That one year in Indiana
Monday December 30th 2019, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Someone else got me remembering back when…

I was a new mom, doing the grocery shopping with my first baby sitting in the cart; she was just a bit over a year old.

A woman I’d never seen before and never would again came up to us exclaiming over how cute she was and reached out and felt up her blonde curls and asked me if I’d permed it?

I was too staggered to think of the perfect comeback till much, much later:

So did that mean she thought my baby was a bottle blonde?

Why even people who can’t draw should sketch
Sunday December 29th 2019, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Ten tall clumps of green that, a hundred years later, would become a fairy ring of redwoods towering above. She grew up in the redwoods, she knows every stage well. A single tree to each side towering alongside the height of the inner section of blooming bougainvillea, then a matching row of those clumps again.

It all sounded good in my head.

I botched I don’t even remember what on the first clumps and so since I was going to have to rip it out anyway, I took it off the needles and spread it out to see if the width matched my gauge swatch while I was at it.

Wow. No.

Well, then, okay, eight clumps.

But then the flowers were going to be too close together. At that point I’d frogged three times and the baby’s due date was looming and it was getting late that night and I didn’t want to think about it, I just wanted the clumps to stay done this time and to ditch the frustration and get the thing finally past that point. So I did. With seven repeats across.

Which is why as soon as I’m done with the fifteenth repeat (might make it sixteen) I am going back to that beginning and snipping a few rows below the line of purl stitches and working the strand carefully out across to drop the bad part off while leaving enough yarn to go back and cast off from.

And then–this is the hope right now, anyway–after a minor blocking to make sure I can get the sideways to match the lengthwise, I’m going to knit two pieces that look like the sides and sew them on to frame the thing all in the same pattern. Fallen redwoods provide a great deal of life in the forest.

Or I could keep it simple and rib the live stitches upwards at the top and downwards from the bottom or just skip all that altogether and leave it plain. Eh. We’ll see how patient I feel at that point and whether the baby comes early.

But that mismatched bottom–it has to go. It kinda hurts to look at, it’s so bad.

There Be Dragons
Saturday December 28th 2019, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Family

With a built-in game of peek-a-boo and a sister to play it with.

31 tonight and heading down
Saturday December 28th 2019, 12:06 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Somehow the week between Christmas and New Year’s always has the coldest nights.

So this is what happened to my two pomegranates that were just above ground level: a classic Californian cottontail, trying to figure out this frost thing this morning. How on earth did it survive 70 years of dense suburbia and fencing?

I can only guess that the motion-activated water sprayer next door did not meet its approval nor the dog at the house past that.

I wonder how those sprayers hold up after freezes.

(Edited to add, and if we hadn’t gotten home from our friends’ house so late I would have mentioned that we found out about the neighbors’ zapping sprayer when they asked us to feed their fish while they were out of town. They forgot to mention that, oh, and please do it before 6 pm–the anti-raccoon-raider device timer starts then.


We have laughed about that for years now.)

He opened his car door
Thursday December 26th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The doorbell rang.

It was the son of the elderly woman next door, the one who fell two months ago and after her kids couldn’t reach her from out of state and called us neighbors and then 911 was found by the firemen breaking in her door for the rescue.

Previously, she had been adamant to me that she did not want to go into assisted living.

She doesn’t know how many days she was down but it could have been as many as four. Even before that she could barely walk and clearly she just could not continue to live alone.

She has not returned.

He was coming by to let me know he was taking her home. There was a place a mile from his house, she had seen it before and actually liked the place and she has decided for herself that that’s where she’d like to be now. He wanted me to know her story had a happy ending after all, and that he would be right there to look out for her.

And he will. And his wife is a love of a woman who will be right there with him on it. They are all deeply good people.

I thanked him for letting me know, and told him, “I miss her.” A lot.

I knew she would want to know that, to really know that, not just assume that I would. Of course I would. I have, for all these weeks. But I knew he would tell her and that it would feel good for both of them to say it and to hear it on their long trip to where everything will be different now, again.

