A ghost of wind
Sunday January 31st 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

That was centered when I put that on there… You can tell where the stakes are high.

Quite the windstorm tonight. Cold, too, so the Christmas lights are on and the frost cover is over the mango tree. (A few nights ago it was warm enough that the lights didn’t trigger on till the dead of night.)

That white plant tent put on quite a show, although it’s mostly settled down now; I had to find big rocks to hold it in place, the wind was pushing the usual ones around as if they were barely there.

And then I sat in the warmth inside, grateful for a working furnace and watching it letting its freak flag fly.

Done and almost done
Saturday January 30th 2016, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

It’s strange walking through a grocery store thinking oh wait no not that no oven, oh wait not that…

I froze a half a pan’s worth of leftover berry crisp before going out of town a few weeks ago and it is silly and funny how important that crisp feels now: we will have it tomorrow morning for a special treat. I make crisp all the time, only, I can’t. So yeah. Treat. It’s like we’re hardwired to want right now what we have to wait for even if we wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise.

I called a number of companies yesterday, trying to find one, anyone, that had a Bosch double oven in stock, preferably an 800 series. The 27″ size I needed would have been nice but I gave up hope of that pretty quickly–30″ is the standard. The woman at a Sears store checked her computer to see if any of the other Sears in the entire San Francisco Bay area might have a floor model in either size, since they sell them. I got nowhere.

But I did get the curious bit of information from her that if I ordered online the company would charge me a hundred dollars less than if I went to the store to do so. And I thought, are they *trying* to kill off their physical stores? Wow. At that I wanted to go in to order from her personally in thanks for her considerable time she spent on the phone with me but I really did want to see what I was buying first.

After all, we went oven shopping a couple of years ago just to see what our options were if we were to get rid of the too-random-temp one with the broken lower oven. (The unit that just blew up.) There was one brand where the back of the handle on the door had sharp exposed upper and lower metal edges the length of it that you could easily cut your fingers on, and I did: the handle looked pretty in front but the manufacturer had skimped so that the metal wrapped around but didn’t actually meet much less get seamed at the back. I cannot begin to imagine how they thought that was okay. Maybe they assumed people would order online and then simply be stuck with it?

Bosch is a good brand. But I still wanted to see one first. Trust but verify.

I finally tried searching for ‘major appliances, (specifically) my town,’ and that brought up Davies Appliances in Redwood City.

I was intrigued. I’d forgotten about them. My contractor took me to their store when we were remodeling over twenty years ago–good to see the little guys still succeeding out there.

The thing you saw first walking in their door was a Bosch 800 series 30″ double oven. And it was beautiful.

They offered us a good price, they offered us a contractor whom they said knew their stuff on the installation–that this was all they did, and they would make it look like it was the oven the kitchen had been remodeled with in terms of fitting into the existing cut-out. Shipping was free. We wanted an extended warranty? Three years or five? Five? Sure.

Sears had offered none. That had been the deal breaker. Our then top-of-the-line Thermador double oven blew through an $800+labor motherboard in three years and the second one a few years after that and you bet I wanted to spend a few hundred not to have that problem again any time soon.

The amazing thing? None of this three-week-wait stuff. It will be picked up from the distributor Monday and they will call before they come. Which might not be Monday–but it might.

Timothy started all this
Friday January 29th 2016, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Been too long since I’d had the perfect chocolate, so I met up with my daughter today at Timothy Adams for a mug’s worth and a truffle or two and for some catch-up time with her.

We saw Timothy starting to stir a pot of something after we arrived, and turns out it was a dairy-free praline mixture so my allergic kid could eat it. He poured it onto some toasted nuts and put a big piece in front of her as we sat. Just because he could.

The mug felt like enough for me right then but I’d had the kid at the counter put two–eh, make it four truffles–into a take-out bag. You can’t have Richard totally missing out, now, can you?

Michelle had parked right nearby but I’d had to circle around and settle for a spot near the far end of a long narrow alley that stretched to the block the shop is on. There was a tall, blind-looking building right up against the asphalt on one side and a series of smaller buildings on the other, including one that looks like the house straight out of the movie UP; in front of it, the alley opened up a bit as if to try to leave it a tiny paved front yard.

