Color my world
Monday November 30th 2020, 11:12 pm
Filed under: To dye for

Studying butterfly wings to figure out how to transfer color structurally rather than with dyes is fascinating–and needed. There have been reports of a river running blue in India from all the synthetic denim processed for clothing factories.

And I quote: “Not only are we removing the need for pigments and dyes, we’re taking out the need for all of the stuff around it to stabilize it.”

But then what would that do to the whole hand-dyed yarn industry? The new company says their colors self-assemble. How do you keep them from mixing across sections of a hank? Can you even apply it to wool? I have so many questions.

Turkey leftovers
Sunday November 29th 2020, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

He said he didn’t mind having turkey again, so I decided to try to be creative about it.

I had bought a single jar of cherry fig savory jam from Cherry Republic in Michigan to try out–kind of a token purchase for the year towards keeping the Michigan farmers in business, as one does in 2020 if one can. I opened it: it was lumpy but really not jam-sweet. Spices. Hmm.

I diced up a bunch of turkey, cut some seedless green grapes into quarters so they would cook faster, scooped out less than half that jar of jam into a separate bowl and whisked it with maybe a quarter cup of leftover plain cream, there you go.

I used one of Mel and Kris’s ceramic cake pans, which always take just a little longer to bake with but always seem to improve the texture of whatever I put in them over anything else. In with the turkey/grapes, mix in the lumpy attempt at a sauce, then I grated some fresh Gouda cheese from Milk Pail on top.

It looked pretty but it didn’t feel done.

So I took a heaping spoonful of their fresh grated parmesan and sprinkled that around on top of the whole shebang and called it good.

Now, it must be said that theirs is nothing like the room-temperature supermarket stuff in the tall green cans: fresh authentic parmesan totally rocks.

Oven, 350, shooting for 20 minutes since all I really needed to do was melt the cheese, checked it a few minutes late…

I’d had no idea. This was glorious. This is like, like, my MOM’s cooking, which is the highest compliment you could ask for. It was good, and it came out with a deep red rich sauce pooling at the bottom that you’d want to serve to company, and the turkey (thank you ceramic pan) had not come out overbaked nor tough from its second go-round of cooking.

Richard wanted a generous helping of seconds. So did I.

So I’m writing it down here, because it’s the one place I know I’ll be able to find it next year when I’m trying to figure out what on earth I did.

Suddenly realizing that–thinking of yesterday’s post–yes, yes, it would be good over pinto beans, too.

Worth a try
Saturday November 28th 2020, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

The problem with buying pie crusts and liking yours really thin so that you really only use half of a one is that then you have to do something with the other half.

In other words, Thanksgiving was two days ago and with no company to serve it to, today’s when I felt like baking pies.

The cherry one: I told Richard its heart didn’t break, rather, it was waving an oven mitt, saying, Get me out of here before I overbake!

The date/pecan one, done in part because I bought a five pound box of dates for $12 and now I have to use them up: both in appearance and texture it takes me straight back to our grad school days, when a friend from southern Virginia shared a version of pecan pie she said everybody made around the area where she grew up. She wondered if it was specific to there, though, because since coming to college she hadn’t found anyone else who’d ever heard of it.

Instead of the usual corn syrup, it had…

…are you ready for this?

…A drained large can of pinto beans run through the blender for some time and two sticks (!) of butter.

Enough sugar and butter and just about anything tastes good. I even made it a second time, but pecans were expensive and I really felt I should use them on something more universally celebrated at our house.

So, this pie: two tablespoons of butter is a lot easier on the guilt. Ground dates/corn syrup/eggs/pecans–I think we can justify having that for breakfast for a few days.

And then it will fade into history with those pinto pecans.


Ohmygoodness. Judy’s recipe and name are forever written in the back of the 1952 Betty Crocker I bought at a garage sale when I was a senior in high school in anticipation of college. It was THE college cookbook for me. I wrote this post wondering where life had taken her over all these years, and then went over to Facebook–and found her! That was worth baking a date pie for, for sure!

Bringing out the best in it
Friday November 27th 2020, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Now that we’re officially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t think I’ve told this story here before, and it’s worth telling again if I have. With thanks to Anne for sending me a video of someone playing an intense organ piece and prompting this; my son Richard minored in organ performance.

My grandmother was a concert pianist. I inherited her musical talent but my hands did not–they’re the one dyslexic part of me, wanting to reverse notes at random until I practice and practice to the point of forcing muscle memory on them.

My son Richard is all Gram. He’s good. Hum a tune, he’ll embellish it at the piano with all ten fingers going at once and improvise it into a whole new thing, any style you want.

In college he had to go to a practice room on campus in order to play. Those are reserved for music majors at all times–in four years on that campus I found an open piano room twice. He *needs* his keyboard time in a way that I didn’t quite.

