Watching like a hawk
Sunday January 14th 2018, 12:34 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Out late with friends, let me write up real quick…

The peach trees are showing the earliest signs of life.

There was a Cooper’s hawk a few days ago that I didn’t see on the fence till I was in the middle of opening the slider door. It glanced up briefly–and preened, tucking that head well into that outstretched wing. Clearly I did not bother it.

A dark shadow on the awning–and a Cooper’s hawk in the tree just past the fence. Wait–are there two? As if to answer, that shadow turned into a hawk flying to the other one. Two!

And another sighting, curving right right at the window.

Seems to me we are coming up quickly on nesting season, then. Territory has been claimed.


Stash diving
Friday January 12th 2018, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Finished (except for running in the ends.) And now the one after this is about 8″ along; it’s about the color of the chair this one’s sitting on.

After several days of growling at myself that I *knew* I had some beige cashmere from that mill-end of the mill-ends sale because I used part of it for Lanae’s, this afternoon I finally found it and cast on immediately. Red, black, or beige–Eli’s mom will get to choose which one came out the most to her liking. (I found it I found it!)

I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find other people who want one of those.



Dusty purple and red and sprinkles of light
Thursday January 11th 2018, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Squiggles and squirls… Knitting this yesterday and today has been one of those reminders that when you ply cobweb weight on the wheel from the cones, cashmere and merino fibers shrink at different rates when you scour the mill oils out of the finished yarn and the glitter strand, not at all. This was not a smooth yarn.

It’ll do. Yes I think it’ll do nicely. 

On Beyond Zebra
Wednesday January 10th 2018, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Look what came in the mail today. Fifty wool hand knit finger puppets from Peru (each with a little Made in Peru sticker that is going to have to come off before toddlers get to them.) Five zebras, one alligator, two bearded, ruffly-footed iguanas, lions, monkeys, parrots, ladybugs, puppies…

The women can put food on the table there, I can make parents with fussy kids happy here, and everybody wins. How much did it cost? The answer to life, the universe, and everything (postage included).

After all the airport time we’ve done in the last two months my supply was getting a bit low. It was time to restock. 

Space X last month
Tuesday January 09th 2018, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

I promised you guys and then forgot to post it after we got home–here’s Richard’s best picture of Elon Musk’s Space X. We were heading into a restaurant in La Jolla, 300 miles south of where this took off from, at the time we looked up to see why everybody else on the sidewalk was staring up into the sky. There was much speculation about what on earth that thing could be, till someone successfully Googled it.

Doesn’t it look like a fish that swallowed a fish?

Looks like you can embiggen the photo this time–scroll to the right. The bigger picture gives you a better sense of just how enormous this was in the sky to us.

For Rebecca
Monday January 08th 2018, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I really should make a beige one first anyway, because I remember beige was on her short list. But I don’t have a beige yarn on hand that I’m happy enough with (especially given what it has to compete with) and I think black was her first choice but I need to ask.

To back up a bit: Saturday I picked up the second vicuna/merino cowl (the one that had a mistake in that splitty black yarn that was so hard to see) that I’d started for her, finally got the mistake fixed (frogging back would have been disastrous) and finished it off. I’d started it flying home from San Diego in bad lighting–but enough of the stalling, it was time.

I went looking for her yesterday.

She and her family weren’t there.

Just as well–I should have had both colors done and in hand first. (Even if part of me thinks, hey, 7% vicuna/93% 14-micron merino, hand-plied from cobweb.) I owe Eli’s whole family for taking such good care of my mango tree.

But on my way out the door to church, on impulse I also grabbed a cowl in a deep rose that I’d made just because I really liked the color and the yarn. Merino. Hand-dyed. And it was Stitches yarn, which you know means it’s a favorite. I hadn’t worn it, I’d actually kind of argued with myself while I was knitting it because I had other things waiting in the queue, I hadn’t even thought about it once it was done, and now all the sudden it opened the door, turned on the light, unzipped its ziplock and leaped out at me all on its own. Cowabunga!

Alright, I grinned, I take it your day has come?

There’s been a young couple these last half dozen years or so who, she reminds me very much of someone I knew growing up. Not that I needed the excuse to particularly like them both. You want lime-green shoes at church or bright orange pants and a ready smile to match, he was your man and I thought it was great.

They soon had a baby girl, and blink, suddenly she was an absolutely adorable toddler with a little brother.

I didn’t consciously notice, but come to think of it I think his shoes were black yesterday. Whatever. The young dad announced, with tears, that they were moving. His wife was visiting the folks and showing off the grandkids so she wasn’t there to say goodbye, just him; he’d flown back early to finish up the packing. He thanked us all for looking out for them, and while looking forward to their next stage, grieved losing seeing us every week; “We started our family here!”

Hey, you can’t just leave like that.

