A quick note after celebrating our friend Lee’s birthday
Saturday June 15th 2019, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

My sister-and brother-in-law are arriving this coming week.

Ripen fast, guys.

Warm comfort
Friday June 14th 2019, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

So there was this big, soft, lace shawl. The yarn is lovely, dyed by Lisa Souza. I made it awhile ago, and if I were making it now I’d finesse a few things on it pattern-wise but it is what it is.

For quite awhile I’ve thought it would be just the colors for J. She would love it. It’s pretty.

And yet nothing came of that–it sat there, when it could actually be doing something for her, and that bugged me.

And yet every time I started in the direction of mailing it to her, somehow…it…fizzled out, and I could see no excuse for that. I would search for faults in myself as to why, faults in it, wondering if not that then what was I going to make her and, in the middle of my major afghan project, when?

Yesterday, and from my physical distance where I don’t see her day to day I wasn’t expecting this at all, she opened up. A little, but also a lot. About dealing with the anniversaries of, separately, her mother and her 20-year-old son, and it was not a good day. I knew her father had also recently passed. Things were sufficiently hard that she wasn’t sure that she could continue on through the pain.

We talked about that a little, with me saying there are people I do not and will not know how to comfort the same way she can. I’ve never had to order the plug pulled on my loved one. I’ve never borne that heavy a weight. Only she can help the next person through it. The world needs her and the compassion she brings to everyone around her.

And then I told her I would give her a tracking number in the morning.

She instantly knew what I was up to–what it would be she had no idea, but, she’s totally on to me. Which was part of the point: giving her something in tomorrow and the next day and the next (since it’s the weekend) to look forward to and then have as a reminder for all of her life to come of just how much she is loved. I plan to message her another tracking number next week with something different. One. Day. At. A. Time. Till it gets better. It can. It will. I’m there for her.

That trip to the post office was one of the most important I have ever done and today is the day it needed to happen.

Protecting others is the right thing to do
Thursday June 13th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

(Dwarf hydrangea from a florist, a gift a few years ago from my friend Edie that has naturalized beautifully in my yard.)

One of my friends had someone hijack her FB post to take it on an anti-vaxxer rant.

Which helped me walk away from the whole thing and go finish that fifteenth long afghan row of the day.

But while I was knitting, just amazed yet again that someone would be so afraid of autism that even if vaccines caused it, which they don’t, that they would be willing to hurt or kill my child or theirs or anybody on chemo or any child too young for their shots–to try not to have to parent a kid who saw the world differently? Huh?

And then the sudden thought. I know from a friend with a severely autistic son that statistically the people most likely to have an autistic child already have one–there is a clear genetic component.

But still, the question I might ask the next such person is this: If someone came up with a vaccine to protect against developing autism, would you give it to your child?

Loud restaurant
Wednesday June 12th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

How I managed to polish off nearly my entire big piece of whipped-cream-and-berry-stuffed birthday cake afterwards. (Happy 80th, Mary!)

It was the day of the annual lupus-group lunch before we close shop for the summer. We’ve gone to the same place three years now by mutual agreement.

And…the menu was the same as those last two times, pretty much. Those six lunch entrees. Everybody loves them but man, doesn’t the chef get bored?

I have this weird low-fiber diet as an ileostomy patient and have learned at the cost of a five-day intubation that I must not eat certain foods.


Yeah their hamburger is the best I’ve ever had but c’mon. So I ordered an appetizer that was safe and asked what the soup of the day was. (Soup being cooked. Cooking breaks down fiber.) Beef? Sounds good, thanks, that, too.

The waiter left and I went, Wait. Did he say… ¬†…Beet?

No, the others reassured me, He said beef.

It didn’t occur to any of us that there was a third possibility. Oops.

I have never had such a good cake with so many calories with so little guilt. Celebrated Mary next to me with gusto. We did it right.

Orville Ratenpecker
Tuesday June 11th 2019, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The local paper says that we were the hottest area in the US yesterday, while setting all kinds of records.

