How do you pin it down
Tuesday December 15th 2015, 12:13 am
Filed under: Family,Food

I don’t need to eat any cookies. I do need to bake cookies, though, clearly.

I’ve never signed for a package from St. Petersburg, Russia before–there’s some novelty right there. Then it made sense that if we’re going to bake with it, pre-Christmas would be the most likely time so we decided to open the box. (Ed. to add Tuesday, in retrospect it may have been the package for Richard that was the one needing the signing.)

The rolling middle part is 8″ long–it’s not huge, but then, I have one that is nothing but huge and weighs a ton and this is a nice change.

I’m suddenly wondering: some of the vendors offer custom designs of your choice. I’m picturing that moment when you first pick up a lace shawl when it’s done blocking, swing it around your shoulders and feel like it’s the prettiest thing you ever made–could you make cookies embossed to match that lace?

Okay, though, wait, one step at a time here.

I know you have to refrigerate the dough and I know you have to flour the pin and I know you have to try to keep the cookies from being drowned in that flour; I’ve never even seen much less used a laser-engraved rolling pin before so the rest is all a great big unknown. Hopefully not for long and hopefully not with a steep learning curve, and all helpful hints are welcome (please!) Would powdered sugar instead of flour work to keep the dough from sticking to the pin? Cocoa?

It came with its creator’s favorite recipe. They have cream cheese in Russia? Is it anything like ours? If you’ve ever had fresh cream cheese it’s a bit different from our standard Philadelphia-type. (And I don’t have any of either at hand–yet.)

I think we’re going to have fun with this.

And Dick Van Dyke turned 90 today. Pass the chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Monday December 14th 2015, 12:08 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

It was a very good day filled with friends and family and food and love (thank you for that dinner, Michelle!) and I suddenly realized with a start that it’s nearly 11:00 and we’re done here.

Leftover creme brûlée, macaroons, and homemade cranberry coffee cake brought to the door still warm from the oven (thank you, Phyllis!) for breakfasts to come.

Good eve-ning
Saturday December 12th 2015, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Life

Had more energy, got more done today.

And on my birthday eve, via the Vox news site, I found this. I think I need to go knit more. Call on the phone more. Visit more. Love more fully.

Sunday’s child
Friday December 11th 2015, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

So what do you want for your birthday dinner? they asked me, trying to plan Saturday’s grocery trip(s).

You know, I could muse on that all day. What would make the most perfect grouping of foods you could hope for? Within reasonable preparation? (I think turducken is right out, as is anything alcohol for us.)

Anybody got any favorite dish ideas to share or point to? An unadorned, perfect Comice pear: that would be a great start.

Thursday December 10th 2015, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

I had never had a fresh persimmon in my life before I moved here, much less known that there are two types and that if you want the Hachiya kind, you pretty much have to live near a tree. Shipping is not the strong point of a fruit that is ripe when the texture becomes a soft jelly inside.

Last year my neighbor with the persimmon tree let me help her pick and give away several hundred pounds’ worth this time of year and even so I only got to about half; the rest were too high for my telescoping fruit picker.

She sent me a note looking forward to my coming again this year and I considered for about a nanosecond, picturing that quite heavy, awkward pole and prongs swinging well above my head and the way I occasionally managed to crash it down last time, hopefully but not always entirely controlled… No, I argued with myself, just no way, this is not my year for it, concussion-wise, I couldn’t dare. Too much risk.

I offered to find replacement pickers if she needed the help and she had someone else who wanted to, no problem, thanks. And that was that.

I thought. Wistfully.

There was a bag at our door. She wanted to wish me good health and she hadn’t wanted me to miss out–she knew how much I liked them.

Suddenly it’s a harvest year to remember in a good way. I was not expecting that. Verklempt.

Please and thank you
Wednesday December 09th 2015, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Cotton and polyester glide right on by. Add spandex in, though, and the fabric is as grabby as a tired hungry toddler.

