I know what you’re thinking
Tuesday January 17th 2017, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Conversation at dinner tonight with a completely random interjection, not even looking at them:

“That’s not pussywillow, you know.” (Suddenly envisioning pink feline hats with long fine hanging strands of knitted green leaves as a visual pun, but never mind.)

“It’s not?” He was surprised.

“I told you I pruned the peaches.”

Y’know–saying scion-nara to the overgrowth and all that.


(Side note to LynnM: I tried sending to you from my Gmail account and it too elicited the rejection message saying your server doesn’t accept messages forwarded from other addresses. But that wasn’t one, it was straight from Google’s own servers, and thus the resident geek says that the problem is with your email server. Hope this helps some?)

Look! Squirrel!
Sunday January 15th 2017, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Side note: 35F vs 67F under the frost cover layers: a new record for those Christmas lights tonight.

The day we got word Al had passed, I was outside setting up the covers over the mango tree for the evening when I looked up: two hawks were courting, soaring, circling on the wind together above my next-door neighbor’s and the home beyond. I hadn’t seen one here in awhile but I knew it was about time for them to start preparing for a family and there they were.

I wished for a closer look. I got my closer look. I just had to wait a little.

Yesterday a black squirrel was just starting to climb the fence not far from the bird feeder and my window view when he realized what was perched right there right next to the top of that board and he suddenly froze where he was.

It was pretty clear to me it wasn’t Coopernicus, the male Cooper’s that had tolerated my presence for years. I know that featheration changes over a year’s time, but this one seemed, if I were to guess, to be the young juvenile of last summer with its stripes faded out to the white chest of an adult. But at that size, male, definitely.

He let me watch him awhile. He wasn’t skittish about it. I remembered to blink and occasionally turn slightly away so I wouldn’t be challenging him, while thinking, just like your dad? He was, right? Raptors like to come back home to the territory they grew up in to claim as their own when they can.

Meantime, after awhile that little squirrel’s nose stopped pointing straight up. An oxalis plant that wasn’t quite blooming yet had caught its eye. Maybe it had a tasty bug in it. It completely forgot about the hawk right above its head and hopped down and buried its nose in among the clover-shaped leaves, sniffing around.

While the hawk craned its neck over the edge to take a good look at that potential easy meal and his good fortune.

Nahhhh… The big wings spread wide and sciurini tartare was off the menu for now.

Saturday January 14th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A footnote at the beginning: yes I asked her directly probably twenty years ago and she said he was fine but it was clear that being reminded of his illness was not something she wanted brought up, or at least not just then, so I respected that and never did again.

Today we gathered ’round to say goodbye to Lorna. Two weeks ago she was still playing the piano in church at 91. She had a stroke last weekend and held on a few days so her family could arrive to say goodbye, and then she was off to be with her long-missed George.

I was talking to one of her sons after the funeral and mentioned her elementary-school grandson who had lived with her for a year while fighting cystic fibrosis. (Having Stanford Hospital nearby was a good thing.) I had always wondered. Had he lived?

That’s Jeremiah, and he’s my son, the man said, surprised and gratified.

Yes, Jeremiah! He was a grade ahead of my oldest. She was in fourth and he in fifth that year.

The man thought a moment. He’s 35–he corrected himself without having been wrong the first time: He’ll be 36 this year.

Will be is a wonderful thought all unto itself, and in the context of why we were where we were we both knew it. I told him, Please tell him that Sam’s mom asked after him; he may not remember me but I imagine he’ll remember her.

He was very touched. It meant a lot to him.

I did not say that I remembered Jeremiah going through such a terrible emotional struggle with his disease that year and how he’d needed all the support he could get, as did they all. Now, whatever all else life might throw at him, he can always remember that someone remembered him from so long ago and that that someone still cared. Nor am I alone in that.

I’m so glad I went. We never know all the ways in which we might be exactly what someone else needs right then.

Or the dad, for that matter.

Well, you do need it warm in Alaska, right?
Saturday January 14th 2017, 12:04 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Thank you all for the kind words about Al. Much appreciated.

