A boost
Thursday September 17th 2020, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Afton mentioned Aftober, the race to pick up and get to the end of some unfinished project by the end of October, and suddenly I have incentive to knit not just another hat (there’ve been two of late) but that endless intarsia afghan.

I needed that incentive. Alright, then! Thank you, Afton!

(Maybe the still slightly broken blog will let me post celebratory pictures by then.)



Bench pressing
Sunday September 06th 2020, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

And yet another announcement of friends moving to where housing is more reasonably priced to work remotely from there.

And so there is now a quite lovely wooden bench under the elm tree for enjoying a good book from, for those who can do the sun time and as our grandkids get older. I quite like it.



Maybe that’s where it all started
Wednesday September 02nd 2020, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Spent a long time going through yarns and fish photos and measuring and eyeballing and I think the next two are figured out. I kept thinking, as I often have, that what I really need is my friend Lee’s pictures from his dive trips. (His ability to sketch would be nice, too.)

He and Phyl have from time to time offered us much-enjoyed evenings of seeing his underwater photography and one of those times was not long before Crohn’s put me in the hospital the first time. The doctor had me on morphine, and this time I was the one on a trip–with Lee’s tropical fish lazily meandering around me in the very brightest colors against a turquoise background, keeping me company all night, keeping me amused and distracted from the severe pain and feeling less alone because all of that was because of happy memories that had come from them.

A friend dropped by this afternoon with homemade jam from her fruit trees; I sent her off with a cooled loaf of cranberry pumpkin sourdough because I always know that one will be good.

We were kind of ready for something else, though. I was paging through my Artisan Sourdough Made Simple tonight and I didn’t really want to do it this way I wanted to try that and now there’s an experiment in the kitchen rising overnight and if it turns out fabulous you’ll hear all about it tomorrow. And if it doesn’t we’ll pretend this paragraph was never written.

In my dreams.



Boulder Creek
Sunday August 23rd 2020, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Some friends of ours had two little boys, 2 and 4, and the wife was expecting a girl–and suddenly had to have emergency surgery and everybody held their breath and prayed hard for mother and child both.

Months later, their daughter is here and safe and sound and her mother has recovered. Yay.

Restrictions are only one person at a time can go in a house that’s for sale and the realtor and buyer must come in separate cars, and all that was a pain, but they did it, they just bought a house to call their forever home. They moved out of their apartment and up into the beautiful, redwood-covered mountains last weekend.

Tuesday they were bringing their kids home from the grandparents’ and the road was full of people streaming out of there. Huh. Well, nobody had given them any kind of evacuation order so they put their boys to bed but out of an abundance of caution started gathering whatever they might need because you never know.

Forty-five minutes later they got that order to get out and scrammed. In the ordinary chaos of having just moved, they did not find everything they wished they had but it sounds like they got everybody’s favorite blankies.

Yay for grandparents close enough to go to.

Yay for having bought fire insurance.

Thank heavens for firefighters who do what so few of us could.

They know a hotspot flared up near their house but that it got tamped down, and right now that’s all they know.

Whatever surgery life performs on their expectations in the immediate term, they’re safe and sound and everybody is, in every way that matters, doing well. May all those tens of thousands of other people in the same boat be so as well.



Smoked peaches
Thursday August 20th 2020, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Last year the last of Andy’s peaches were done at the end of August,  earlier than previous years, and after eating a generic one that had come with my weekly produce bag and what a disappointment it was compared to what Andy grows, I wanted to go.

The air here had improved, but the fire map showed one blaze southeast of Morgan Hill as well as the ones on the coast.

I called.

“Yes, we’re open. It’s smokey, though.”

Coming through San Jose it started to sting the eyes even in the car and by the time I turned off the freeway, there was a plume behind the mountains on the coastal side. Eastward nearer Andy’s it was gray but without anything specific.

All I could do was say a silent prayer for all those in it, all those who don’t want to find themselves in it, and all those fighting those fires for the rest of us.

I got two flats of CalReds and some cherry-sized, exquisitely flavored green gage plums, and the similar mirabelle plums out of curiosity. Heirloom tomatoes. A bottle of poison oak honey (the very best). Slab dried apricots, not the prettiest but the ones that had been at peak ripeness so they went smush when pitted. Fresh-picked cobs of corn from his neighbor.

I was basically trying to pack all the Andy’s-ing I could into one trip because I felt I could take nothing for granted.