Coming home at Christmas meant the piano was right there and all his. It’s an old one of Gram’s; she bought it for their DC apartment when her husband was elected to the Senate before I was born, a very good upright, but it just wouldn’t do and she had to have her grand. She gave the upright to my folks and it got passed down to me.

One holiday season when Richard was in college, the guy I’d hired to tune it ever since we’d moved here just didn’t have time to fit me in–right around Thanksgiving he gets booked up fast because everybody wants to be ready for get-togethers.

And then, bless him, Neil decided he would squeeze me in anyway. It would be a quick tune-and-run, though, no time to catch up on life.

That was fine, and thank you!

So he came. He tuned. I thanked him, we wished each other the best and he was off.

A few days later my son flew home, finals done, the house ready for Christmas, and sat down at that piano and let’er rip in loud, exuberantly happy music all over the keyboard.

About a minute into it (and having him in on this with me) I dialed the phone and when the call was answered, said, This is Alison–and held the phone towards the piano as Richard grinned and really let’er rip. That piano had never sounded so good.

Neil, listening, said with great emotion, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me!”

The music got just a little softer (because the kid knew his mom needed the help hearing on the phone), I wished Neil and his a Merry Christmas and he me and then we let each other go back to our families, the moment never to be forgotten. I was and am so grateful for his kindness.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thursday November 26th 2020, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

We talked to my Mom, we FaceTimed with the kids and grandkids, grateful for technology and each other and warm homes and jobs and food and for the times to come when we’ll be able to celebrate in person. We made a mess. We took everything out of the racks for baking pans above the double oven trying to find the cord for the thermometer for the turkey and put it all back together more organized and only then did he remember that he’d put three cords to three such thermometers organized in a ziplock that last year he’d carefully put…


Never did find that, but he did find the one that came with the oven and that was better because it turned the oven off and screeched when the thing was done. You want your turkey loud like that.

I just walked back into the kitchen proud of how clean it all looks now at the end of the day.

And spotted that one last pan at the back, hand wash only, that somehow I had just completely missed.

Okay, well, that’s easily taken care of.

One big snowball
Wednesday November 25th 2020, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Life

Not sure everyone can get past the paywall, so I’m sharing his story here.

My cousin who’s a reporter in Salt Lake City pointed out her co-worker’s story: his mom had found his childhood bank over the weekend. Spongebob Squarepants no less. Did he want it? Enticement: (to get it out of her house I’m sure) there were seventy bucks in there, plus random small things that interest small boys. Childhood memories and all that.

Meantime, he had a can he threw random change into, and sure, he was curious to know how much all that would add up to.

It wasn’t money he’d needed or planned on and there were plenty of people out there who could definitely use it right now so he decided to invite his readers via Twitter to let him know if they knew or were someone in need. No need to be outed publicly, send a direct message if you’d rather.

You could have seen this coming, but he didn’t: one of the first responses was someone wanting to add $150 to his $165. And then someone else wanted to. And someone else. He kept answering with !!!!!!!!! because he felt speechless.

Over $49k in 24 hours. All these people wanting to help other people but not knowing where best to do so but figuring he, working for the newspaper, either would or he certainly could find out. All this desire to help.

And there will be food on tables and warmth in homes for it.

If you give a raccoon a cookie
Tuesday November 24th 2020, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

They rescued the cute orphans.

His late wife made him promise to keep feeding them.

And now… I’m quite sure they didn’t rescue twenty-five of them. Twenty pounds of hot dogs a day plus grapes and cookies. They’re adorable and he’s clearly having a great time. (But yow.)

Moral of the story: don’t make your spouse promise to do dumb things in your blessed memory. But they do clearly keep her widower company.

And on the subject of wildlife, an adult male coyote was seen trotting in the road a few streets over from us this afternoon. There’s a tiny sliver of a park by the neighborhood pool there. We did not get a reverse-911 call telling us to bring small children inside, but we should have.

I’m calling it the Universe’s wry response to all the wrangling between neighbors on yesterday about whether it’s good to let your cats roam outside killing all the birds or not.

Oh. Yeah. Knitting. Here, I finished the last dragon scale today, let me show you a few pictures.

Kind of like someone cut all the cinnamon rolls in half to share and then a little kid emptied the sprinkles bottle all over the icing.

My choices are to i-cord in red all around the uneven edges, adding/not adding buttonholes as I do, or to try to join all those swirl ends together and hope it doesn’t look seamed (it would.) Either way, it makes a nice warmth on the sides and back of the neck without crowding the throat unless you want it to. It’s a dense fabric and the upper back layer wants to be upright like that.

The original pattern simply runs the ends in right here and calls it done. But it’s not yet.