Today was 103 again. But the power held.

So, on another subject: my owl popcorn popper was being closely observed by a male Cooper’s hawk on the power lines at rat o’clock (dusk) last night–so much so that my being outside watering my tomatoes didn’t keep him away. I looked up, went oh sorry, and quickly stepped inside and out of his way.

I think that’s the first time one of the hawks has tolerated my being outside with them.

He may have been looking for seconds: there’s been no sign of the rat for a week.

Good to know he’s on it.

93 tomorrow sounds downright balmy
Monday June 10th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

102, 104, 106–It all depended on which thermometer or weather report you were paying attention to. But it was hot.

And as I sat quietly knitting I thought, the Enron scandal with the corrupt contracts and the rolling blackouts–those are long over with. (Part of me thought, But don’t they still do rolling blackouts down south?) Yay for air conditioning. ¬†Lupus patients don’t do well in high heat, but then, who does, right.

I got up to nuke myself a quick late lunch and grab a glass of milk and, coming back in the room–the computer screen in that amount of time had gone black.

Nothing could bring it back up.

Something finally clued me in that even though I’d just used the microwave, wait, oh good, it’s not the computer–nothing else is on, either.

The worker next door stopped hammering and whatever and a few minutes later knocked to ask: Was my power out, too?

Oh yes. I offered him our battery drill if his was running out of juice; he laughed, thanked me, and a few minutes later called it a day and drove off.

I unplugged the bought-on-Saturday microwave since it didn’t have a surge protector and thought, well? Let’s see how many more rows I can get done on this afghan before having over two pounds of wool heaped up in my lap makes me cry uncle, and then I’ll just have to find somewhere to go. (The answer was four.)

My phone showed the blackout area: it looked like the whole town at varying levels of intensity, and the next one over, and up this way well into the hills. Wow, it’s a big one.

I went to the Target in the next city going the other way. Where they were keeping it just cooled enough. I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s and stand in the refrigerator aisle, but then I’d buy something cold and have no way to put it away.

I wasn’t the only one who got to the checkout and went, nah, there’s gotta be something else to look at. I do NOT want to go out there yet.

I finally got up the courage to say to the two moms with kids who did that too that I had that map, that I’d just refreshed the page and it’s still happening and here’s where it goes to; was it affecting them, too?

It was indeed, and they were glad to at least know.

So I had the laundry detergent and I won’t have to buy padded shipping bags for awhile but Target can only be interesting for so long. No I did not need a $16 gadget for making individual ice cream waffle bowls one by one while the grandkids wait and wish the next one were theirs.

They only had the display model anyway. Sorry, kids. But I bet all the retailers made great sales today–the ones that were able to stay open.

I checked out. I checked that page. It was what it was.

But since I didn’t want it to be, I checked it again when I pulled into my driveway. This time the lines drawn around the areas were the same but the colors of them faded out and…

…were gone.

I walked through my front door to the sound of the beautiful, beautiful air conditioner completely throwing itself into its life’s work.

The world accordion to Betty
Sunday June 09th 2019, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Betty’s been blind since birth, and when she was a kid her dad bought her an accordion because he figured that was an instrument she could play by feel and carry around with her.

As far as I know that was the one she still had when she got moved from independent living to the nursing home side of the facility several years ago–and for whatever reason, she decided to have her instrument sent off to her son down south (California speak for LA/SD.)

There is no knowing at which point it vanished in transit. But that was that.

Maybe she wasn’t so old after all, because in this new stage where she was mostly lying in bed, she missed the days of playing for the other tenants.

And so a request went out to the ward chat, a little out there but you never know: did anyone have one that was simply taking up space?

John, who heads the band John Henry’s Farm, offered her his and brought it to her. It was huge. There was barely room for her chin, and it was quite heavy. So wanted, and so close.

Someone then offered a small one. Betty, with muscle memory attuned to that which had been her own for so long, kept running out of keyboard.