I sent him off with a box of Andy’s peach and honey-stuffed figs, glad for the surprised delight in his face at the mention of Andy’s Orchard. Taking the best of California with them on their long way north–he knew they were in for a treat.

And I just wanted to say, Thank you, Andy. That helped.

Wednesday December 25th 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

You don’t have to bring anything, just come…

But I really wanted to contribute, so she said, I know–bring a pie.

I didn’t know just how many were coming and just in case it didn’t get done because you never know and so since we were at Costco anyway I bought one of their giant pecan pies.

And fresh fruit. Enough for…

I didn’t know exactly how that blueberry cream pie (Betty Crocker 1952 recipe) would come out, but really, how could it go wrong.

Got it cooled and into the fridge last night.

I didn’t worry about how the cherry Meyer lemon pie would come out today but I was glad I’d written it down last time. Whipped fresh cream on top again.

For the record: the people who say use a chopstick to skewer cherry pits out? They never had to fish a piece of bamboo out of one. Those stones are harder. I retrieved the 7-cherry pitter out of the cupboard and mentally thanked Sur La Table for selling a better version; should have used that in the first place. This is why I’d gone for the easier blueberry yesterday.

I opened every single one. No pits got past it. There was no second sliver of bamboo (I knew but I’d needed to really know.) Into the cuisinart, then. Done.

We arrived.

She had a giant Costco pumpkin pie in the fridge just in case something hadn’t worked out.

We started pulling pies out of the big bag.

“Holy cow!”

Eleven of us with family elsewhere, all of us friends, all of us well fed in body and soul as we helped her clean up afterwards, telling her to take it easy and rest. Her car and that of the person who hit her a few days ago were totaled and we were all all the more aware of what a privilege it was to be able to spend this time together. No reason she should have to hurt to bring us together if we could help it.

You can get a lot done really fast when that many people are doing it.

The cherry had that one last small piece left that people do out of politeness in case someone else wants it more.

The blueberry was half gone.

The pecan had a slice out.

The pumpkin didn’t even get to sneak past the fridge.

Blessings to you and yours
Tuesday December 24th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year, Happy Maddy’s Birthday and every greeting of good will along with a peaceful return of the light.

My three-year-old Sungold cherry tomato plant finally passed on but its progeny lives. It was 34F last night but there was a smidgen more sun time than the day before so the younger tomato opened more blossoms to greet it.

Someone’s got to feed the bees in December, right? Welcome. Pull up a chair and c’mon in.

Monday December 23rd 2019, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Knit

So I ordered this little 6.25″ round leather shoulder bag from a used-goods site that was new to me. I remembered seeing them for sale elsewhere back when those were new, and at $13 for it including tax and shipping, yeah, now it was something I could let my curiosity give in to.

It came, and I tucked the box under the tree.

An email from the seller: did I like it?

Yes, but I’m waiting till Christmas to open it.

A few hours later I got a note from the site explaining that the seller was not going to be paid until I’d inspected the goods and officially accepted it.

Ohmygoodness. I wasn’t trying to hold up her money… I ran, opened the box, made it official to the site and sent a message to the seller explaining my newbie ignorance and apologizing. She was quite gracious about it.

So the point of all this?

We’ve been doing a lot of flying the last few years and my very tall husband likes to sit in the front-most seats if at all possible so his knees don’t hurt–but you’re not allowed to put anything under those seats, your stuff all has to go up above.

Having a ball of yarn wedged between and behind the two of us (no flight attendant has ever said boo to that) means that occasionally it goes flipping out of there. I can’t set it up in my purse at my feet.

The canteen bag: it’s by the same company that made my big purse with the trio of knitted cables embossed into the very nice leather, and I would dearly love to find one like it when it officially gives up the ghost, to the point of having shown it to handbag makers who show at Stitches West and asking them to make something along those lines–it would sell like hotcakes there.