Meantime, here is the Montagnais snowshoe side of the afghan. (It really is, isn’t it?)

As of now, it will use three 100 gram skeins of Malabrigo Rios in white, five in Solis, and five in Teal Feather and to really get it to the length I want I need to scrounge up another skein of Solis from somewhere–or even two.

This means it will weigh more than the baby till he’s, I dunno, twelve or so.

As for dyelots, I’m already alternating sections 1, 3, and 5, which match each other, with sections 2 and 4 from a second dyelot, and right now I’m nearly done with 3. Which matches 2 much more than 1, even though 1 and 3 are supposed to be the same and 2 isn’t. So I figure at this point just throw in anything.

If I can find it. I want to see it in person before I buy. If nothing else, Stitches West is next month.

Al Jensen
Thursday January 12th 2017, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I am suddenly realizing I have no pictures, only memories.

My oldest was a new 6th grader and had enrolled in band. She needed a clarinet, and a place that rents them to kids like her was starting off the school year by selling some of their old stock over the weekend. Buying used, if at all possible, sounded a lot more cost-effective than renting endlessly and less worrisome than having a kid be responsible for something expensive someone else owned.

We knew Al had been in a band in the Army so he seemed a logical person to ask; Richard called him that Saturday morning and asked, How do you tell a good one?

Al, surprised: Why, you play it!

Richard: (oh well).

Al: Where’s the store?

Richard: Oh, it’s way down in San Jose…

Al: I’ll see you there in thirty minutes.

He must have walked right out the door.

Richard and Sam and Al all met up in that music store, Al picked out the best of the lot, and then asked what we were doing for lessons.

Richard, a little on the spot: The school…

Al: That won’t do. And he turned to Sam and made her a deal: if she would bake him bread every week he would teach her a lesson. But she would have to practice. He told us he wanted her to be personally invested in those lessons and if she had to work for them then she would value them.

And that is how Sam learned to bake bread in sixth grade. Some batches, well, Al told us years later, he took his little granddaughters to the duck pond and let them toss crumbs to the mallards, a tradition in town since the 1930s when what was envisioned as a small pool for kids, un-chlorinated because it was right next to the Bay, quickly turned into one for the birds and that was that.

Grandkid time. It’s all good.

Al had no way to know at the time that Richard’s then-employer had been laying off workers by the thousands during what was the first dot-com bust and his group was quite sure that, even though they were actually bringing in revenue, they didn’t have much time left. We were cutting all expenses to the bone. (With reason, as it turned out.)

And here was Al, saying he wanted to be paid in bread and that Sam had to make it and that was all the payment he was willing to accept.

The band teacher was so impressed at her progress that he asked her a few years later if she would take up the oboe for the high school orchestra come the next year? They needed one and he knew he could trust her to do the work to learn the instrument well.

She did, and Michelle started sixth grade and started taking clarinet lessons from Al. And saxophone. By this time we certainly had no problem affording lessons but he refused: he said Michelle had to learn how to bake bread too. For her own sense of accomplishment, and besides, he liked having homemade bread!

What we didn’t know was that Al had been putting in for retirement right about the time Richard called him that first Saturday morning and had been thinking that what he’d like to do next was to share his passion for music with kids. But he’d never taught lessons before. Sam fell into the picture at just the right time as his test case to see if he liked doing this as much as he thought he would. And he did. He ended up teaching a lot of kids. And a lot more than music–he was a deeply kind, compassionate man who taught my children what they wanted to be like when they grew up.

I got back at him, a little bit; I knitted for his wife and I sent my piano tuner to him a few times till he protested enough that I let go. But those two quickly became friends and I’m glad for that. Two very good people blessing each other’s lives.

Al grew up with a lot of fruit trees in the back yard because in the Depression his father wanted to always be able to feed his children. Plant the trees, do a little work, and let G_d help you help your own.

And so Al had a lot of fruit trees in his own back yard, which was not big but he packed a surprising amount in.

He told me something once about his peach trees and I was surprised: a neighbor down the street had told me right after we moved in here that peach leaf curl disease is endemic here and the fog and morning cool create the perfect conditions for the disease and it kills them just like it killed his, that you cannot grow peaches here.