And then the fun part is I got home and emailed the friend who always wants a case of peaches whenever I go there and told her she had first crack at that second one.

Last time I’d gone they hadn’t had a second case that wasn’t already spoken for so I hadn’t been able to offer.

She was surprised I’d gone out in this, ecstatic for the peaches, and her husband picked them up almost immediately. They won’t end up pureed in my freezer for the winter but that’s okay, there’s still more August and I’ll just have to go back next week.



Keep them open
Monday August 17th 2020, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,LYS,Politics

I’ve mentioned Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco from time to time.

I got a Buy 3 Get 1 Free! email from Kathryn.

She’s only doing curbside because her county doesn’t allow customers to touch anything inside the store. You can’t pick up a book. You can’t squish and gauge which merino is softest. You have to know what you want.

Well I do. So I called and ordered fourteen skeins of Rios in Ravelry Red, with a conversation with my friend Afton to the side and headed on up there.

I asked Kathryn how it was going.

She said that while the county had everything completely shut down for two months, her landlord was only willing to cut the rent by 25%–while knowing her sales were zero for that time. After that, no breaks, no nothing, pay in full or you’re out.

So she is scrambling to make that rent.

You walk in her store (back when you could) to find cubbies along the walls on up to the ceiling, narrow aisles with more cubbies and more yarn above your head. Yarn yarn yarn. It’s a small space with a huge inventory. She doesn’t just sell Malabrigo, but that’s what I come for the most and she has more of it than anyone I know.

She’s not tech savvy and doesn’t have an online shop, but she will mail if you know what you want. She told me people have come to her after being able to find only a skein or two online elsewhere of something–whereas she’ll have a full bag or even two, enough to actually do a big project.

I showed her my ocean afghan so far. Most of it came from her. She was quite pleased.

I almost, almost bought the two bags of Rios in the Jupiter reds and browns colorway, but I was already picking up that red for a future afghan and had a request in for Matisse Blue to make another ocean afghan because a family member preferred that as the background; she’s checking to see if her yarn rep has it.

I texted Afton from the curb about that bag of Cian she had–my ocean’s background color, and got an enthusiastic, YES!

And so between the two of us we were able to help Kathryn out a bit and cheer her on. And, selfishly, to help keep my favorite yarn source going.

And then I went to the post office to mail Afton’s off to her.

Last week, the place was just deserted.

Today, the parking lot was full right after me. People were wearing masks and social distancing at the blue marks on the floor in a line that went from the two clerks (there used to be at least three if not four during the day, this being the main one in a major city in Silicon Valley) clear across the long room past all the post office boxes to the far window. They were not walking back out to try UPS because it might be shorter–they were walking in, seeing how it was, visibly taking it in stride one after another and putting that commitment of their time into this.

There was an outcry when, along with banning overtime and removing thousands of sorting machines, post office boxes in poor neighborhoods where people might vote were being removed last week–so Trump’s Postmaster General donor buddy had them stop doing that: instead, they put big red plastic locks on so no mail could go in.

We can fight back.

I paid for Priority and for insurance on not what I paid but what it would cost me to replace those ten skeins at full price plus pay for shipping and insurance again. More than I had to. Because I wanted to. They offered, as always, stamps, and I considered, but I’d just bought them twice and I wanted to look forward to an excuse for a next time. And frankly, I didn’t want them to run out for the day because, man, they just might.

All those patient-looking people behind me with that long long long wait were surely in it with the same determination.

The Post Office is under attack. Long live the post office.

Mail yarn. Make stuff with it, and mail that, too.



Dried cranberries soaked in the juice of an orange
Saturday August 15th 2020, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Been too long.

You never know when someone else’s diet might change or something, so to be on the safe side I called before showing up.

I hadn’t seen Nina since before the pandemic started.

I put the ziplocked loaf of cranberry pumpkin sourdough down on her doorstep (that one recipe is totally worth the price of the book) rang the bell, and stepped back.

Our masks in place and with the sun low for the day’s heat blast to calm down some we continued the conversation outside that had begun on the phone. Life. Kids. Grandkids. Work.

There was such an intensity of joy in something so ordinary.

They made French toast with some of that bread after I left and I got exclamation marks!!! texted to me. Now she knew why I liked that recipe so much!

Any time, hon, any time.



Sisters
Wednesday August 12th 2020, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

After checking ahead, some friends stopped by after dinner. I pulled three chairs out of the kitchen and we set them up under the elm tree and visited outside, socially distanced and masked, the weather perfect with just the right breeze ruffling the many small leaves bowing down towards us.

