Lockdown day 45: purple irises
Thursday April 30th 2020, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus


 They were in this area, but this is not how they were. He must have quietly dug them up and replanted them. I thought he’d just cleared off the dead cover plants.

They were here when we bought the house, and over time they crowded themselves badly and then did a mass die-off in the drought–and have been steadily, slowly working their way back ever since.  They ended up kind of split down the middle into two bunches of randomness.

I thought it was so weird when we moved to California that everybody had a hired gardener. Doesn’t anybody work in their own yard around here?

Then I got lupus with extreme sun sensitivity, my husband threw his back out, and we ended up asking the neighbor’s how much he charged. (Fred’s cardiologist had made him retire.) It’s been good to have the help, and Elio’s a great guy.

I paid him extra last winter for something I didn’t feel was in his usual job description. He disagreed and tried to stop me. Dude: Take. The. Money. You spent the time, you did the work, you earned it.

Which is probably why the purple irises are now arranged in a perfect circle of green leaves and purple blossoms, with enough distancing to be social and healthy for a goodly while to come, placed just so between the apples and the fig tree. They are in their fullest glory and they have never looked better than they do right now.

Elio quietly offered up a gift in the barren winter dirt and waited for the day when I’d get to notice.

Lockdown day 44: Sierra edition
Wednesday April 29th 2020, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Blame it on the mailman.

He left the next-door neighbors’ magazine in our mailbox. Well, that wouldn’t do.

And so I put on a face mask, washed my hands, cut an amaryllis that was opening up today, plunked it in a vase, and walked it and the magazine over next door.

After stopping in my driveway so the woman pushing her stroller could continue on past, but she saw me, chuckled, nodded, and rolled those wheels over into the car-less street.

The little dances we do.

Lockdown day 44: woolgathering
Tuesday April 28th 2020, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Knit

What would you call claymation when the medium used is felted wool? We need a word for how this animated history of handspinning was created, because it definitely deserves one.

Lockdown day 43: with love from Dad
Monday April 27th 2020, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

The amaryllis bulbs that my dad gave me for his last Christmas have begun to come into bloom again, bringing cheer to our lockdown.

And it is not possible–I thought–but that last apricot seed in that last paper cup, the one that wasn’t doing anything but I couldn’t bear to toss because it hadn’t decayed away like seven of them had those times when watering them had left them exposed enough to see…had a tiny root showing today. After trying for what, two months? I thought I was just putting off the certainty of disappointment by not letting the cup dry out, but there it is. It lives.

I covered its brief uncoveredness quickly with just a bit of chicken-manure-enhanced soil and hoped. It would be so cool.

My dad adored Andy’s apricots.

Lockdown day 42: rainbowwow
Sunday April 26th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Today is Mathias’s third birthday and we were supposed to be there to help celebrate. I admit it took me a couple of weeks to concede to reality and cancel the plane tickets.

His mom knew there wasn’t going to be a birthday party, not this year–but she had an idea while in an Indian grocer during Holi, the Festival of Colors.

The dog got rainbowed, too.

Lockdown day 41: At a good clip, too
Saturday April 25th 2020, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family

Bubblewrap. Crinkly, poppable, interesting, new, light-reflecting bubblewrap, and (briefly) on the floor, too.

And so one very determined little Lillian mastered crawling today.

Lockdown day 40: stumped
Friday April 24th 2020, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Life

Two days into this, and after the one guy working that part of the yard made it quietly clear that there would be no conversations (French is not the most useful language for California), I made a point of watering my still-tiny columnar apple tree at the corner so they would know for sure that it was mine. That ivy creeping towards it amongst the weeds? It’s all gone now. Nothing but dirt.

They cut my Chinese elm tree that the squirrels like to dangle upside down from in season.

Well, not all the way, but a lot, because a lot of it was growing on the other side of the fence and that house is being readied for market just as fast as the masked, spaced-apart workers can do it. Construction is (or was?) on hold but apparently getting a house ready for market is not.

The three men are careful at keeping the requisite 6′ distance.

They were measuring new flooring in the street before cutting it to match room dimensions. They did measure twice. (The mailman either drove over it or the sidewalk.) They cut down every weed and bush in the front yard and the now-denuded pine tree stump by the door will surely be next. Everything. Gone. They cut, they raked, they flattened. The weeds are gone, the ground is even now, and I expect rolls of grass will be unfurled shortly.