I cornered him afterwards. Had I knitted one of these for his wife yet? flipping the edge of my own cowl. She was high on my list but I was quite sure she hadn’t been checked off quite yet.

He laughed. “I bet you’ve made one of those for everyone in the ward!”

“Working on it!” and I meant it. “Does your wife like this color?” reaching into my purse. (It only occurs to me just now that I never did take its picture.)

As far as he knew. “This is beautiful!” he exclaimed, his hands feeling that soft merino, taking it all in. I told him I thought it was machine washable but I didn’t have the ball band anymore so don’t hold me to it. He tried to say something about giving it back if she already had one and I said no way. This is hers.

He was so touched. He couldn’t wait to give it to her. And I think, I really think, that in that moment it helped him ease forward into the new. Taking a bit of the old with them. They wouldn’t be forgotten.

A brief interruption
Sunday January 07th 2018, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Food,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Quite to my surprise, my stomach demanded a divorce from dinner. Richard is utterly unaffected. Maybe it was (hopefully it’s only) the recalled romaine lettuce? It arrived in a produce box, overnighted in the fridge, but all I ever did with it after that was I threw it away after I read the recall alert and quickly washed my hands.

I think I just need a good night’s sleep. I’ll tell you the cowl story tomorrow. It’s a happy one.

Oh and–there was a new chunk out of the pumpkin too big to be from a squirrel.

The skunk smell was stronger inside than outside this morning (I really should not have opened that door) and the car got it, too. It probably took cover under there afterwards.

Saturday January 06th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Wildlife

So here was the plan: today the weather was clear. I was going to get a few things at Costco and then do a quick run to Trader Joe’s, in part because we are supposed to be absolutely inundated with rain Monday and that is something I don’t want to feel any complaints about–we need that water. There will likely be some flooding and there will definitely be some bad driving on the road then. We were running low on juices and Richard is still recovering from the flu and it made no sense not to get it all done today.

I wanted to finish that cowl but it was time to put it down and just go.

I decided to run home between the two stores to put the cold things away. Walking in the door, I noted that the pimply Halloween pumpkin (chosen for its oddities) was still holding court there as always but it had finally been discovered by the squirrels. Maybe time to chuck it into the city’s compostables bin, but the thing still had character to it, I was busy, and I left it there for the moment.

This, into the fridge, that, into the freezer, I walked down the hall for something–

–wait. Can you–is that?

I opened the front door and shut it again fast. Man. I didn’t see the skunk but it was right outside there somewhere in the early dark and it had already declared loudly how very unhappy it felt. I hadn’t heard the neighbor’s dog bark to set it off, and besides, it was closer than that–maybe there were two of them arguing over territory? In our yard? Wouldn’t that be peachy?

It was probably able to watch me standing there in the light of the doorway even if I wasn’t seeing it.

Let me assure you Sir Pepe Le Peu that you are welcome to all the pumpkin you want. Gourmet variety, I assure you. (I would have to open the gate and step further into the dark to chuck it and if the skunk was on the other side of that gate than I would be scaring it into a corner to do so. Let’s not.)

I waited a few hours before I finally risked all and Wonder Womaned it out of there: we now have milk and apple juice and cream for that sticky toffee pudding recipe I want to try. Do I go for the classic, the full-calorie version, or the dairy-free oat flour healthy one (with regular sugar) that sounds like it’s actually more like Trader Joe’s’s that was so good? Is there an Instant Pot recipe? Anybody made this, any suggestions?

The door is now closed tight for the night. The pumpkin awaits (as far as I know, anyway.) Let the wild rumpus begin.

The new toy
Saturday January 06th 2018, 12:18 am
Filed under: Life

It’s my Dr. Who washing machine. It looks smaller from the doorway than my old one did, narrower, somehow. It’s actually the same width and I’m not sure why it does; the angles and height on the control panel are different, maybe that’s it.

Not that you’d notice, though, because I always leave the lid up when it’s empty, both to air it out and to remind me when it isn’t.

The lid doesn’t lean over backwards for you when you open it. It’s almost straight up. I’m still a little afraid of it falling on my head but it’s doing just fine and you know they wouldn’t engineer that liability into it anyway.

You look in and that interior is HUGE. No, I mean it, it’s really big, with the tub right to the outer walls, unlike my old one; there is no space for your socks to go over the edge into that space in between and out into (and sometimes clogging) the drain hose.

(Stepping back to the doorway to appraise it again.) Bigger on the inside than the outside.

One of the complaints about the manual Speed Queens was that they looked like they used more water than most. Note that I can do twice the load of my old machine with things still sloshing easily as they should. Granted, that Whirlpool was on its last legs and I was keeping the loads small so it wouldn’t stall out on me for good the next time, but still. It all goes in, no crowding. There have been far fewer loads and it feels like I’m doing much less laundry, even though what I wash hasn’t changed a bit. I’m like the hamster that has figured out how to jump off the wheel as it speeds around, jumping back in when I want to with the wheel no longer being the boss.