Which is how when I got up from the couch my skirt wrapped around one leg and did the rubber-band catch-and-sproing thing and pulled me right over. My head didn’t hit the floor, just my wrist, but it got a good jolt and it sure let me know it.

Dinner? Man, food just did not sound good. I told him he needed to eat and he said *you* need to eat.

Treading very. very. carefully right now. The amazing thing was saying the prayer on the food, somehow turning our attention to G_d for a moment and away from all that and as we got to the amen I felt like, okay, I can handle this now. We’re in His hands. It’s okay.

Who knew a simple thank you for our food and please bless it could be so powerful. But that’s how it felt.

(Edited to add in the morning, after the first three comments came in: I had just finished reading something when I got up. So I guess the moral of the story is, she who lifts by the close, dives by the clothes. And thank you, everybody. Still breathing.)

Approaching solstice
Wednesday December 09th 2015, 12:02 am
Filed under: Life,Spinning,Wildlife

Yesterday I saw a flash of gray out of the far corner of my eye, heard a bang–and thought, no, please don’t tell me, it couldn’t be, they never… It had seemed too big for a dove.

If it were still there, it would be in the alcove part of the deck just to the left of my desk.

I waited a minute or so and then, seeing no sign of the hawk coming in after its prey (I didn’t want to disrupt it if it were), I stood up to see if anything might be there.

To my great surprise mixed with willful disbelief, crouching down a bit and looking up into my eyes was indeed a Cooper’s hawk–so yes, apparently he had hit it. That or a dove and he’d missed catching it, but then he wouldn’t have stayed put.

Which makes me think this was last year’s juvenile with his adult markings grown in rather than our long-time resident Coopernicus, who had studied every bit of that glass and knew exactly where it was, even coming to check it out after a window washing. Whatever, this one wasn’t comfortable with the combination of my movement and my staring at him from so close and he took off for the trees. Not at hunt speed, but at least now I knew he could fly okay. And hopefully he learned about glass barriers.

Today I kept going back to my new cashmere 4-ply I spun yesterday, willing that thick hank to dry faster, petting it again and again. SO soft.

The other reason I’d put it aside so long? I had gotten it for $10 lb plus shipping because it had been in a warehouse in the humid South where the roof had leaked. It takes some washing to get the (not strong) mildew smell out and I’m always afraid it will reek when wet after being knitted up for someone else. And yet–two rounds of soaking in hot laundry detergent and it seems okay. Or real close.

So did I order Colourmart’s uncontaminated, not-mildewed cobweb weight cashmere, 1100g for $35 ppd? When I can make hanks that feel like this with it and not have to worry when I gift someone after knitting it up? Oh honey you bet.

And then there was a Cooper’s hawk again this afternoon, perched this time on the center of the fence. If it was my old friend he’d grown in quite a few fresh feathers. Dressed in his finest.

He turned to look in every direction while making no effort to hide (and I thought, oh, right, we’re near winter solstice, it’s territory-claiming time.) He proclaimed MINE to the whole world–I couldn’t hear him but I could see him.

The sun was at its highest point for the day, making his feet glow yellow, surrounded by white fluff, his chest a soft orange.

He tucked a foot up and enjoyed his domain.

I silently thanked him for sharing the day with me. He was fine with that, too, my being there didn’t bother him a bit.

At last he took off across the top of the house and not a minute later a junco, then a Bewick’s wren, popped out of the tangle of the tomato cage in relief from just below where he’d been.

I can do that. Do I want to do that.
Tuesday December 08th 2015, 12:17 am
Filed under: Spinning

You know that whole spin-dye-knit thing? Long overdue on the spinning part.

Richard bought me one of the Kickstarter Electric Eel Wheels (and seriously: they call it the EEW) for Christmas. Only thing is he’s been wishing I would try it out once to make sure it works okay before wrapping it up and pretending I don’t know about it.

Today greed finally got me motivated: Colourmart was selling their mill ends of their mill ends of cashmere and there were some listed at ohmygoodness prices even for them and the best bargains, of course, were on the cobweb weight that few people want.