Just as we’re heading into another drought year, it looks like, but sellers gotta sell. But I’ll find out for sure in a few.

They did not cut down the oaks the squirrels planted badly that I had to pay to cut back from my side under threat of losing my homeowners for the fire risk. It’s nesting season; they probably can’t. But those are going to take out the fence in a few years, the roots are going to damage my foundation (same story, different trees) and someone’s going to have to deal with them. Trees are wonderful, but raining copious amounts of acorns on my roof all day long definitely gets old–got to admit, the insurer had a point.

We had a dense, forest-y view of graceful Chinese elm leaves outside the breakfast nook, with a keen appreciation for how few people ever get to even seen an elm. And now, well, they’re pretty sparse.

She had the biggest toyon tree I know of off her back patio, the berries celebrated by many a robin and cedar waxwing.

It’s gone.

There are two very tall trees that are half dead because she never watered anything; one already dropped a major limb that punctured our roof some years ago. I don’t know how you could take those out safely for the workers while keeping to the coronavirus distancing guidelines, and so far they’ve stayed.

It is amazing how, at a time when we’re staying home day after day after day with everything the same, the world immediately outside our windows is dramatically different after their three days of hard, hard work.

Lockdown day 39: the other green
Thursday April 23rd 2020, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

So, it was like that yesterday, and I sat down and got four rows into the next fish before it was time to rest my hands and call it a night.

It was only after that that I went, wait a minute….

Ohmygoodness. It was true.

I had ordered the Ankara Green to mix with the blues at the top of the future waves. I hadn’t even glanced at the Water Green because it looked lighter than anything I wanted to deal with.

But that’s what it was and after opening that bag yesterday I’d immediately paired it with what had been an orphan skein: if one critter was going to be multicolor to the point of overdoing it, well, as Eleanor Roosevelt says, repeat your mistake and make it a pattern.

And then it’s not a mistake anymore.

This sure wasn’t.

I emailed Uncommon Threads, thanking them profusely and enthusiastically–it meant I hadn’t had to wait a week for the mail from someone else for me to be able to start in on the next fish in colors Uncommon didn’t have–but letting them know in case it messes up their inventory.

I won’t need that Ankara for awhile anyway.

But I put in a second order of it now because I wanted to say thank you. They’d totally rescued me.

Lockdown day 38: knitters just know
Wednesday April 22nd 2020, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

You guys!!

I spent more time working out the design, even made paper cut-outs of fish with circles of tape on the back to be able to move them around my drawing while keeping them to scale.

And I went through all my Rios, ie all my soft superwash worsted-weight merino in the house.

Amazing how much that stuff gets used up.

Being with other colors changes how you perceive them: context matters, and there were a fair number of perfectly nice skeins that just weren’t going to work out with what I’d done so far. That not-bright with that bright but not that one with it.

Which of course means that some of what I’d originally planned on using next, but that I’d kept mentally dragging my feet over the more and more I got into what I was doing so far… But I’d been reluctant to order more sight unseen and right now that’s the only option–it’s not like anybody can go browse anywhere. I’d been avoiding the issue until finally I had no choice.

Rios, it turns out, is a popular yarn to order online when you’re stuck at home. For good reason. It took some searching.

I did, though, I found what I wanted–and inwardly lamented that I was going to have to wait till it came from the east coast. Plus Illinois. I did not want to lose my momentum, but the very next row was where I was going to need to start the next fish in some new color and that yarn just wasn’t here. What I wouldn’t have given to have been able to dash out to Cottage Yarns–you couldn’t ask for a better Malabrigo inventory than Katherine’s.

I did spot some light seafoam green at Uncommon Threads a few miles up the road, though, and thought that would be good for the mixing of blues and light at the tops of the waves to come. Their Living Coral was redder than my Glazed Carrot, cool, some of that, too, for the clownfish that I’ll be doing after the ones coming up. If I’m going to be a perfectionist I might as well be a perfectionist.

They didn’t even charge me for shipping.

All. Day. Long. I wanted to knit on that afghan but not if I couldn’t do it right. Color (quoting my friend Constance) is everything.