At last someone who actually uses hers offered to let Betty try it out for a little while but she couldn’t afford to make a gift of it.

It was the Goldilocks. It was perfect.

And so another query went out: did anyone want to help chip in to buy Betty a new used one?

That we did.

John went back to her room there to practice with her, she in delight on her new accordion, he on his guitar and banjo: and tonight, in celebration of Betty’s 94th and a half birthday, they played a duet at church for all who wanted to come hear. A thank you to those who’d helped give Betty back her music. Anyone, just, come.

It was by far the longest I personally have seen her sitting up in a long time, and I wondered how she’d do and how she’d hold up. She did great. She loved being thanked for the music, loved being able to thank us for being able to play it, she just was energized like I have not seen since the days when she was mobile and still had her seeing-eye dog.

Man, it felt good to be alive.

Hunka hunka burning, Love! Ooh!
Saturday June 08th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

I put my favorite Mel and Kris hot cocoa mug in the microwave this morning, same as I always do, and turned my back to do something on the other side of the kitchen.

And suddenly wondered what that smell was. We’re talking maybe fifteen seconds here.

Richard came down the hall just then, going, Turn it off! Turn it off! Unplug it!

Smoke was pouring out of the microwave as we opened the door. And then the other doors, and the fan, and the skylight…

Is it just me, or does everybody have three different appliances spontaneously combust? Well not all at once, at least.

So did I knit today? I did not. I researched, I read endless reviews and reports, I went, Are you KIDDING me at Amazon’s saying they would ship that particular model in three to five months, and then I paid for the last one of these that Target had in stock so that nobody could beat me to it and drove over and picked it up so that I could have my hot cocoa in the morning without having to stand over a scorching pot again.

Do not stand between me and my morning cocoa. Three parts cocoa to one of sugar–I’m pretty hardcore.

Do you think we could start a microwave selfie fad?

It’s a race
Friday June 07th 2019, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

The men putting an addition on the house next door can see right into my family room every day.

Where I keep plugging away at the same old thing just like they’re doing; we started at about the same time.

We nod or wave hi and smile every time I go out the back door, because hey, why not.

This is ~37″ long, laying flat, and ten skeins. I’ve got seven to go.

This happened a few years ago
Thursday June 06th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Which doctor’s on call today?

Why, the nurse shot back into her phone: if it’s the wrong one are you going to go out of labor?

I hadn’t said a thing about being *in* labor, nor had I shared my misgivings about one of the OBs on that team, but a huffy question like that demanded a forthright answer: Yes.

We called the folks later to announce our new little boy, and Dad teased me that I’d missed his birthday.

I know, I know, Dad. But the other doctor was on duty yesterday and there was nothing I could do about that.

Happy Birthday to our son who had his own first baby boy on Mom’s 80th birthday. Improving on my parenthood from day one. He and Kim do a great job.

Keeping a Steiff upper lip
Wednesday June 05th 2019, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family

Dad put me on speakerphone into the party. His voice was strong, happy, laughing, sounding like Dad always has and at his happiest. My older sisters, brothers-in-law, a niece, and I didn’t quite catch the others and of course Mom were there celebrating his day.

“Tell a memory!”

I thought, Quick, think of something good!, and so I came up with this. While also marveling at how energizing love is. Go Dad!

I told of Mom and Dad coming here to visit and happily posing with my childhood stuffed tiger with the biggest smile on their faces. (That post is in the blog somewhere, I’ll find it…) The one Dad had brought home from the Steiff factory in Germany when I was three or four–I remember the moment when it became mine.

Do you still have it? Dad laughed, sure of the answer.

Me, with great enthusiasm, Yes! And when I was a teen, I wasn’t going to ask permission or for how to do it, I just grabbed some of the leftover yarn from Carolyn’s sweater and stitched him up where he’d split open a bit. The yarn didn’t match (not to mention, it was way too thick for the job) but it was what I had and I used it anyway. It’s still there. It’s part of its history and part of Carolyn’s sweater.