It is clear that Charlotte Ronson of the CR logo, whoever she is, is a knitter. And that she likes to work with good materials. I wonder, did she think of ball winders when she designed this?

Imagine flying with that canteen bag as your necklace, pulling a cowl or hat or socks-on-circs project from it and having the ballwinder-wound flat cake of yarn in a place so custom-made for it as you knit away.

If they tried to count it towards my two carry-ons I could easily tuck it into my larger purse while embarking.

The only question is do you think I could get away with calling it leather jewelry so I could keep it on the whole time? But if not I could always tuck it behind and between us at landing if need be.

(Edit: and then I found a version that IS a necklace, in my eyes, anyway, in wood. Not that I’m buying another nor at that price, but, proof of concept.)

Christmas Eve Eve (wait, make that one more Eve)
Sunday December 22nd 2019, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

About thirty years ago I was offered an assignment at church: to be the Compassionate Service leader.

I was young and had no experience and got no answers when I asked what that meant I was supposed to do. The Relief Society leader, for whatever reason, never once included me in a meeting, never talked to me about what she wanted done except for one single item two years in, and waved me away any time I brought any questions or ideas up. She would get back to me.

She never did.

I still have no idea why nor why she chose me in the first place. Maybe she felt just as inexperienced as I did, even if she was a generation older.

Well, alright then, but I still felt I had that responsibility even if I had to be the one who decided what it meant.

We had just moved into a house whose previous owner had loved roses. I knew nothing about roses other than that they look great in a vase.

And so: I kept an eye out at church for whoever looked like they might be having a rough time of it, and then one day I showed up on the doorsteps of a bunch of people with a rose in hand to tell them simply that I was thinking about them and have a nice day and there’s a whole ‘nother story about that part that I’ve probably told here before.

But I kept thinking, y’know, it’s the teenagers who most need to know that an adult is looking out for them–someone who doesn’t have to, someone who’s not family and under no obligation but just does simply because they exist so they matter to them. I wanted to make a second round of deliveries.

The problem was, I didn’t know the teenagers at church. And there were none in our neighborhood, either: in a square block there were old folks and our little kids.

So I called up the one at church that I had at least interacted with enough to feel I could make the request: could he come up with the names of his peers who could use a rose and a moment’s cheering-on like that?

Robert was not only happy to, he loved the idea and offered to show me how to get to each of their houses.

And so we spent not a lot of time, not a lot of roses, but we did that run that fine afternoon.

One girl, her parents were in the middle of a divorce. Definitely the right call.

One, I came away quietly smiling to myself thinking, oh, I hadn’t realized you were sweet on her. Best stealth flower ever with the best excuse–blame it on me. Happy to help.

I don’t remember who the others were, just that we did, but in that hour or so we discovered a mutual admiration that has stayed with us ever since. He was a nice kid.

Last night I finished the one-repeat self-quota of the day on the afghan project and had time to do a bit more.

I looked at the clock. I looked at the mostly-done hat from last week’s return flight: it needed five more rows and then the decreasing, which doesn’t sound like much but would probably take about an hour.

Ever-tightening stitches of thick yarn on small needles to keep out any gaps between decreases is the not-fun part of hat knitting and I didn’t particularly want to do it. But I found myself saying a prayer, asking which would be the best use of my time right this very minute.

That hat leaped straight into my hands and fifty minutes later it was bedtime and done. I even got the ends run in. I really liked how it had come out, that bright royal blue soft Mecha. Such a pretty color.

Then came the prayer: okay, then, if this is supposed to be for someone please help me get it to the right person who needs it most. Please make it obvious so I don’t mess this up; help me get it right.

We happened to be parking the car at church a little early just as an older guy and his son (where did his hair go?) visiting from out of state walked past, with the son looking in that moment as if… Like, man, he could sure use a hug about now.

It was Robert.