Al roared with laughter: Of COURSE you can grow peaches here!

And that is how it all got started over at my house. The peaches, then the cherry, then the pear, then the sour cherry and the fig and the mandarin oranges and another apple besides the ones the house came with… Oh and yeah, the mango. Because if you can grow peaches, of course!

Al wasn’t in church on Sunday. He hadn’t been driving in quite some time but he always got a ride. But not this time; he wasn’t up to going.

Word came in this morning.

Al had quietly and peacefully passed away yesterday evening. It was not expected. It was not really unexpected.

He will be sorely, deeply missed. We are so much better off in so many ways for having had him in our lives. G_dspeed, dear friend.

Re Chugach National Forest
Wednesday January 11th 2017, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Which surrounded us as the catamaran floated across Prince William Sound last June.

Slowly, slowly, a glacial pace… And the interior portion will end with two rows of white just like that.

I tried to capture the texture of the thing with the camera; I’ve started to think of it as the bubble wrap blanket, although the intent was more towards an idea of tops of trees in the Alaskan snow. Even though it’s knitted pretty tightly, I think it will still flatten out once it’s washed but I am going to enjoy it like this while I can.

The back seems snowshoe-y to my eyes. (Scroll down to see their) Montagnais-style, perhaps.

If a tree falls in a suburb…
Tuesday January 10th 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Mango tree

A few years ago an enormous old eucalyptus tree, one of many in a long line on the hillside, fell across the expressway near Richard’s office at morning rush hour and fortunately hit no one. We saw it from the other side of the divided road, which was heavily littered with smashed bits from the top. Meantime, southbound traffic doing 45 would just crest the hill and there it was right there–we saw the first few terrified drivers doing abrupt u-turns in front of it and heading back going the wrong way, knowing it was rush hour and the speeds and the danger and the cops got that direction shut down immediately. I was impressed.

I have kept a wary eye on those tall flimsy trees on rainy days ever since, and part of another came down at evening rush hour today: again, the authorities hadn’t gotten there yet when we went by, and since traffic could make it around that one it surely wasn’t on the immediate list this time. They are swamped.

We waited at the next light ahead just barely out of the reach of yet another, which was leaning hard over the lines of cars below as gust after gust threatened to javelin us all with it. It felt a lot like being in an east coast hurricane. That trunk was not upright anymore. I do not expect to see it still standing come the morning.

And we’ve got it easy. We have power and heat and no flooding. They’ve clocked winds at 173 mph and there’s water everywhere: we haven’t had this much rain from Oct 1 to this date since 1922. A mudslide on Highway 17 near Richard’s aunt took out the road and an ABC7 news van (and it amuses me that none of the other news outlets identified it as such, only ABC7 did, whereas it was very clear what it was. But I guess you don’t give a boost to the competition? I mean, that’s a heck of a way to get a scoop. I can just imagine, Here comes the mountain right there, do you see it Bob? Bob? Apparently nobody was hurt, so it’s easy to joke about.)

We are not near a creek and this is a good thing right now.

Tomorrow, when it hopefully stops raining for a bit, I will go put the new (it came! Yay!) remote-read temperature sensor with the mango tree and go back to my happy old habit of glancing up at the monitor on the wall every time I walk by to see how it’s doing.

At this point, the frost covers are doing double-duty as just a bit of protection from rain-overdosed roots. Yeah. As if.

And if the sky holds its breath long enough we’ll go up on the roof and see if we can find out what made that nice loud boom up there. No sign of fallen tree that we can tell from the ground, and besides, we already cut down all the ones that threatened to two years ago.

On our property, anyway.

Oh wait, there is that one last one that could have grown over the house again by now. Guess what it is? A thick trunk, but, a eucalyptus.

With strings attached
Monday January 09th 2017, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A surprise gift from Holly Saturday had me trying to find out what this was called and a little about it. She had bought it from a Romanian craftsman and that’s all we had to go on; she didn’t know either.

My sister-in-law, whose family fled WWII-era Latvia, told me, “It is like the Latvian kokle. You strum it, holding down the strings that aren’t played.”