Notes on the Jewel Dragon pattern: cast on loosely, because those stitches are going to have to stretch to be the outer part of the semi-circle. You do not want them tight. Leave a long tail because it will be exactly where you want it when you will really want to be using it later to, with the working red yarn, cast on a bunch of stitches upwards to begin the second band later: a longtail cast-on that way is far better than the e-wrap the pattern calls for. I was so glad I could do it that way. Looks much neater.

Malabrigo Rios, Diana and Cerise colorways, size 6 US needles, seven repeats, and it used up a fair bit more of the multicolor than the red. Both were nearly-full single skeins of leftovers from my ocean afghan. I’m sure I don’t have enough of the multicolor to do a third band of scales but for what it is I wouldn’t want one anyway. For a cowl-type scarf that scoops down a bit in front, this is just right. Also, where it says to break yarn B (the multicolor) to start the second band of scales over on the other side, DO SO. Do NOT carry it across the back all the way across all of those stitches like I did–getting the tension perfect everywhere stretching and non stretching the fabric is not worth the hassle and color-wise it shows in and out at the red edge later. (See bottom right.)

Although, that bothers me a lot less now than it did when I saw it.

Yeah, no, though, that’s not finished yet.

Let me Monopolize your time for a moment here
Monday November 23rd 2020, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Life

So Monopoly was actually invented by a woman in the late 1800s who was trying to teach Americans why having a very rich 1% owning and running everything was a bad idea.

There were lots of knock-offs, including the classic version we’re all familiar with that a man invented a story for and sold to Parker Bros.

Lizzie Magie got them to pay her $500 for the patent on her “Landlord’s Game” the same year. He got very rich and famous. She did not, but at least she got something.

In case you’re looking for ideas this time of year, you can buy a National Parks version from the National Park Service to help them fund their operations, sorely needed these past four years.

Although I would guess that things are probably starting to look up for them right now.

Monday November 23rd 2020, 12:01 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

President Nelson, head of the Mormon Church, asked that we talk about what we’re grateful for, and trying to squish it all into words seems kind of overwhelming.

In no particular order: waking up every morning in this life.

The faith that requires that I be my best self towards all others in order to honor what I’ve been blessed with.

The doctors and nurses and blood donors and medical researchers and volunteer research guinea pigs all the way to the housecleaning staff at the hospital–everybody who helped save my life.

My family, in a million more ways than I could ever convey. So much love.

The fact that my three nephews who got covid survived it; a cousin’s working on it.

And this is going to sound weird, but…my lupus, and the Crohn’s that piled on nine years later. Because of all the ways that it constricted and confined my life: after reading Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” I knew I needed a creative outlet and the smocked baby outfits I’d been embroidering were right out–my hands couldn’t hold that fine of a needle without intense pain.

I was at the library with my little kids one day and Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knits about fell off the bookshelf into my hands. It was that two-page spread with the models in those fabulous coats in an amaryllis field in the Netherlands that got to me–you know I love amaryllises. I could never in the world make anything like those designs with dozens of colors but I checked that book out again and again till I finally gave up and bought a copy.

That was the turning point. Turns out, my hands could knit. Thank you, Kaffe.

I had basically given up knitting in college when I couldn’t afford the yarn nor the time. I made up for those missing dozen+ years, I would say.

I made his Carpet Coat (“These are large but they drape beautifully on everyone”) and when I got done my husband glommed onto it and told me, “It fits me better than you, go make yourself another one.” I did.

And then I met Kaffe Fassett. I’m pretty sure he ducked to come through the doorway, just like my husband does. Richard’s coat has 68 different yarns, I collected more skeins to make mine 86 because if he was going to nab my coat mine was going to outdo his. I went with the large split triangles pattern.

And then a teen some friends were raising in foster care loved them, asked about them–“Mohair. MO hair. What kind of animal is a MO?”–and I felt in my bones I had to make him one. A vest, so as to not worry about the fit or running out of my leftover yarn, but, a large part of me argued within that I can’t possibly knit for every single person who admires what I do! I’d never stop!

Tim’s happily married with children now and his wife still wears that vest all these years later. Fits her better now.

But that project was an inner barometer: when I felt generous it was what I wanted to work on, complicated or not, and when I was getting wrapped up in illness or just too down to cope with it I had no desire to. I began from that to learn just how much better I could make myself feel by applying happy anticipation to my stitches towards someone else’s happiness. It made the lupus less–devouring. I don’t know how else to put it.

All the things I’ve made, all the privileges of being able to share what I can do–none of that would have happened had my circumstances been what I’d planned on. I was going to get my last kid in school and then go back to work. But for so long I was just hanging onto life by my fingernails day to day with my illness.

But I could knit in happy anticipation of seeing the look on someone’s face, I could make love tangible, and I can’t tell you how many times that has helped make the difference.

I’m so very grateful for every member of my family, too, but that would be an encyclopedia rather than a blog post.

