Thursday July 18th 2019, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sherry found on Etsy what I didn’t on Ravelry, and thank you, Sherry!

It’s not lace but it’s definitely a moose. Done from the vantage point of looking not quite straight on, and I want a side view, so, another three stitches’ worth separating the front legs from the back stretching that belly out, and likewise on another stitch’s worth lengthening the muzzle.

So far, that’s what I’m going with but I’m not up to there yet.

It is amazing how much faster it is to knit a 182 stitch per row afghan than a 279-stitch one.

Got that one right
Sunday July 14th 2019, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I’d been thinking…but I hadn’t quite convinced myself that that was the right choice for her and she wasn’t there anyway, so, never mind.

Church was over and the navy cowl was still in my purse as people were standing around chatting, the crowd gradually fading.

I still don’t know a lot of the new people but at least their faces and personalities have started to become familiar.

Then I saw the woman I’d given the most recent cowl to and she was talking to one of her friends from back before the ward boundary changes; I walked up to them saying, I was looking for someone wearing blue!

The first one laughed, the second had no idea, the first started to tell her what she was about to be in for (man, she caught on to me fast!), and then there was the “are you allergic to wool?” out of me.

Handknit wool and silk. In a perfect match to her outfit.

She went home thrilled.

I need to start the next one, because that was just way too much fun to miss out on next week.

Middle age? You too?
Sunday July 07th 2019, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Bill was twelve when we moved here. His oldest kid is now in college.

Marcus was a teenager at the time. He took a job back in this area after grad school, and with the recent changes in the ward boundaries now lives in our ward again for the first time since high school.

He did not know Bill and his family were here from out of state for a reunion celebrating Bill’s widowed mom.

Which means that just like the shopper at the grocery store yesterday whose face lit up for us all as Ginny and Michelle and I first laid eyes on each other, I got to see the moment Marcus looked up, saw the middle-aged man looking expectantly and happily at him, just waiting for him to notice: that sudden stunned wide-eyed double-take and recognition as he leaped out of his seat, that arms-thrown-around-each-other moment of pure joy.

Thinking about it happily all day, I realized that what it did was make me want to always, always treat everybody in such a way that they would feel like that years later when they randomly run into me like that. And I so want them to know I feel that way about them. I want that to be for everybody. No exclusions.

The somebodies we’re used to seeing in our day-to-day life and taking for granted.

We love more deeply than we ever really know.

Blessed were the five year olds
Saturday July 06th 2019, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life

We lost the earlier pomegranates to, as far as I could tell, the serious windstorm we had in the spring, so it was nice to see some new ones starting out.

And then I found this big one hiding.

Looks like something straight out of New Orleans, doesn’t it?

But the story of the day is that Michelle stopped by and, wanting an ingredient she can no longer buy at the much-missed Milk Pail, asked if I’d like to go to the little boutique grocer in the other direction with her?

Sure! Haven’t been in there in ages!

But then I found myself needing to do just one thing before we left, and then another, and oh that, too, while she waited patiently. It’s not like we were going to be gone a long time, she could have pushed me. But instead, it was a happy, No hurry.

We compared notes afterwards and turns out that as I dithered, both of us began quietly wondering if we would run into someone. There was something of a sense of anticipation.

We were almost done in there when there was this sudden three-way exclamation of surprise and recognition and arm-throwing-hugging and joy, pure joy.

Ginny, retired now, is a master teacher and all four of my kids were extremely fortunate to have her. Me, too, for that matter. For just one example, I learned from my oldest the visual rule of three in a composition. She mentioned it to me as an oh everybody knows that as she pointed out its elements in her drawing.

Now, I’m the daughter of an art dealer, I spent several summers of my childhood museum-hopping across the country with my family, and I had somewhat intuited it but had never had it explicitly spelled out in my life. The moment was a revelation to me.

Ginny taught my five-year-old who taught it to me: the eye is pleased with images it can divide into threes subconsciously. This is why a photo that is split straight in half looks off, somehow. Why two-button polo shirts always feel wrong. You need an odd number. Starting with three.