I actually had a few cones of taupe cobweb 90% cashmere 10% nylon that I bought from a wholesaler years ago, and at the time I spun and spun and spun and dyed and made all kinds of things out of it. Two cashmere afghans. And then I’d just plain needed to do something else that wasn’t brown-based and the last of the cones were left half-forgotten. They take a lot of work to be usable.

Tonight I pulled two out, set up that new electric wheel, read the instructions twice, had the resident geek going over it too because, hey, gadgets, and sat down to see how fast I could make this stuff usable now.

About two hours and I had 637 yards of 4-ply on the first skein and I’ve run out of time to hank and count the yards on the second but I’d guess about 250 yards. That’s a huge payoff on the time.

But see, I had two cones of the taupe to work from. If I were to buy the black, I’d only have the one in that color and I am not going to hand wind thousands upon thousands of cobweb yards in black–I’d have to ply it with something else. (Edited to add: duh. You don’t wind it by hand, you use the machine and a bobbin. So yeah, I ordered it.)

Like red. Ooh, I like that…!

Percussive instrument
Sunday December 06th 2015, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

Forgot that when you join the knitting ends on the circ to start knitting in the round, you don’t want a mobius strip, much less something with every twist around the needles the little stitches think they can get away with. They were little kids twirling the hulahoop.

Forgot to knit with the yarn from the ball end, not the leftover bit from the long-tail cast-on, for which, by the way, I used far too little on the first try and then far too much just to be sure on the second because my eyeballing the amount like usual wasn’t working so I did that part twice, too.

Then I couldn’t wrap my brain around the very simplest ten-stitch lace pattern that is on my go-to list for brainless carry-arounds–I had to go look it up. Two sets of decreases each side? Is that right? Wait. Okay. Yes (pause) it IS right. And at last I got four rows done and the lace settling into its familiar routine.

My brain is trying to tell me I had a long day yesterday and to give it up and go rest up for tomorrow so it can get better. (The time stamp above is later by an hour than I am.) But at least I got my project started, because beginning anything is the hardest part of all.

Wreath-thinking this
Sunday December 06th 2015, 12:11 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Note the distinct lack of ornaments at the-baby’s-standing-up-now height.

A friend of Michelle’s works at Balsam Hill, a maker of highly realistic, exceedingly easy to set up fake Christmas trees, which is how we heard about them. If you ever see a Christmas tree in the background on a TV show, it’s probably one of theirs. They have a warehouse about a half hour north of us that’s open to the public a few times a year and today was one of those days.

Allergies forced a fake tree on us years ago and after fifteen Christmases it was sad, broken-limbed, a total bear to wrestle the heavy, prickly pieces together and it offered very little reward for bothering to do so. The kids finally rebelled and told us flat-out they’d rather we didn’t set up any tree than that we put that thing up again. It looked that bad.

Balsam Hill’s? The hardest part was opening the boxes. Stack, stack, stack, stack, put on the top piece, connect the lights (doing the stacking so their ends are all on the same side), done. Floof out a little if you want. They have some that just you roll out after being stored upside down, flip over with a foot pedal, voila, but we wanted a Scotch pine that didn’t have that feature. Bought it on sale in October (there’s another sale through Monday) and for the first time in my life couldn’t wait to start setting up the Christmas decorations as early as possible because I knew how good this one was going to look and how very long we had waited to be able to say that.

And then, allergies and all, we bought a cheap real wreath at Costco (it stays outside, right?) because the Balsam Hill ones, even at half price, having shot our wad and glad we don’t have to spend that again for a few decades–but I knew which one I wished I had.

Michelle wanted me to see their bird ornaments. I was curious simply to see what this place was like in real life.

I had no intention of spending a dime.


Let’s just say floor samples are a wonderful thing. We got the wreath I had so admired for half off the half off and she found a little tree. Four feet tall, came in a pot as if it were growing out of it. Turns out it was a proof-of-concept that didn’t quite make it into production, or rather, clearly, it did, but the production came to include gold grape clusters and gold long leaves and gold holly leaves and gold long needles mixed in with the pine cones and green needles that are a mixture of short and long-and-brushy. Hers has some new-growth-type tips the production model doesn’t. Hers was a floor model that didn’t even work as a floor model and with the branches squished up and not-yet-floofed, nobody else had beaten her to it. But it was absolutely beautiful. Their photos don’t do justice.