There are 16 pairs of strings–wouldn’t you run out of fingers? I imagine if I said that to my Aunt Joyce, who teaches harp, she would get a good laugh out of it.

With thanks to Deb for the name, pictures of kankles looked closer to what we had.

After those first two I started clicking on more things under the letter k on their Global Instruments List to see videos of them being played. There are so many variants there, and more to be discovered as I knit.

Listening to that music, Holly, are you sure you want us to keep this? Now that you know what it can do. Beautiful.


Edited to add, HollyI think I found it!

Sunday January 08th 2017, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Not much of a blog post, but I did get past the twentieth repeat tonight. At the rate I’m going, that’s about thirty hours of work so far.

Thirty-odd repeats to go and then the top edging.

Saturday January 07th 2017, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The forecast was for yet another major storm today–there were flash flood warnings for the entire Bay area, and the week to come will bring more. I remember our Hundred Year flood nineteen years ago, where I had to drive across the Bay and the water came right up to the end of the bridge (not to mention my windshield wipers died in the middle of the deluge on the freeway.) That night a friend of mine here would wake up to find her bed floating near the ceiling.

Plans were plans and we weren’t going to let go of happy anticipation that easy. We headed north to see Holly and George.

There was a little rain at the start and a little at the end but it was actually dry most of the drive there.

I am so very very glad we got to spend the time. (And I got to see Bill’s Hat before Bill did, whoever he is. He’s really going to like it.)

Gradually, looking out their picture window, those clouds were getting lower and darker–it was time to go.

There was a little rain at the start and a little at the end but it was actually dry most of the drive home.

I put a single cover over the mango tree just in case it got colder than expected–the rain itself is always cold here but it brings warmth with it–and marveled that I still felt no drops.

And then, with everybody safely inside for the evening, the sky really, really, really let us have it.

Playing de-fence
Friday January 06th 2017, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

Yesterday I saw a squirrel racing down the fence line suddenly skid with a flip that threw it off into space upside down, nose and all four paws straight up and tail flailing hard to no avail as it dropped straight down like a roadrunner cartoon. It seemed as surprised as I was. And that was when it was just wet out.

I resisted the temptation to climb up to look down into the neighbor’s side: it was either fine, hawk-food take-out or crow sourcing.

This morning not a single squirrel was touching this. Not till it melted.

Meantime, inside, the latest amaryllis stem is no worse off for having toppled itself over.

And the baby afghan continues.

Thursday January 05th 2017, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family,History

(Photo: down into the cave you go.)

This is really cool. A determined kid wanted to know what was behind that air seepage, a cave in France was discovered,  and the result is the discovery of the most ancient Neanderthal gathering place ever found, by far. Really far. 176,500 years far.

I know there are those who believe the earth is only a week’s worth of thousands of years old, based on Genesis in the Bible, and I applaud their reading of scripture and their faith in His Love that guides the universe. May I offer my opinion that G_d taught in parables from the beginning and that trying to limit Him to our understanding of physical time as we experience it here doesn’t quite work for me.

Evolution is a beautiful parable on a cosmic scale: it offers the thought that no matter what life throws at us, we can adapt and with His help even improve precisely because of our more difficult challenges.

So science in this case should not be considered (I totally set you guys up for this) an add-hominini attack.

(Edited to add, Dad, that was for you. One of the great treasures of my life all my life has been hearing my father roar with laughter over a great pun, progressing to a giggle fit going on and on and erupting at random moments thereafter. Love you!)

Didn’t spot that one coming
Wednesday January 04th 2017, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

What is wrong with this picture?

When I knit this Monday I never even saw it. It was the first time I’d picked the project up since I broke my hand mid-November, having been expressly forbidden to in the beginning by the osteopath when I described it as heavy.

Tuesday morning I caught my foot on something immediately, and I mean immediately, after I’d taken the protective velcro splints off my hand to step into the shower and fell and landed with that very same finger a bit hyper extended.