He was inside by the time we got out of the car and I didn’t see him, which gave me time to say a little prayer again–am I just thinking what I want to think, should I look for someone else?


Okay, then.

I didn’t see him. Church let out and I wondered if he’d gone off to his folks’ house.

But it being Christmas Eve Eve, there was a Linger Longer afterwards, with food and chairs set out for people to sit around and munch and chat with no time pressure, and I found him after all.

A mutual, So good to see you again! How ya doin’!?

“Do you…” I started to ask. “If this isn’t your color I could make it in a different one,” and with that I pulled the little ziplock out of my purse that the hat was tucked away in.

His eyes went big as he exclaimed, “I LOVE that color! It’s my favorite!” He exclaimed over it, he loved it, he tried it on, it was just right, it so made his day.

Y’know? I probably could have/should have knit and mailed him one ages ago.

But today it was ready, today was when he needed it, and today was the day.

For we need a littles’ Christmas right this very minute
Saturday December 21st 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

They’ve had their (allergy-friendly fake) tree up since just before Thanksgiving because Mathias was declaring every pine they passed “Christmas tree!” when they moved to their new state. Whether he remembered that phrase and concept from a favorite book or somehow from last year I don’t know, but in Washington, that’s what the pines all are. He said so.

I’m not quite sure what he’ll make of it when theirs comes back down till next year.

We were on FaceTime and their box had just come. With assurances that everything was wrapped (other than the figs stuffed with peaches stuffed with honey from Andy’s I’d wangled in there at the post office on my way back from his farm), Sam opened it up.

Ooh! Bright! Shiny! Colors!

Mathias took each red or gold one out in delight and had to be reminded not to tear them open yet–so he didn’t. But he put them under the tree, he put them in another box, he toddled off with this or that towards his room, he crinkled and wrinkled and made fun sounds and giggled.

And then he decided it was clean up time. So he put them each back in the box.

Then he took them out and played with them some more and stuffed some in a different box again.

Then he put them away back in our box, only now they were overflowing and there was at least one extra whose wrapping paper sure hadn’t come from our house. But you put away your toys, so he was doing that every time he decided it was time to.

The baby needed attention at last and so we signed off.

A little later a picture popped up on our phones: chocolate, butter, sugar. Mathias was helping his mom make cookie batter and that’s as far as she got before she had to confiscate his shirt before what had missed his face got worse.

I so love two year olds!

Holiday baking
Friday December 20th 2019, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Here’s Sunset’s recipe and pretty pictures.

And here’s what my daughter came over and made with me this evening: using TCHO’s 81% for all of the melted chocolate and with peanut butter in the filling. We used Earth Balance because of her dairy allergy, and (quietly) if they came out this good one could only imagine what butter would be like in them.

Like bite size pieces of chocolate torte, is how she described the cookies. Portion-wise, you could almost not feel guilty.

Found my momentum
Thursday December 19th 2019, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

It wasn’t getting done–okay, it’s December and everything else has to be done, but still–it was driving me nuts.

Usually, when I buy Colourmart yarn mill ends I pre-scour it to get the oils out, but I had two 900g cones of the stuff to knit doubled from and there was just no way I was going to deal with all that–just scour afterwards, it was superwash, the swatch had already shown it wasn’t going to shrink appreciably.

That fine a merino with that coating on it made for stitches in twins that were constantly jumping off my needles. They were fairly big so I thought it would work up fast but that just wasn’t happening.

I finally found my old worn cheap bamboo pair in the right size, ones I rarely use because they grab and almost snag at the yarn. They were exactly what it had needed.

And just like that, in two days I’ve done two 16-row repeats, the pattern is showing well enough to make me glad I chose it, and it looks like the blanket will beat the baby here after all.

Batting average
Wednesday December 18th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Politics

The older grandsons were doing batting practice on an otherwise quiet day at that facility. Note the baseball that is a blur to my camera in the moment of being hit.