And so. On my way back, there was a large FedEx truck halfway down the alley and five or six men beyond, standing near where my car was just out of sight. The truck started backing up at about that point, so at least I wasn’t going to have to dodge it squeezing by. Not a whole lot of room.

There are times when one can become acutely aware of how it looks to be gray haired and walking with a cane. I fought the sudden feeling of vulnerability with the only thing I had: I offered up a silent prayer for everybody in that alleyway whoever they might be.

There were more of them than I knew: two more men were tucked up against the back of the building next to the UP house–and (take a few more steps) one had a mail cart. Okay.

And near them was a woman. She was standing holding a cart holding, one might easily guess, all her worldly belongings, with them as disheveled as she was. Her face had been exposed to the sun for a very long time and her eyes didn’t see things quite the way I would.

I found myself pulling that bright pink and white striped cheery paper bag out of my purse and asking her, Would you like one? It’s from the Timothy Adams shop around the corner there, as I handed her the dark plain truffle, thinking, Keep it simple. Just chocolate.

She let me give it to her; the men behind her were watching, smiling.

A few more steps, and the FedEx driver was a young man calling out to me. His window was rolled down, his elbow resting on the truck door, and he asked me in delight, Was that chocolate?

Yes it was, I grinned.

Can I have some? he teased, with zero expectation.

Sure! Ginger okay?

His surprised oh wow reaction meant that I’d made the right choice on that one–that he was the kind of person who would turn around and do something for someone else in response and pass it along.

Meanie that I am, I saved the date caramel marzipan for me. It lasted about three hours. I was going to wait till my sweetie got home but, y’know, chocolate-covered date caramel marzipan! Sorry, Richard–I’d have handed the guy the hazelnut praline if that’s the one that had come to hand but it wasn’t.

Not that Richard minded.

Thursday January 28th 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: History,Non-Knitting,Wildlife

1. Something serious: an article on how the whole Bundy standoff thing has been affecting the fish populations at Malheur Refuge.

2. Something not serious, except that it is in that it’s trying to address a common source of landfilling: a thanks to LynnH for pointing out a (fun!) reusable replacement for the ubiquitous to-go coffee cup. Design your own colorways.

3. Something really not serious: I guess the thoroughly-overripe, starting-to-rot grapes I’d tossed in that tall plastic garden waste bin outside the kitchen smelled really good because when I got up later to see what on earth that noise was, there was a squirrel straddling the edge of the screen door and squeezed in against the glass slider while holding tight to either side of the metal mesh as it carefully climbed, clinging and releasing step by unsure step. That screen was the only thing it could get its claws into to try to reach into that utopia that its nose just knew was right there waiting to be claimed. It owned this! (Never mind that the lid was shut. He’d figure that part out later.)

It took the little animal a panicked moment to figure out how to disengage and flee from it and me.

Actually, the Bundys and that squirrel have a lot in common.

Light my fire
Wednesday January 27th 2016, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Life

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Now, I’ve raised four kids and one of the things you do as a parent is to ask them questions in the most mild tone of voice to get them to think things through. There was no one around to hear the moment’s thought though but me.

I had turned the oven to preheat for dinner, walked out, walked back in the kitchen a few minutes later and…yeah I’d left the inside light on but that doesn’t make it do…that… !

There was no smell nor sign of burning food or anything. I opened the door carefully to see sparklers and a flat hand-size brilliance that wasn’t in the shape one would expect of actual flames and I still don’t quite get what that was but I immediately turned the thing off and shut the door.

And opened it again as it seemed to calm down. There were two spots where the burner itself was white hot and bulging out. They turned a cooler red as I ran for my camera so I could show Richard what I’d seen–but they were too far towards black by the time I raced right back.

That was the upper oven. The lower one died long ago.


Glad I walked back in that kitchen just then….


Do I call the repairman? Or just ditch the whole sorry lot of it?