Which I’m sure was news to Carolyn in the background and I know all of this was new to her daughter there. Dad talked a little about touring that factory and was pleased that I remembered Anne’s koala. There were the big girls and the little girls and we two little girls got the stuffed animals.

I went on, Last Christmas, Maddy was turning four and that was just the right age so I went looking and I found the Steiff website and a tiger that was adorable and whose price wasn’t in the stratosphere. Maddy got a tiger from her grandparents, just like you gave me mine. Spencer got a Steiff baby rattle. I’d never known there was such a thing, but there is.

I forgot to tell him that Maddy latched onto that tiger like I’d latched onto mine and that when we visited between Christmas and New Year’s, the kids told us it was her favorite now.

I was afraid I was making Dad overdo but I didn’t want to break the spell and I didn’t want to deprive him of a single moment. Or, selfishly, me. He did tell me, though, when he needed to let me go so he could…

I knew. Breathe.

And if any doctor ever again asks me how I stay cheerful while going through the worst medical crises (actually, let’s hope I’m done with those), I’m going to say, You should see my dad. I totally get it from him.

Happy 93d, Dad. Love you forever and always and thank you.

Tuesday June 04th 2019, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

This video. Because everybody needs to hear Mozart in birdsong.

Going in for a cleaning
Monday June 03rd 2019, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

She’s my mom’s age but has had more health challenges; she gave up driving some time ago. She needed a ride to the dentist. Yay for chat lists, which let you ask everybody so nobody gets put on the spot.

I sat on the Scandinavian-style couch in the waiting room with my small, portable Rios cowl project, listening fondly to the happy chatter, then the quiet, then the familiar sound of the drill.

The receptionist coming off her lunch break saw me, exclaimed over my work, and came over and asked if it were Malabrigo?

Yes! I asked if she was a knitter.

Oh, I’m a BIG knitter!

Instant kinship. We had a great time. (I tried not to take too much of hers.)

When Gail got done I got her and her walker in the car and then asked her, Anywhere else you’d like to go?

She looked like she was holding her breath, hardly daring to hope. She was trying to say it without giving away the intensity of emotion I saw in her face: Why, yes!

Trader Joe’s?

Her nose wrinkled a little. She really could use a trip to Safeway.

The little one one at midtown, where you don’t have to walk a mile to find everything, or the giant one on El Camino?

She grinned. The giant one. She hoped that one of their scooter-carts would be available.

Alright then!

They had two just inside the door to choose from, one in good condition and one with the seat torn. She chose the torn, and I silently wondered if her experiences with her weight influenced that choice and I hurt a little for her for it. I remembered the days when I would be driving my kids to school and she, her kids long grown, would be out there race walking for miles every day. And yet fate refused to let her be thin.

But never mind, we had a grand time, me with a cane and a cart following her around, her, electric-wheelchairing it. It’s a huge store, trying to compete with Costco. We walked it side to side and end to end. I reached things for her so she didn’t have to get up. I put a few things in my own cart as long as I was there. She wanted the Irish butter. I helpfully found Danish, and some other European country-style made in America, but nothing that said…

She spotted it and reached that Irish Gold before I could. It was at sitting-person height.

I was happy that among all the staples and common-sense items, she chose some stuff that was simply fun food. Every pantry should have something that’s a just because you feel like it.

Back at her house, I got her walker set up, put three of her bags on it at her request and carried the fourth and she let me in to put it up on the counter.

She explained about her table. And over there, that empty box.

A friend of hers had had many many pictures from years when their kids were little together, and there were faces there whom she no longer knew or knew how to get in touch with, if they were still with us. She had gone through them all, and these were the ones with Gail’s family and the rest were a chance for Gail to identify any of those others.

The Simon and Garfunkel Bookends song…

There had been so many. Gail was almost done going through them. She showed me a single stack, about six inches high: those were hers.

All the rest–and she said it with a quiet laugh, and in that moment I felt her appreciation for a good and long life and all that had blessed her and hers along the way.

All those other pictures. There really was nothing to do but put them in the trash.