I was out back watering the mango after dinner and when I came back inside, Richard was wandering down the hall calling my name, holding a pretty little paper bag by its handles. “Where did you go?” He’d seen someone running away from the door and clearly, this was meant for me.

They did?! Seriously?!

It was from Uncommon Threads. Niiiice.

I pulled out the seafoam green and compared it to what I had and suddenly one ball at the bottom of the bag whose tag and colorway name are lost to me leaped out at its new best friend. “That’s IT!” I exclaimed in delight. I could do it! I can do it now! I started doing it now! It’s perfect, both with what has been and with what will be.

Man, that felt good. One fish two fish red fish not-blue fish. Thank you, Uncommon Threads!

Lockdown day 37: raisin sourdough
Tuesday April 21st 2020, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Food,History,Knit,Life

That sourdough starter needed to be used, right? (Hey look, a personal XKCD cartoon!)

The pumpkin in that last loaf didn’t strongly flavor it but it did help keep it moist from Thursday to Monday–not bad for a no-fat bread. The birthday boy requested cinnamon bread; I used a stronger cinnamon (Penzey’s, not Costco this time) and doubled the amount but kept the pumpkin for the moment, since I need to use that up. It definitely passed inspection. This could get to be a habit.

The seahorse looks much better with eyes now.

The former President of Stanford University died of COVID-19 today.

Suddenly my patience with staying home went right back up again to where it needed to be.

I’m going to go knit another row.

Lockdown day 36
Monday April 20th 2020, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Knit

(Photos finally came through.)

I had a general idea and the pieces of the puzzle but not necessarily where they all should be placed. I had to do the first two critters to see how they looked size-wise across the picture before deciding where the others should go.

They’re not finished but close enough.

So today I measured and counted and compared and sketched and tossed and tried to make visual what my fingers knew how to do.

And yeah, I was right that that one bright multicolor would both make the seahorse stand out and let it hide in its seaweed surroundings, being gorgeous and–no. That was a mistake. Or it sort of feels like one so far.

I could scissor out the original, pick up the stitches and reknit that swatch, catching the sides going up and grafting across the top to put in its replacement so you’d never know. In a yarn that wouldn’t put green in the seahorse itself.

Or I could just wait and see and let this whole thing be what it wants to look like when it grows up. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that seahorse. Although it does require that the fish above it turn out bright, too, and some of the planned yarns won’t cut it for that.

The old Eleanor Roosevelt take on knitting: repeat it and call it a pattern, don’t confess that you didn’t mean to do that.

Besides, I sort of actually did, so here we are.

I’m finally comfortable with getting to the rest of this afghan. I know now what’s going to be next. It was a long time coming.

Lockdown day 35: berries and butter
Sunday April 19th 2020, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

(Photos: clafoutis before baking and after.)

Someone actually found eggs at the store yesterday.

I thawed a quart measure of mixed berries, and then realized, wait, wrong recipe: the clafoutis only called for two cups.

Two condensed cups, how about, as they kind of slumped coming out of the microwave, but I dutifully (and somewhat generously) measured into the Mel and Kris ceramic pan.

You know, I know you don’t put butter in clafoutis, but it would sure improve it if you did, so I melted two tablespoons of Costco’s finest and into the batter.

Then what, I wondered, standing there a moment looking at it, do I do with the juices and berries still sitting in that big measuring cup?

Someone is having a birthday shortly, and someone couldn’t find whipping cream yesterday and someone bought canned spray cream. Two of them. Because it’s going to be his cake and those are fun and we could use some fun.

I thought, what the heck, cracked an egg in and pssssssst with the cream on top. Whisked it. Nuked it.

Now that. That is the level of fat you want with those berries (even if you think you shouldn’t really.)

The clafoutis was the best ever, but the impromptu side dish was better.


Lockdown day 34: masks
Saturday April 18th 2020, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Life

I bought a drug store box of 50 paper face masks in January just because it was flu season and I try to have some around.

We’ve run through most of them by now.

I have two homemade ones now: one by Carol Larsen of River’s Edge Fiber Arts after she posted on FB that she would give one to a senior center for every one she sold.

And now one from a woman who, it turned out, lives in my town.