Sunday November 22nd 2020, 12:05 am
Filed under: Knit

I finished the first row of scales!  (C’mon, camera, I want to show it off, it’s pretty! Update in the morning: there you go.)

So I looked at how to start the next row all the way at the other end: pick up lots of stitches across the top and go back the way you came.

Okay, I can do that.

Then it says, Just 27 more bands…

Shoot me now, I wince-guffawed.

I’m not using Mechita sock weight and no way would I be stacking that many without committing to afghan scale for both yarn and project–I’m doing seven across, not five, and plan to add two more bands above for the scarf. Twenty-one shells total. Every one is fairly rough on the hands but that’s doable.

There be dra–whoops
Friday November 20th 2020, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

I was tired, it looked like I’d picked up too many stitches and knitted one early-on dragon scale all wrong, I ripped out the evening’s work and tossed it in the ziplock and then couldn’t make myself look at it all the next day. Which was yesterday.

I woke up this morning telling myself I was going to finish two whole scales. Maybe even three! Yes! (Yeah good luck with that.)

I pushed myself through doing one.

And when it was about done I realized how I’d seen it wrong and how I probably hadn’t made any mistake after all except for ripping out all that work.

It was a relief when I finally got past where I’d ripped it from.

I did get that second whole scale done after that, and it feels pretty good. Tomorrow’s the last one.

On that row, and then I get to make the entire piece over again above that. And then again above that. Not only for the warmth and the height but because sets of two jar the eye, which wants odd numbers.

Note to self: five repeats of Jewel Dragon in Malabrigo Rios on size 4mm/6US is the right amount for a not-tight hat brim. But at this point I’m got the tail going for a sixth. Y’know? You could make a really cool toy dragon with this.

Meantime, the neighbor’s oranges and our Meyer lemons are all definitely taking on color.

Bouncy bounce
Thursday November 19th 2020, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Life

Someone was passing around a video of a stoat kit playing on a trampoline yesterday. Cute baby animals and all that.

And I woke up this morning with the thought of, that’s it! That’s the description I’ve been looking for for so long!

It was twenty years ago this month when someone grossly speeding and oblivious destroyed his car, mine, did significant damage to the car in front of me, and wrecked my sense of balance. Visual and muscle feedback is all I have to go on. Old news, long since adjusted to. But it has its weird moments and I’ve wanted a quick way to try to convey how it is and why when needed.

We have an old guy at church (the dad of one of my college classmates, actually) who likes to greet his friends by coming up behind them and clapping them on the back with one hand and then shaking theirs with his other as they turn in response. He’s sent me flying several times because, not seeing him, I didn’t anticipate the movement to brace against it and where up is got rearranged for a heartbeat. It was…a bit noticed. This is not how you’re supposed to do crowd surfing. It did happen twice. Bless him, he’s learned. (Sudden thought: we’ll see if he still remembers when we get to meet in person again.)

So. The now-obvious description: it’s like being on a trampoline! The surface you’re walking on all looks the same and flat but something moves and you find yourself tilting this way or that or staggering. You could be in the center where it’s the bounciest or at the edge near the springs and that affects how much where others move affects how much you move but even so anything can happen.

A good bounce from behind when you thought no one was there and whoa!

Giving thanks
Wednesday November 18th 2020, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

We were asked our Thanksgiving plans.

We intend to cook a huge turkey, have homemade everything from cranberry sauce to pie and more than the table can comfortably hold, have more loved ones than the table can comfortably seat, and have the time of our lives in one great big memorable celebration of all that blesses us and all those we love.

Next year. When we can also give thanks for all of us having been vaccinated.

So, yeah. The two of us and all the screen time with loved ones we can get. There is no responsible alternative. None.

Tuesday November 17th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Garden

Six years after the initial burst of hope and enthusiasm on opening the box my Page mandarin orange tree came in, the limbs are still thin enough that the tag is still on.

But we did it. My finicky, slow-growing tree’s very first Page is turning orange. My crop of one.

May it live up to all the childhood memories.

I had no idea
Monday November 16th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: History

Did you know we almost went to war with Britain in 1859 over a pig?

Quote, albeit a conjectural one:

Cutlar: “…but it was eating my potatoes!”
Griffin: “Rubbish. It’s up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig”. 


And that several dozen soaked sheep were involved? Not to mention three warships and 2600 troops? A future Confederate General in the future Washington State?

And that Kaiser Wilhelm of all people helped settle the dispute?

Not sure how I stumbled across Interweave’s page about the pig war, but here it is, with more British and fewer American details over here at the UK. I had to read more because I’d never heard of this before.

So, c’mon, you guys, tell us the important part, did they barbecue the pig? Bacon? Right?

So that’s how we have one national park that flies another country’s flag: the Union Jack. A gift from the loser. But then, Vancouver Island’s not bad as a consolation prize.