She understood my oh goodness, she felt it, too, but sometimes you do what you can. And then you move on.

And as I write this I suddenly wonder if I’ve ever taken a picture of her myself. I want to. I need to. And soon.

A swashbuckling Purse’n’Boots
Sunday June 02nd 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

(Afghan progress: halfway there.)

Yonder daughter came by and homemade strawberry pie she’d made was enjoyed by all.

Later, I was reading the paper and mentioned out loud the story in there of someone in Florida hearing something messing around downstairs in the middle of the night and they got all brave and stepped out the bedroom door to look over the railing to find out what on earth was going on.

The downstairs was being wrecked. By an 11-foot alligator that had broken in through a window.

I said, Y’know, when I was a kid those were almost extinct from hunting, and now they’ve really made a comeback.

Daughter gives a wry grin and says, You can tell your blog: it is much better to live where there are man-eating cats where you hike. Much better! Man-eating cats!

And she turns back to what she was doing, chuckling, joking/not joking.

Blueberry almond cake
Saturday June 01st 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Recipes,Spinning

Writing it down so I can find it later: I experimented to see if I could adapt my favorite blueberry cake recipe from chocolateandzucchini.com to use some of the freshly- made almond paste they sell at Milk Pail, with a higher almond and lower sugar content than any I know of.

For a few more weeks, anyway, till they shut down because Steve wants to retire. I need to find out where he sources it.

Okay, here it is:

Highly-Requested Blueberry Almond cake

Mix in one bowl:

1 2/3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In Cuisinart: the almond paste is sold in small random packages; I used .35 oz the first time and about .5 oz the second. Both worked, they were just a little different. So, pulverize it in a Cuisinart; add in 1 stick butter, sliced and at room temperature. (Note that Wayfare brand dairy-free vegan butter worked great, too. Now I have to find someone besides Steve who stocks it.)Whirr. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla, whirr, 1/2 c heavy cream (sour cream, plain yogurt, or going dairy-free, Kara brand coconut cream worked, too), then add 4 eggs and 1 c. sugar and whirr some more.

Add dry ingredients in. If you have a small food processor you might want to pour the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl first and add the dry in over there; one more thing to clean but easier to scrape into the pan, your choice.

Pour half into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover with four cups (don’t be stingy) of fresh, rinsed, patted-dry blueberries, then add the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle 1/4 c of brown sugar across the top and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

I made this for Richard on Monday and it was so good that he and Michelle asked me to make it again, dairy free so she could have some, and the Wayfare dairy-free whipped butter (butter beans are an ingredient. Who knew) with the coconut cream worked both in texture and flavor. I also happened to overdo on the almond extract a little that time and it obliterated any mention of coconut flavor.

Blueberries, almond paste, Wayfare, Kara coconut cream, sour cream, butter, and the particularly good versions of almond and Bourbon vanilla extracts: I have no idea what I’m going to do when that place shuts down. They are small but they have all the best stuff.

A funny story on the side: twenty-five years ago there was one single herd of Wensleydale sheep left in the world. Handspinners pitched in to try to help save the breed; I’m not the only one who bought ten pounds of their wool, and I’ll have a hand spun coat just as soon as I finally finish that button band in time for the SpinOff Magazine Rare Breeds Contest. Of 1999. Well anyway. So, I was at the doctor’s waiting room working on it once and someone with a British accent came over to sit next to me and ask me about my knitting.

The yarn was a new thing to her, and so I told her it was Wensleydale I’d spun.

Wensleydale! She smacked her lips loudly. That’s good eating!

I was so not expecting that reaction. I was speechless. I knew they ate a lot of mutton over there… I had no way to respond to that.

It wasn’t till years later that I found out what she’d been talking about and had a good laugh at myself and wondered what she’d thought I’d been thinking.

All of which I was reminded of last night as I made toasted cheese sandwiches with Wensleydale with cranberries. From Milk Pail.

Thank you for all these ingredients all these years, Steve!