags of persimmons. Forty-five pounds? I’d guessed I’d picked and given away about a hundred pounds so far but it looks like it must have been double that.

A crow somewhere unseen was scolding me for that taking as I worked, and I threw a few that had been chowed down on already in an outside bin–and so it begins. The fewer the fruit left, the less danger by mobbing gangs of ravens and their smaller cousins to my hawks later, but man, there was a lot of fruit left. I extended the pole the full twelve feet for the first time (though that does make it harder to avoid snagging leaves) and could have filled many more bags, but it was time to go get Richard.

Still. That’s a whole lot of fruit that won’t rot in their yard, that the crows won’t squawk over, and that will and is being eaten by people.

And that doctor who told me to work on my upper body strength? I am so on it.

Beaded, (sing it), beaded…
Friday November 21st 2014, 12:06 am
Filed under: Friends

I got to see Janice tonight at Purlescence. She was doing a trunk show of her Beadlemania work.

We joked about the tomato seedlings she’d given me back in April and I surprised her by saying I’d picked tomatoes just yesterday–she’d pulled her spent plants already but some of mine from her starts are still blooming, even.

The raccoons had at long last clawed their way in past the birdnetting two nights ago but it hadn’t been worth the effort and they’d left the tomatoes behind. Too green.

So I’d brought them in to ripen in here, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to get the summer sweet from the heat the week before Thanksgiving anyway.

Meantime, Krista had just finished a lace shawl Janice had designed so that Janice could get to see it done and appreciated. And there was a matching teal-green kumihimo necklace and bracelet made by Janice! Krista beat me to them, as she well deserved. And wow did she look great in those.

Now, I’m someone who usually admires jewelry on other people and that’s all I need. But I not only loved Janice’s work, I loved who made them. And let me tell you–Krista made a great model.

That red strand? My Iphone insists on auto-correcting all the sparkle out. I wish I could show it to you in person.

Necklace by Janice. Handknit dishcloth by RobinM. Hot cocoa addition by me. (Oops, and that’s why it comes in handy.) A Second Treasury of Knitting Stitches treasury by Barbara Walker below their work.

Wednesday November 19th 2014, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

A plea: please don’t put out rat poisons where the rodents will get eaten by raptors, who are still  coming off near-extinction from the DDT era. Thanks.

Hope this one was organic. As I typed this afternoon…

Wow! I was on the phone with my dad, watching squirrels ambling in no particular hurry down the fencelines, one near in, two off to the right and out of sight past the cherry tree. (The side of the house cuts off my view from there.)

Then suddenly a rat–a big, fat, round-looking (pregnant or winter-fluffed?) roof rat, endemic around here and they do like to be in high places–appeared on the neighbor’s higher fence to the left, jumped down to mine, and was starting off in the direction yonder bushytails had just declared as safe.

In the daytime? Man those things are brazen.

BAM there was the Cooper’s hawk right on it! Instantly from right where the oblivious squirrels had gone. Must have been in my camphor. The rat jumped back up to the neighbor’s fence as big wings flapped right over it or maybe it was simply Coopernicus pulling up at that intersection but then he wheeled and there he was on the ground in front of my baby Page tree as if to show me, Here, lady, I got it for you. Holding it tight and standing upright to keep away from any teeth or claws, wings mantling fully out to the sides to hide his success from any potential mobbing crows overhead.

I said to Dad again, WOW! as the hawk kept direct eye contact with me his whole time on the ground, his prey succumbing between his talons, watching me tell my father what I’d just seen. I was mentally thanking my parents yet again for teaching their children to appreciate and watch the birds.

Roof rats, though, are prolific non-native pests that decimate bird species here on top of the damage they do to houses and gardens.

“Glad to help you out there, lady, anytime, just, one meal at a time is all,” I laughed telling my neighbor later as she invited him to take them all, help yourself, don’t hold back!

Having shown me he got that one, he was off and away to where the cover from the still-leafy trees would help him keep his meal to himself.

Tuesday November 18th 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Instead of a fruit picker and paper bags in hand, for today it was a chocolate torte with the ringing of their doorbell. Food for food.

She and I both had way too much fun.

It’s what I can do
Monday November 17th 2014, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

There was this sudden moment today when I knew I needed to knit for a particular person–like, yesterday. Now. Never mind the queue, never mind anything–this had to be done as immediately as I could possibly manage it.

I finished off the hat on the needles that had already been at the decrease-at-the-top stage, found the softest yarn, hoped the color was right and cast on immediately and have been off like the wind.

Knitting to the rescue.

Fuyu once, fame on him
Sunday November 16th 2014, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I followed Jean’s lead and brought persimmons to church and Richard set them over by that same table for me, two grocery bags’ worth. The table itself was covered with a basket from Deanne with a note saying Free Lemons (we weren’t the only ones copying Jean) and a beautiful flower arrangement Wendy had made that included small Fuyu persimmons as accents.

There was a young dad whose mom was visiting the grandkids from out of state. I offered her some from my bags to make sure she wouldn’t miss out, thinking, I mean, how often does she get to have these?

“I’ve never tasted one,” in a tone of wonderment.

Wendy’s husband overheard that and he pulled a Fuyu out of that arrangement and a pocket knife out from nowhere for a little instant gratification. “God’s candy,” as he cut her off a slice and explained that this was the crunchy-like-an-apple type of persimmon.

She quite liked it. She took one or two of my Hachiyas, with him and me both warning her not to eat it until it was very soft. Gushy, even.

Do you eat it like an apple?

Pre-made puree, I told her, as he nodded. Sweeter than that one, nodding at the rest of what was still held out to her in his hand.


We three talked around the subject a bit more, such matters as Hachiyas ripen faster with a banana near them giving off ethylene gas, you can’t really pick them ripe because then they’re just fruit splat, and finally she said, So–I eat it with a spoon?

Yes, that’s perfect! says he as I nod vigorously.

And I said a silent prayer: please don’t let hers split and go bad. Please let her have a good one. And I’m so glad she loved her first bite of the other type.

All the more reason to visit her grandkids come this time of year.