Neither her tree nor our wreath came with the box or handling gloves or 3-year warranties that they mail such things with.

But hey. The production version of her tree is listed at $219. Despite some effort they just could not get the lights to work; they shrugged and went eh, and gave it to her for all of $15.

Holy cow.

And then they loved how thrilled she and we were.

She was happy, we were happy, and re the wreath, now, um, we didn’t need the Costco one.

We got home and I called a friend: Do you have, do you want…?

Off to the hardware store. Cheap plastic that tried too hard or a nice-looking, simple, sturdy metal over-the-door wreath hanger, $4, either one. Not a hard decision.

All of which is why I am so very tired (oh and did I mention we stopped by our favorite bakery while we were in Burlingame? And ran a couple of other errands, too?) Such a long day.

And everybody came away happy. It was worth every minute.

For the little kid in everyone
Saturday December 05th 2015, 12:36 am
Filed under: Life

I put on a rather tired old outfit today, something warm enough but that I wouldn’t much care what happened to so that the things I wanted to get scrubbed would get scrubbed in anticipation of coming houseguests.

But I needed something to offset the blah fabric and effect.

And so, even if it doesn’t really show here, I pulled out my secret weapon: sparkle socks. See? Even the camera’s trying to be hush hush about them.

What, don’t you have knee socks that glitter? Santas have to have sparkle socks. It’s the rule. (That I just made up.)

Okay, done
Friday December 04th 2015, 12:01 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

No. No blogging, no more distractions, just sit down and finish that hat. Even if you don’t remember how you finished the honeycomb cables off in pattern last time.

Well all right then. 

Close to homes
Thursday December 03rd 2015, 12:12 am
Filed under: History,Politics

I know, I know, you need a break from all this. But two of the perpetrators of today’s massacre–well, of one of today’s two massacres, the bigger one that got more publicity–were found hiding in the city where we will be attending a wedding next month. We are all within six degrees of connection. Every time.

Here is Neil DeGrasse Tyson presenting the numbers we know but we don’t want to know. One. million. four. hundred. thousand. since Mr. Kitto’s fifth grade class at Seven Locks.

Here, at Slate, is an essay asking us what kind of a country do we want to live in. We do have a choice. Second Amendment and all, daily mass slaughter is just not how it was when I was growing up: our Congressmen have made decision after decision, persisting in spite of increasing consequences, that have brought us to where we are now.

Is this what we want more of?

(Edited to add this link.)

We have to wait a year before we can express ourselves with our ballots but we can sure speak up now and be heard just the same.

By my calculations, assuming there’s no increase in the rate–which there relentlessly has been every single year since 2001–that means 32,640 more Americans will be dead of gunshot wounds from household-owned firearms by Election Day next year, plus however many more while the lame-duck moldy-leftover politicians continue to offer prayers for the victims while actively doing everything they can to prevent God from helping us get ourselves out of our man-made mess.

Write and call your Congressperson (find them here) as if your very life depended on it. For 32,640 people whom you may know, it does.

A grave mistake
Tuesday December 01st 2015, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I got a notice from FedEx: my four pound package (what four pound package?) was on its way from Massachusetts (why and who on earth?), sent by…


At, and then the name of the company, Consolidated Affiliated Amalgamated Multi-Brand-iated and oh yeah we bought out that company too since you ordered from them. Didn’t recognize the corporate name either. I have no clue.

But the human name up top, that was my aunt’s name and she lived in Massachusetts for years. There are not a whole lot of Rosemarys around, much less one with her last name to go with it. (Okay, I just checked at and there are fifty-two in this country. Who knew.)

But notice I put my mom’s older sister in the past tense. Man, that concussion seemed even more spacey-making for a minute there.