Which is why I tried to fix the pomegranate photos above because hey, Ginny’s probably going to see those, but the program burped. Never mind.

She wanted to catch up on each of the kids, and me, and I wanted to on her and her twins-plus-twins grandkids. I told Michelle the story of going to the fifth grade teacher’s funeral and afterward, a tall man who was carrying an easel with a flower arrangement to help put it away started approaching us and Ginny gave me a heads-up that we needed to get out of the guy’s way.

I said, Ginny. That’s my son.

The shock and exclamation of delight and at 6’9″ he wasn’t a kindergartner anymore, wow!

Michelle grinned.

Turns out Ginny recently lost one of the great friends of her life, and we grieved with her. I wish now I had asked her a whole bunch of questions about her friend and I certainly should have, but I was trying not to take up all of her time in the middle of a narrow aisle in a store when she surely had other things to do.

I think of all the children, and all their parents, to whom she has made all the difference in the world. The classroom where, when a child needed to calm down, they got sent to the little curtained off enclosure she’d made where they raised butterflies, where a Monarch they had helped sustain from its earliest stages could land on their shoulders and another on their outstretched hands when they just needed a moment alone like that.

I wonder how many adults out there now are looking back on those days and planting milkweed. To befriend life back. She taught us so well.

They took a long time to fill
Friday July 05th 2019, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Knit two afghan rows, make myself put it down and do something else for twenty minutes for my hands’ sake, repeat. That’s been the pattern for lo these many days.

Which is how I quit knitting and saw the note on Facebook from my friend Michelle in San Diego. We met when her fussy toddler was made happy by a finger puppet at Lisa Souza’s booth at Stitches years ago.

I went straight to the USGS site. From 8:16 to 8:50 pm tonight, there were four earthquakes where yesterday’s was in southern California: 5.0, 7.1, 5.5, 4.9. Felt from Mexico to San Francisco to Sacramento. (We didn’t.) Yow. That last one happened in between when she posted and when I signed in a few minutes later.

Remember when they took out the concrete floor to the shed to get at the roots after the neighbors cut down the redwood tree a few months ago? We had two water containers, 35 and 50 gallons, that they had to empty so they could move them out of the way. We’ve been putting off refilling them because we don’t have a new floor to that yet–we were waiting till the neighbors are done with their addition to their house before throwing more contractors’ trucks in this block. We didn’t want to have to empty them again to move them again to have to fill them again. One does not waste water here.

Dude. Four earthquakes in a half hour and the biggest one in twenty years: you know that’s increasing pressure elsewhere in the system.

We did what we should have done from the beginning and, flashlights in hand, washed off the very dirty tops of the lids and refilled those tanks, relieved when we could finally put that second one back on. Done.

The idea of having the storage for a water emergency but with no water in it after such a strong warning was unfathomable. Yes you don’t waste water, but we are so much more than the worth of 85 gallons.

We will rest a little easier tonight knowing that’s done.

Okay, so, back at last to the afghan. I’ve got time for one more row.

(Edit, there was another 5.5 at 9:18. That’s a strong aftershock.)

They did it!
Monday July 01st 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

A great big pot of applesauce with a very small blond boy standing over it, grin big and hand wide as if about to do an exuberant splashdown into that tasty goop: it’s not my kid so I’m not putting his face here, but it was a great photo and it made my day.

I passed Ellen’s recommendation on to the mom of the Victorio Strainer so she doesn’t have to cut the seeds out next time, and then promptly ordered one myself so we could both use it when the Fujis come on. My mom used to have something like that all my growing up, only big, metal, and heavy,  essential to her for getting tomatoes to the right texture for chili sauce; my tomatoes have started turning color (bird netting was applied today) and I was feeling nostalgic. Mom, what’s your recipe? I know you told me thirty years ago…

Plus, all those apple seeds.

So we will try out that new toy and hopefully it will last for generations like Mom’s. Thank you, Ellen!

Sunday June 30th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Yellow Transparent apples. I wrote a little note detailing how we’d come to have such a tree–a dwarfing rootstock grow-back after the main tree had died–and what the little things were like.