Man did it feel good.

I hope we all treasure each other and our time together after this is all over as much as we do right now.

And I can only wonder if all my friends of normal hearing are learning more keenly how to read eyes for their expressions, to be more attuned to the emotions of those they’re in conversations with coming out of this?

Because with the masks on, everybody is visually as deaf as me. And a little muffled. One has to pay attention.

As these two ever have anyway, I’m just idly wondering.

I sent them home with two each of Andy’s perfect peaches.



Are we surprised
Wednesday August 05th 2020, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

My next door neighbor told me he heard that sound and groaned, “Oh no!”

A different cop came.

The insurance agent, like last time, didn’t get back to me today so there was no rental car yet and the med that I’d gotten in the car to go pick up had to be picked up, so Richard walked the mile and a quarter to the pharmacy on the grounds of needing the exercise, then grabbed an Uber home.

Clearly we’re going to be driving a rental car again for however long it takes this time to get the catalytic converter part in stock.

And so we’re putting off the new driveway, again, because you can’t risk getting that stuff on the rental. Nor can you get it on the new mattress, and that hasn’t arrived yet, so delay delay and delay some more, with apologies to the contractor.

So this is fun.

My friend Tony was talking about the skunk at his house. I invited it to come live under my car.



He knows who he is
Tuesday August 04th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Thank you all, no pain last night and a much more productive day. I couldn’t get all the bags into the two recycling bins and the trash can; some will have to wait till next week’s pickup.

But the business card for the guy who worked at the long-gone Netscape? Boy did it bring back memories. Phil Karlton, one of their original engineers and an old friend, who wore a scruffy beard, a red and black plaid lumberjack shirt and a brilliant pink tutu to the Halloween party and was so fun with our kids. His wife’s paintings. Her post-polio syndrome.

The newspaper headlines in the 90’s about the first online funeral notice. The standing-room-only service for Phil and his wife Jan, who’d been on vacation in Italy driving down a road that had no stop sign nor marking that a highway was about to cross it. The loaded gravel truck doing 60 that broadsided them.

All the people across Silicon Valley who showed up in support of their suddenly-orphaned young-adult son.

The town in Italy that put up a memorial and the stop sign the townsfolk had long wanted.

The boss who paid for the son to go see where his folks had died, providing everything so he wouldn’t have to worry about the details, the gratitude of everybody for the humanity shown him; he was the son of all of us in those moments.

The business card, these decades later, of the mutual friend of my husband and Phil. I understood why it was still here.

I remembered, I considered, I hoped the son has had a good life since all those people came together for him at that beautiful Unitarian church and silently wished him all the best.

And then I let the piece of paper go.



It was time
Saturday August 01st 2020, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

It took me a moment to recognize it.

I think. I think. That was Lorna’s. It’s been so long, and I have visual memory damage.

I have rightly or wrongly always semi-blamed Noni juice for her loss, because it was popular at the time, she took supplements, and the FDA later posted a warning on their website (I have no idea if it’s still there) that it can trigger autoimmune liver disease.

Lorna was in a knitting group of mine and this was about twenty-five years ago. She found out she had autoimmune liver disease right after she found out she had cancer, and the one meant the other could not be treated–one round of chemo nearly did her in right there and there would not be a second one. She couldn’t process it. She was going fast, and she knew it.

I visited her in the hospital, knowing it would be the last time I saw her. She told me she wanted me to have some of her yarn, some good yarn.

I promised her I would make something beautiful out of it and remember her by it.

That meant the world to her, and there a few tears on both sides.

All of us had promised her we would knit at her funeral. She liked that idea.

And we came. It was a lovely old chapel, full of old and well-turned wood and windows reaching to the sky; I can see why she felt at home there.

I leaned over to Nancy before the service began and whispered, “I’ve got my knitting in my purse.” She smiled back in recognition, “I do, too.” Another friend later said hers was in her car but she hadn’t quite been able to make herself bring it in.

We didn’t knit during the funeral itself except in spirit, but we could have, and it was enough.

Lorna had never married, and her mom called Nancy and asked for people to come get her yarn stash and help her clear it out.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t make that one on short notice but the others saved some for me.

Leftover amounts. Scratchy wools. I have no idea what her stash had been like so it was what it was. There was the longest swatch I ever saw, where she’d tried out stitch after stitch, and that was pretty cool but it wasn’t something you could do anything with and there was no more of that handspun anyway.