I got a message from her just now: it was on my front porch.

Wait, what? I would have turned the light on for her!

I can just picture the smile on her face as she anticipated my happy surprise–and the chance to get out of the house, do good by not waiting for the mail to deliver it and thus protecting others for a few extra days while still maintaining social distancing by not telling me and not risking having me open the door. She did not ring the doorbell. She simply told me afterwards.

So, that means the Ring recording of her approach would give us the masking tape?

Thank you, Giovana, it’s beautiful! And very soft.

And she’s a knitter. Oh cool!

Lockdown day 33: dig a little deeper
Friday April 17th 2020, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

It was so good. Definitely making that pumpkin cranberry sourdough again.

Also in the future food department: looking at my apricot, tomato, butternut, zucchini and watermelon seedlings, I was trying to figure out how to grow all those where there’s the most sun.

The edge of the concrete patio, for one.

My sister Marian has talked a lot about her gardening in cloth grow bags, which got me to go look. The county just shut down the nurseries and those are sold out on so many sites.

Someone on some review said the Vivosuns were the best they’d found, with a three year warranty to back them up.

Another brand was reported as ripping immediately out from the weight of the dirt coming in. I do not understand manufacturing something to be immediately thrown away in the landfill.

The latest of Vivosuns with the improved (maybe read: their decorative contrast color?) handles were sold out but the older version still beat the competition from everything I could find.

The price, the usefulness, the durability, the washableness, you could chase the sun around the yard (maybe, doubt I will) with those handles making them more portable: I bought the 5-pack of 15 gallon size on the idea that those would be big enough for both my tomato plants and, eventually, those teeny tiny apricot seedlings. Of which I have three and two, respectively.

And now that size is sold out. I just barely made it.

Gardening supplies: they’re the new toilet paper.

Lockdown day 32 on a sour note (yum)
Thursday April 16th 2020, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Bread post #2: I used the sourdough starter and then I fed the little beast more flour and water like you’re supposed to and having looked over the two sourdough cookbooks Becca had recommended, I saw the pictures of the pumpkin cranberry bread, found that yes I had dried cranberries and canned pumpkin and the four mandarin oranges to squeeze the juice out of, and it was, Sold! Game on! (Yeah I like physical cookbooks better but instant gratification has its moments.)

Emilie Raffe’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple does a good job of explaining what to do, how to do it, why you do it, and when you do it. Plus everything sounds really good.

I shot a question at Becca: am I right in thinking that there’s no butter, no fat, in sourdough breads period? She answered that other than some focaccias, pretty much as far as she knew, no.

Lesson learned number one: time it so that the 6-8 hour rising is overnight. You don’t want to be finishing up at midnight.

Lesson learned number two: probably I need to figure out how to cut the parchment paper so it goes nicely around the edges of the dutch oven it’s going to bake in without scrunching the stuff up like tin foil and am I going to have to cut it out of my bread when it gets done?

I’ll find out. It’s too late now.

Lesson number three: when she gives you the ingredients by weight or cup measure and recommends you go by weight and the 500g comes out to closer to four and a half cups not five, and you stick to the 500g, add in the juice, and think this is way too liquid, this can’t be right–it is. At the end of the process, including shaping the loaf on a bit of flour and the cranberries plumping out by baking time, it came out just how you’d want.

Both Becca and the book say absolutely do not cut into that loaf till it’s had an hour to cool, well, other than that little slice(s) you do across the top before it goes into the oven so that it can have room to expand.

Not devouring it immediately after anticipating it the entire day is going to be really hard. Those spices and flavors on my hands from kneading it–I was like, I have to wait how many more hours?

Lesson number four: it’s supposed to be best the day that it’s baked so maybe having it cool near bedtime wasn’t the brightest idea? See Lesson #1.

But homemade pumpkin cranberry orange sourdough bread with spices.

Yeah no, wasn’t going to wait till tomorrow for that.

(I have no doubt that if you want it faster and easier you could make its equivalent with yeast and regular dough and you could even mix some butter in. Boil or soak overnight but do something first though to make the cranberries soak up those spices and juice like mine did over the course of the day.)

p.s. Ten minutes to go in there, and it’s smelling divine and almost but not quite done.