But at least it was into the clothes in the closet for a soft landing. But so I didn’t dare knit for the last two days to let that calm down. I did not want it to hurt. If it didn’t hurt I didn’t have to tell the doctor. I did not want to start the whole ten week broken finger and knuckle routine from the beginning again.

Today was, yeah, yeah, I’m fine, c’mon, let’s get to it.

And there for all my good intentions it stared back at me just like that.


Willing it to just not be like that didn’t work.

I Lady McBeth’d it. Out %*# spots!

Anyone who’s ever knitted blister stitch, I can just hear you going, Tell me you didn’t…!

I did.

I ripped out the two white rows and then I kept right on going through the next four green ones. All that needed to be gone was the white ones. All the green that was ever knitted on this thing has just been plain old solid stockinette stitch–the white interrupts it later. I ripped out an hour’s worth of extra work for no good reason other than my visual memory brain damage.

Well, it is what it is and you work with the brain you’ve got. I do like that Rios. I made a point of feeling how soft it is, of thinking how good it would be for the baby, how easy on the parents since they could launder it and how it would full together a bit when they do to help baby proof the stitches from him just a bit. Just a bit. (Yeah right. Remember Parker’s blankie after his brother was born?)

And so I knitted it back up, and then the next section, and now I’m on the one after that. My goal is to finish one 100g skein every three days, if my hand will let me. It’s coming along.

Death Star butternut
Tuesday January 03rd 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Politics,Recipes

So today the House of Representatives, having decided that, Ethics Committee? We don’t need no stinkin’ Ethics! found that having the voters storm the gates by the thousands and thousands in protest meant that, Oh wait, what we meant to say was of course we do!

Meantime, we had one last Pilgrim butternut squash from the garden. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for months. There was no way my still-broken right knuckle was coming anywhere near the size of knife and amount of oomph it would take for me to break into that thing and I didn’t like that stringy variety enough to ask Richard to bother–we’d tasted those.

It was left for last because it had a bit of a Death Star look to it: a squirrel had taken a bite out of the bulbous end when it was quite young and it had crusted over and healed while the rest of the bulb part swelled and grew huge around it. I figured there was no squirrel spit inside, but still…

Sunday, the Merc ran this column. Don’t slice your fingers. Just put the whole thing in the hot oven like a baked potato. Simple.

Well, that would finally get it off my counter, at the very least. I tried it. No foil, it didn’t deserve it and it kinda came in its own anyway, I just threw it in and on second thought grabbed it back and put a cookie sheet underneath. Good thing.

I’d felt a bit conned by the ad copy claiming it was one of the best-tasting.

Well let me tell you. It is now. Or at least til I grow me some Walthams later, as someone suggested here for next time. But man that was good! It steamed and caramelized itself and the shell peeled off like paper. Still slightly stringy inside, but I could Cuisinart the leftovers (it had been six pounds) into a pumpkin pie that wouldn’t need much or any sugar added; it’s got its own this way.

It did try to live up to that Death Star persona one last time, though: it exploded at the flaw straight down onto the cookie sheet, where the sugars blew up like a marshmallow and then blackened into a finely molded dust while the smell let you know that that squash really did need to come out of there!

Oooh, but the rest of it…! I am definitely growing squashes again and I wasn’t sure of that before.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young mom of thinking I would finally put the actual fillet knife someone had given us to its purported use and I bought a live fish from an Asian market. I chose it, they cleaned it, and then I painstakingly tried to follow James Beard’s instructions on how to carve the scales off. I spent quite a bit of time ever so carefully hacking away while trying not to damage the thing and finally, feeling like an utter failure, looked at how little I’d gotten done and how bad it looked, said nuts to this, and simply threw foil around it and let the oven take care of it while I caught up with whatever my kids had been getting into during my distraction.

I pulled it out of there with the skin falling away with the foil. The idea of trying to ditch the scales and keep the skin for the perfect restaurant presentation had been ridiculous all along. It didn’t have to be the hard way at all.

Fish, squash, and Congressmen: they can come out right after all, all you have to do is surround them with heat.

Gotta hand it to me
Monday January 02nd 2017, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Life

Being on hold for ten minutes on the left while single-handedly taking down the tree with the right: it takes balls.