And there was the front of a cotton sweater. (Photo taken pre-washing.)

I could be wrong, but I remember that as coming from her. It was still in the purple Lisa Souza bag Nancy had given it to me in.

I’m a fair bit smaller than Lorna was and don’t love knitting cotton but it was beautifully done in a gansey pattern.

In a shade of beige I didn’t wear.

I couldn’t rip all that work out and I couldn’t go forward knitting it for nobody and I’d made that promise and it was my one hope, if any. And so it got put away, till it was so away that it was long forgotten.

I came across it today. I remembered that purple bag but I didn’t remember what was in it. I opened it up.

It sank in.

I stopped right there mid-cleaning project, carried it out to the family room, looked at the stitches and yeah, that’d be about a 4mm needle, sat down with it and ripped out those rows of decreasing for the top.

And then with that now-wiggly squiggly loose yarn I cast it off straight across.

And then I worked in the ends, noting that Lorna had ended one skein just above the ribbing right in the middle of the row with a knot at the back and after that she’d changed skeins at the side edges so as not to do that again to it.

And then I ran it through my washer and dryer, where the loosely and unevenly spun cotton shrank into a thicker, tighter fabric. It was marvelous. The gansey purls stood out more and it was so soft. The ribbing still didn’t pull in at the bottom much at all–it’s cotton–and the sides were all pretty much straight.

And then I hung my new smooshy-thick soft oversized dishtowel on the upper oven handle, folded in half. (The amaryllis towels that Holly embroidered for me circulate on the lower oven to help them stay pristine.) This one is going to be a workhorse.

It’s absolutely gorgeous there, and a statement of knitting sisterhood. It’s so inviting: Touch me! Feel this!

I have no idea why I let that cotton or color defeat me for so very long and why I didn’t do this sooner, but I did it, I finally finally did, I made something beautiful from what Lorna gave me even if she’s the one who really did it. It didn’t have to be a sweater, it could be its own thing and now it is.

And I remember her by it.

Just like I’d promised.

And I absolutely love it.



Baby steps
Thursday July 16th 2020, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Sterling asked how I was and I didn’t really answer because I was still trying to figure it out. The nausea and dizziness are thankfully gone. Tomorrow’s another day further away from the concussion, and the day after that and the day after that and I figure this’ll all be temporary just like the other times.

Meantime, Milk Pail offered flats of peaches, ran out, restocked, relisted them for this Saturday morning’s pickup and I grabbed one. I’d passed on it earlier because I was going to drive to Andy’s and there was no way Milk Pail’s could ever live up to his. Plus I was hoping Andy might have a few last Anya apricots left.

That drive to Morgan Hill is not happening no matter how much I want it to. Richard will be doing the local pickup.

My head still just wants to hold still. Walking around the yard, I have to watch my feet constantly because they don’t entirely know how far away the ground is with each step.

Which isn’t really new, it’s just my brain doing Groundhog Day and back at the starting point.



Sterling
Wednesday July 15th 2020, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Colourmart had a mill-end sale awhile back and I bought all they had in a deep reddish brown merino. It’s supposed to be superwash, though I’ve never tested that out; I had just enough for an afghan and I didn’t want to waste a yard. (They have one color left in an earthier shade of brown.)

Dear friends of ours–the story is someone else’s in the family to go into detail over, let’s just say I felt I owed them much, and I aspired to knit them an afghan in thanks but then found myself making blankets for three grandkids on the way in a row instead.

In January I found that it was suddenly at the front of the queue telling me that it was its turn now.

Finally! Cool! I pulled out some yarn I’d had in mind.

But I just couldn’t make myself get going with it. Which disappointed me in me for dragging my feet. C’mon, it’s taken you long enough to get to this point, what’s the hold up?

I finally caught on and got a little more humble about it and said a little prayer: You know what they’d like best. I only know what I’d like best. Please help me get this right, because they’re the ones it’s for and for all that effort I truly want to make them happy with it.

I immediately found myself opening the small cabinet I keep some of the best to come tucked away in and going straight for that deep burgundy I’d bought a couple years earlier.

Really? It surprised me. I held a cone in my hands and considered. The color would go great with their living room. It was extra fine merino, which is very soft, but it had a lot of twist to it, which made it less so, although that would cut way down on pills or fuzzing out. Definitely a practical wool: thick, warm, not itchy, cuddle up, wash it, it can take it.