Great for applesauce. Terrible keepers–three days at the max but only in the fridge, one to two on the counter. Mushy. Small. Once a big commercial variety, now very rare (with good reason) but if you want a cooked apple, they taste good.

And then I posted that on the ward chat.

One person responded, and she said that as a matter of fact she’d been thinking of making some applesauce; she’d love to bring her little boys and come pick apples, what a cool idea!

They were all hers.

I think, when she and her husband laid eyes on the tree, that they were maybe wishing they had some competition, but hey.

And so this young couple and two adorable little toddlers ages 1 and 3 were here this afternoon with their padded bag and together we picked those apples. I added a few Meyer lemons and newly-ripe plums, because I could.

The one-year-old picked up a Santa Rosa plum, took a bite, and tossed it.

I laughed and explained that if you pit them and blenderize them, the skins are tart but the interior is sweet and it makes an effect like tart cherry jam.

As they were leaving and I was thinking of all. those. little. apples. she was going to have to core and peel (they asked if I use the skins in apple sauce, and I said I do in apple butter) I stopped her going by my front door and asked her to wait just a moment.

I dashed inside, pulled out the electric apple peeler and asked if she’d like to borrow it for a week?

The relief in her voice as she said YES! Thank you!

–Yeah, I should have offered that from the get-go.

And thanks for all the cheese
Saturday June 29th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Steve, owner of The Milk Pail, was offering raclette and other goodies and throwing a small impromptu party today at his much-loved shop, which closes forever tomorrow. There was the big bash with a band already, but he just wasn’t done saying goodbye to all the faces and stories he’d known for so many years, this place he’d put his life into.

Which meant these were hours when I knew he was going to be there.

I put on the sunblock and headed out. His wife and his daughters, too: they were all there.

And I only had the one. All this time I’ve been baby blanket knitting, ~90 hours’ worth of work so far, and I wanted to have four made. But I’m a do-one-project-till-it’s-done knitter, aside from the purse-friendly carry-arounds. Which this was, so at least my good intentions got that far: one would do when one was what I had.

And so, in memory of all that he’s given the community–Milk Pail has been an institution for 45 years–and of the good fight we fought together at City Hall, and most of all for the gift of his friendship and great example of how to be a truly decent human being, I gave him a handknit hat.

They loved it, all of them, because his happiness was theirs and I loved them for it.

Who now is going to put up a big sign in their grocery store saying this is their personal cost of a 25 pound bag of oats and if you put it on your bill, they will then deliver it to the local soup kitchen? Who is going to throw community cheese parties and melt that raclette right out of its rind onto your waiting bread? Where else can you order Thai Curry Cheddar (or even find out that it’s a thing?)

I could not let him retire without a bit of my knitting, I just couldn’t.

With a cherry on top
Friday June 28th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,LYS

Hung out at Fillory aka Green Planet Yarns and saw–Renee! We did a mutual double take in disbelief and then big hugs and it was great to see her and catch up a bit. We met when I was doing a book signing at Warren‘s yarn shop in Marin a dozen years ago, with a Stitches or two thrown in since.

Meantime, the pie is all gone and there are enough tart cherries for two more.

My my. Whatever shall we do.

(Burning the crust just meant we could skip the empty calories part, we figured. So: the new silicone crust-edge cover? Yeah no.)

For every spring forever after
Wednesday June 26th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The friend who got a Blenheim apricot tree as a housewarming present sent me a picture of her tree with beautiful yellow fruit on it and told me she’d let her kids pick the first and ripest today and how joyful an experience it was for them all.

It completely, totally made my day.

Hi, Lori, here it is
Tuesday June 25th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I talked to an old friend briefly and she wanted to know what I’d been working on of late. I invited her over here to come see.

And then realized I’ve talked about cherries and hawks but it’s been awhile since I’ve showed pictures of the afghan I started last month. Nothing has changed except length, of course, and the pictures don’t show the depth the cables give it, but it’s slowly getting there and I’m quite pleased with it.

Also a bit ready to go work on something different soon, even while I know I’ll miss working on this once it’s done.

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.

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.

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.

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.