And even with the extra towels in there they still dry in a third less time.

If my dryer conks out because it’s old and I’m giving it heavier loads–except that I’m probably not because there’s a lot less water weight after that washer gets done spinning–well, at least I know what brand I’ll replace it with.

And who I’ll buy it from. Good people.

Mango gardening in January
Thursday January 04th 2018, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree

Since I’m told Alphonso mangos take about six months to grow and ripen in June, seems to me our four-year-old tree has finally grown enough to be settled in on schedule.

I had wondered whether the beehive across the fence would take a winter break, but look at that center picture–clearly things are working.

This time it’s old enough to hold onto those beginning fruits, if we can just keep it consistently warm. We lost last year’s small crop by traveling in April and leaving it uncovered at night, but now I’ve got Eli to help and clearly he did a great job while we were away in November and December.

There are more flower clusters under those leaves.

Heavenly perfume or no, the squirrels still smell the latex in the sap and walk in a comical half-circle to go around it beyond its drip line (the line one would draw straight down from the outermost leaves), and always have.

So far.

One half inch less of drought
Wednesday January 03rd 2018, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I know the rest of the country is worrying about record cold and snow (stay safe, y’all!), but over here, our half inch of rain today and more in the forecast after an exceedingly and worryingly dry December is our big news.

I watched a young squirrel on the fence, head low, looking miserable: it stood there staring, as if trying to figure out how on earth it was getting soaked and what it should do about it. (Well, you know, you could climb the toyon and get some leaves between you and that water. It’s coming from above you. You did notice that didn’t you?) It finally leaped into the air with a slow-wiggle-twist nose-to-tail, and with all four feet airborne still going straight up, at the last did the sharp doggy shake. And stuck the landing.

And the Olympics judges go wild! 9.4!

Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Politics

So the new tax bill was written to deliberately mess over the states that lean Democrat. Particularly California and New York.

We have an ambitious politician here who’s challenging Diane Feinstein’s Senate seat who just came up with an answer to that: we can’t deduct state taxes now? Fine–what if we offer opting out of paying state taxes. Charitable contributions are still deductible, we’ll just set this up so… Quote: “Our hard-earned tax dollars should not be subject to double-taxation, especially not to line the pockets of the Trump family, hedge fund managers and private jet owners.” Alright then, he says. We’ll just finish writing up this bill, and then, you can donate to a state fund instead. We’ll make the contribution to the state funds 100% deductible on your state taxes–which means you can deduct it from your Federal.

Which will mess up their numbers. So sad.

Well, at least one of them did the right thing
Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I’m spoiled. I’m used to Southwest, which doesn’t charge change fees, doesn’t charge for two bags, and if you have to cancel a flight right up to the beginning of boarding time they’ll let you apply the funds to another flight within the year. (If you want full refundability, you have to pay top price upfront on the flight, but you can do that.) The people who work for them are better treated than some in the industry, and it shows.

Alaska Airlines is also a pretty happy group to fly with, and if you get their credit card they’ll waive the $25 fee on that first bag and at the moment offer you a BOGO on a flight. Cool.

But if you want to be able to avoid large change fees or cancel your flight with them and get a refund you need to pay an outside company that they contract with for flight insurance.

Maybe one answer to today’s experience is, don’t ask a question on a major holiday, but…

A month ago we asked my sister-in-law when she was going to need to be out of town so we could plan ahead to cover for her on taking care of DadH. March? Booked, done, thanks, we’re coming, enjoy your trip.

I contacted that secondary company and explained why we could no longer go to see my father-in-law.

They emailed back that we could only cancel and be reimbursed if there were an emergency from their restricted, specified list, which she did not give me, and she offered her condolences but implied we were not eligible.

My jaw hit the floor. Death?! Is not considered an emergency re the trip?! I could see my husband again, phone in hand, worried over what he’d just heard as his dad gave out on him, dialing his brother to find out what was going on and to make sure his brother knew something was wrong right now, wishing he were there himself so he could do something. Thanks, customer rep, it was emergency enough for us.

Their last paragraph, they told me to contact Alaska. Uh, yes. Most definitely.

The airline guy said okay: we need a form from the funeral home and then for you to call us back after you have it; I have a note on your file now, and they will let you reapply those funds to any travel within the year after you do so. I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

(They were doing what they should do. Good.) I thanked him, relieved to be working with a decent human being who cared.

It sounded like he was required as part of his job to ask me this next, given the wince in his voice with: Was I sure I didn’t want to fly to Ft. Worth in March?

Sir, he’s gone…

I’m so sorry…

But that flight insurer. I’d always checked that expensive box on Alaska Airline’s website the three times I’ve flown with them, because autoimmune flares can squirrelize any plan. I think we’re done.