(p.s. Richard just looked at it and proclaimed the heating element destroyed. Thought so.)

(Second p.s.: Anyone got an 800-series Bosch double oven? Do you like it? I think Virginia’s right. I’m tired of replacing ovens every eight to ten years, hopefully theirs will last longer.)

Skirting the issue
Wednesday January 27th 2016, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

(Picture: Kathleen and me at Karen’s.)

Laundry. All day, it felt like.

I carefully hand washed, for the first time, an outfit I’d bought to wear to my nephew’s wedding and had had hanging in the closet for several months untouched for fear anything might happen to it: a deep burgundy skirt with a flimsy-fine silk overlay, a silk-and-velvet-burnout jacket that matched. Not a sturdy pair by any means, but pretty. And a cream silk blouse with narrow vertical pleats to finish it off. (Yay for clearance sales on all counts.) I knew that overlay would take very careful steam-ironing after each hand washing to make it go back to being the right length (those shrink up like crazy but then iron out to way long, even too long if you’re not watching it), but the photos of the day would last forever, right?

Going out the door the evening of that wedding reception two weekends ago meant getting past my brother’s mastiff/boxer mix puppy without its big toenails hooking into that flimsy layer of silk and making it look like Parker’s blankie.

There was just no way. I wore something else (and was justified by said puppy doing one last attempt to jump up on me three steps from the front door.)

Now, it was a perfectly lovely outfit but in the time it had hung there unused I had questioned whether I’d really needed it, and ditching it at the last second had made me wonder even more so. My disappointment somehow became the clothes’ fault.

Karen picked me up at the airport the next day and that’s what I was finally wearing. She exclaimed over it. She loved it. She loved how the whole look came together.

I shouldn’t have needed someone else’s approval to make me feel good about it at all, and yet. And yet. She changed everything. Now, at last, I feel like I really do have something nice enough to wear to, well, the next wedding, anyway. Just like I’d planned.

Snow job
Monday January 25th 2016, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Politics

Grabbed what was closest and softest to hand from my stash and knitted up a third of the first skein of Woolfolk Far while watching the Iowa town hall meeting tonight. After shivering in DC last week I was stuffing that cabled yarn onto size 4mm needles for a thickly-knit cowl.

Which happens to be in black, because that’s what there was. The sooner I finish it the happier my eyes will be but the longer my hands get to caress it the happier they’ll be.

The Democratic National Committee had threatened the candidates that they would be banned from future official debates if they set up their own, so instead they took that stage and the questions from the audience one candidate at a time, competing in the immediate sense only with themselves, connecting better with those who’d come to see who they were. I liked it.

Meantime, in solidarity with the good folks back home trying to dig out of their record-breaking blizzard, one of my peach trees broke out in a bit of spring for them. The name of the variety? Tropic Snow.

People time
Monday January 25th 2016, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

In the last ten days I got to see so many family members I so rarely get to see. I saw old and very dear friends and at good times for those get-togethers to happen in terms of their own lives. I gained a son-in-law and a niece-in-law. My husband got to see his dad. I got some Purlescence time with old friends the day after I got home and finished my airplane project and I love how it looks and I wonder who it’s for. We celebrated a Californian friend’s birthday yesterday, grateful for all that has been and will be.

So I’ve been sitting here looking at this computer screen for awhile trying to figure out how to create a blog post out of all that overwhelming emotion, of feeling so blessed, so loved, so glad for the chance to love back and in person.

And then, (airfare and his time off work being a tad pricey and trying to tamp down the urge to book the next flight immediately), having been denied it by the flu last February, Stitches West is coming right up. There will be people there that I only ever get to see there and man, it’s been too long. I can’t wait.

Sunday January 24th 2016, 12:41 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

I got a phone call after lunch from the nursery: the Baby Crawford peach tree I’d pre-ordered in September had arrived. And it was a very nice specimen, too, turns out.

Andy Mariani calls that variety the best-tasting peach in our particular climate and I’ve eaten some of his, which is why I wanted to plant my own–they were fabulous. They also fill a gap when our other peaches won’t be ripe.