The 14-month-old wanted to be a Big Boy just like them and Grampa decided he needed attention and distracting. As they paced and chatted in a cage no one else was using I went to go snap their picture.

We were at a facility near the border.

I suddenly realized this image was going to stick with me for a long time. At least Spencer had his Grampa to hold and comfort him.


To Sam and Devin with love
Wednesday December 18th 2019, 12:20 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

There, last week, next to the sugar plums I came for for my mom because she told me last year that they reminded her of her childhood and she loved them, those and his slab extra-ripe dried apricots she raves over made it easy to decide what to get her, and they warranted a trip to Andy’s Orchard. Not to mention his persimmons were ripe.

There were samples of this other fruity confection, too: no fancy packaging for them, just a plain plastic tub and they’re not listed online.

I thought I was going to put the two tubs in our Christmas stockings, since there’ll be nobody home but us this year. Hah.

So. My husband’s on vacation and we were munching on figs stuffed with dried ripe peaches that Andy’s had mixed into a thick paste with honey and orange peel into the most perfect texture and flavors and then topped with chopped almonds. Healthy, guilt-free, and oh man they are just achingly good.

I said with regret, When these are gone it’ll be a year before we can buy them again. (I didn’t think till later, if we even can. Harvests and products and employees and recipes change.)

A few minutes later it was, I think I’ll go to Andy’s… and he was cheering me on.

It was 1:30, about the latest I like to head that far down that freeway on a workday, so I took the one last box of Christmas presents that needed to be mailed so as to stop by the post office on my way back rather than doing it first. It was all ready to go.

I got to say hi to Andy, I got to see the lady there who’s been so helpful this whole year and she was wearing purple this time and it perfectly matched the purple cowl waiting hopefully in my purse and she was so knit-worthy and so thrilled.

Then I got to do something, as I was heading out, that I have never done in my life.

I walked behind my car towards the two peacocks (oh they show up from time to time, I was told, but I’d never seen them there before) and gently waved my arms and said, C’mon, boys, I need to back up here. Move along.

First time I have ever talked to a peacock.

They circled back towards my car. Come on guys.

I guess they knew where the good stuff was hiding.

Got in, backed up very carefully, and forty-five minutes later on the easier reverse commute got to the post office–and had a moment of truth.

Why yes. Yes I do love my kid. And yes that particular kid and her husband would love those. No I don’t have to hog them.

I bought a new roll of tape then and there, the clerk sliced the old tape open, I wedged that plastic tub in where it needed to go in all its unwrapped glory and she re-taped the box and slapped the shipping label on and tossed it into the nearby bin. All I could do was hope the tub stays closed in there, but I think it will.

Mother of the Year. You can just hand that award over right now. Mine.

Put your mitt on and catch one
Tuesday December 17th 2019, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

Somebody’s big brothers had batting practice and he wanted to play, too.

Coming out of there, there was a busy street with three of these old trees in a row planted in the center divider.

And they were loaded with persimmons. Hachiyas, as far as I could make out from the distance, ie, the kind you don’t want to eat until they’re as soft and sweet as loose bowls of jelly barely held in by the soft skins.

I love Hachiyas, and I know a lot of people around here who don’t because it’s too easy to have the side away from the sun have a bit of that unripe banana puckeriness right in the middle of the bite. You have to wait till they really are ripe. Which they are about now.

But can you imagine sitting in your car at a red light, along with the guy behind you and the guy behind him, while those orange softballs go plop on your paint job? And all the raccoons, possums, and skunks that would be drawn to the middle of the street in the night? I was surprised there wasn’t a flock of crows caahing away there; they certainly do around the tree in my neighborhood.

I’m picturing a guy with a shovel and three close-outs from the nursery at the end of bare-root season who maybe didn’t have a yard of his own so he just planted them where they would benefit everybody. Right?

Plop. Plop plop plop plop plop plop plop.

I just want to know: who pranked their neighbors’ future?

Wait. Maybe they’re all that’s left of a long-ago farm?