I dug out the hole (I’d actually already dug it out a year ago and then didn’t put anything there for the drought, so it was no big deal to do it again), went and got the tree, planted it, and came inside to the news: Sam and Devin had eloped today.

We knew they were going to, just not when. I finally get to call him my son-in-law and you could not ask for a better one–within five minutes of meeting him I’d thought, I don’t know you but I HOPE you marry my daughter!

He makes her deeply happy and she makes him happy too. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am that he’s a member of our family now.

I had no idea I was going to be planting a tree, the best tree, in their honor and on their day. But I like it.

Well there you go
Saturday January 23rd 2016, 12:00 am
Filed under: History

I imagine there must be, oh, say, an Emergency Directive for Federal employees when mega storms like the one hitting the mid-Atlantic area are coming in: stay home. Don’t drive in this. (The Washington Post is counting 989 weather-related car crashes just in Virginia as of 1:00 am Saturday so far for this blizzard.)

Looking at the reports, sounds like the NSA’s employees today must have gone ED-ward, snowed-in.

(Warning: this is a topical pun. Apply externally. Do not swallow whole.)

Thursday January 21st 2016, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

So here’s the story.

The kids and grandkids all came home for Christmas. The day after they left we were to go to my nephew’s wedding. Two weeks later, Richard was going to be spending a week taking care of his dad, and when I booked that airfare awhile ago, Michelle told me I ought to go off gallivanting happily somewhere while he was gone. I told her no way–we were blowing it all on air, hotel, and car for the festivities.

Which were held in southern California, where the bride was from.

Then the stomach flu happened and that was that.

But I found myself thinking of what my daughter had said and y’know? There was to be a second wedding reception two weeks later in Atlanta, where my nephew is from. We hadn’t had to pay for the hotel or car, the original airfare was transferable to a new trip (thank you Southwest!) and there you go. Matter of fact, it was almost as cheap to fly to Baltimore from Atlanta and home for a three-jog trip than to fly straight back from Georgia.

And that is how I got to see my brother’s new house, he having recently moved to Atlanta too, and he picked me up from the airport and I stayed a night with him and his wife. The next night was the reception, then that night at my sister’s, along with fourteen other people: nieces, nephews, their families, all people I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. (It’s 90 minutes between their houses–one does not go back and forth too easily.)

From there to Baltimore and I stayed at my childhood friend Karen’s. Having it be a holiday weekend made it all the better because everybody had the next day off. Given all the changes in our lives that have happened the past few years–including that one friend’s husband had died last March and her brother of a heart attack last month–it was the right time to be there, to be physically and truly emotionally present. Karen, Kathleen, Bev, Scott, Jeb (not that Jeb!), and even their mom came down by train in time to spend a few hours with us. What a joyful, wonderful time it all was. Those you love in your life are forever a part of you, and to get to BE there…

Bev and Karen and I tried to walk a bit of the canal the next day, something we’d all done a lot of growing up and that none of us had for several years now.

It was twelve humid degrees with a biting wind, though, and no twenty-something Californian temps in December had been anything like it: the slower parts of the Potomac River just above Great Falls were actually frozen, with the wilder parts of the currents still going. (It’s a lot wider than it looks in this picture but my fingers just could not push any more buttons to try to get better shots.) Canada geese were on the flowing parts of the river (never seen them there before), mallard ducks were on the still-liquid parts of the canal.

Karen motioned down the hill and grinned that if I wanted to go splash in the Potomac like I always like to do when I’m home, right here was a good spot for it.

No. No way. I know, I do, but not this time, and boy that’s sure not something I wanted to fall into, either. Brrr–I had wool knee socks, a thick wool skirt, three layers of gloves on (two fingerless), a baby alpaca cowl plus a scarf plus a hat–two, but one kept blowing off the other, its wide brim caught in those gusts, so I used it to wrap around my fingers. Over my coat and boiled wool jacket and cashmere sweater and thick silk cowl shirt and silk t-shirt I had on Karen’s old big warm parka and still the wind blew through all those layers. It was COLD. (Thermals? Who owns thermals in California? I am so going to knit me some wool leg warmers…)

I got to be there, too.

I have never been so grateful for stomach flu in my life.


Zombie night
Wednesday January 20th 2016, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The alarm went off at 5:50 am Eastern and Karen got me to the airport and Michelle brought me home.

At 4:15 pm Pacific I was sitting in front of the arrival/baggage claim doors and on the phone as the security guy walked up to my window because my car had stayed in one spot too long, with me saying into my cell, window rolled down so the guy could hear, I’m right here. Where are you?

Richard was saying the same thing.

Me to the security guard: Do you see a 6’8″ guy wearing a hat?

(Into the phone) Which here?

(Out of the phone) Oakland, where are you?

(Oh… Crud….) San Jose airport.

And that is how I spent four hours in rush hour stop-and-go traffic, ameliorated by a half hour break at a burger joint the last hour so we could both get a break and a bite and a bit of respite on that traffic. 3:30 to 8:00.

It is now 9:30 Pacific time and I just found that the load of underwear in the washing machine that we’re staying up for and that I just went to put in the dryer had a travel ziplock in the load and it had vitamin C chewables in it. There is a huge, vivid orange splotch placed just exactly so on that one pair of his…

Oh bleep. Forget it. Set it to extra rinse with that piece taken out, hope there are no others and call it a night.

Online again
Tuesday January 19th 2016, 9:10 am
Filed under: Family,Life

My nephew’s wedding in southern California that we missed due to stomach flu? There was a second reception Saturday in Atlanta, where the groom’s family was. Richard couldn’t take the time but at least I got to go. I got to see my brother’s new house, the sister who lives in New York, and my last night there my little sister had 15 at her house with lots of toddlers making their first memories of their cousins. It is amazing how much life and how much joy you can pack into a few days.

Oh just go
Thursday January 14th 2016, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I’ve been trying to remember all week to get that bowl back to Nina. This evening I saw it, knew if I didn’t do something right now I’d forget again, grabbed it and jumped in the car and knocked on her door.

She wondered why I hadn’t called first?

I usually do. Can’t begin to say why I didn’t, other than that I was afraid of stopping long enough to let the other distractions pulling at me get the better of me yet again.

Turns out her car had been in the shop, it was ready for her to pick up, her mechanic was about to head out for San Francisco, and could I take her to pick it up? Like, right now?

Absolutely! Of course!

Wow, that really worked out. Gotta love those impulse perchances.

With a funny old name
Wednesday January 13th 2016, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Knit,Spinning

I finally went to go buy a new niddy noddy. I didn’t call ahead; Purlescence sells weaving looms and spinning wheels and there’s no way they wouldn’t have them in stock.

Not only did they have a plain Ashford like my old unfinished-wood, no-frills broken one of that make but they had a Kromski.

I’ve never spun on a Kromski wheel but I’m marginally familiar with them. Of course they make niddy noddies. Even if I’ve never paid attention to the fact that they do. I mean, usually you buy one niddy noddy ever and then that’s it, you’re done, right? No point in shopping for more.

Unless you have to.They were so pretty that I almost didn’t let myself look at them–surely they were way out of my price range. Beautifully finished and turned wood, engineered to keep the yarn from slipping off the end you don’t want it to and to slip off the end you do want it to when you’re done. Nice.

Pamela saw that I loved it and steered me back to it: they were almost the same price. I was stunned. Both brands under $25. If I had known that I would have replaced my falling-apart one ages ago. (Counting on my fingers… It would be 22 years old this summer and I paid $20 way back then.)

Buying mill-end cones can get you great yarns at great prices but then you have to hank, scour the mill oils out, dry, and wind into a ball, a fair bit of extra work that’s already been done on yarns in your average shop. You can have your bargain but you have to work for it. Hanking is one of those things I just have to do sometimes.

I couldn’t wait to get to it. It was such a pleasure to hold and see that I actually looked forward to the task and enjoyed it, and that earned it its price tag right there.

To the Kromski family: well done, and thank you for this.