And so I made this afghan.

But with the shelter-in-place orders, neither Richard nor I could quite justify breaking quarantine just for that. Soon, surely, but again and again it came down to, but not now. What if I exposed them? What if I exposed them to the pain of finding out they’d exposed us?

And then, knowing none of this, Sterling asked me to knit his co-worker a baby hat. And you know the rest. One that looked like the logo of their project.

Which he finally got to come pick up tonight. He told me he’d shown the picture to some of his co-workers, including some that were knitters. (I was like, hide those rainbow color changes…!) But nobody had tipped off the recipient. I got to see the sparkle in his eyes as he said, That’s tomorrow.

And nobody had tipped off him.

He reached into the bag, stunned, feeling the edge of his and his wife’s new afghan, and looked back at me and said, marveling, That’s one of my favorite colors!

—————–

Edited to add–I was getting ready for bed when suddenly the obvious hit me and I came back here to say: if we had gotten that afghan to them earlier, Sterling would never have asked me to knit that hat because he would have felt like it was just too much to.

That, most of all, I think is why that waiting had to happen. That hat needed to happen, and that shared happy anticipation on the part of so many on behalf of the expectant parents and their little one about to arrive. I mean, they would have anyway, but sometimes you get that rare chance to help make love visible.

I almost missed seeing that.



Thirteenth
Tuesday July 14th 2020, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Pomegranate tree picture just because. It grows like a yarn barf ball that the cat got into.

Seaching for something at the back of the middle shelf of the freezer in the garage this evening, several things from the top fell down on my head. Because I had just put them back in wrong.

I tried not to do a small freak out.

Including half a dozen concussive-type events with actually getting knocked out, I’ve had twelve.

My friend Phyllis’s sister died in middle age after two concussions in fairly short succession. I am a little too aware of the possibilities.

Got dinner done, went to go check on a plant, and was both opening the slider and stepping through when the bottom caught, the top bounced way back, and it smacked me so hard on the ear that after I caught my breath I had to take out the one hearing aid to ask Richard if there was blood. I have these semi-hard things in my ears, y’know, and, yeah. Not that he could see, though, so, good.

Next thing you know I’m trying not to throw up. Richard had me go lie down awhile with his, I have no idea what you call it: an ice head belt? It’s black, it’s like fabric-pot fabric, it has pockets for ice packs, velcro hinge-type things to flip over and hold them in, and sideways velcro to hold the contraption around your head. Good for migraines.

The room was spinning. It’s been worse, but. I was quietly feeling like, don’t leave me. I didn’t actually ask. He stayed with me.

After about 40 minutes, I got up and watered the now-four-branches baby apricot and veggies out of sheer cussedness: those pots dry out fast and I’ve put too much into them not to now.

Then I typed all this out so I would be able to go back later and see what date this was.

And went, but you know? What I really want to do? Is to finish that stupid hat I keep not wanting to work on.

So I did. I sewed on the ears–in a solid line down the sides of the upper face this time. I worked in all those ends and I used them to cover up some of the mishmashed color changes as best as could be done, and-

–wow. Who knew. Sterling was right. That one is a lot cuter than the second try–or just different, but, it matches much better what he was hoping for and it’s a really relatable, cute face now.

I can’t wait to get it to him.

I’m going to let him be the one who’ll drive over here. I’m taking it easy for awhile.



Parfianka
Thursday July 09th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Mango tree

I’ve told this before, but for those who haven’t yet read it: My friend Jean planted a pomegranate tree and two years later brought a half a paper grocery bag’s worth of fruit to church to share that was bursting open, breaking itself into pieces that made it easy for lots of people to get a sample (outside). *She* thanked *us*, saying there was way more than she could eat.

I had never tasted anything like it. I wondered if I’d ever tasted an actually ripe pomegranate before, or was it just the variety (she didn’t remember the name.)

A few years later I got to tell her that she was why I’d researched descriptions and taste tests and planted my own, a Parfianka, the favorite of not only a whole bunch of people online but the owner at Yamagami’s Nursery. I never would have done it had I not tasted hers first and found out what I was missing. She’d definitely earned a thank you.

Mine was a cute little $10 end-of-season-clearance what-they-had-left thing in one of those 4x4x10″ sleeves. Jean was 80 when she planted hers and she clearly started with a more established specimen. Makes sense.

Time and sun and water and dirt and the little one got there just the same. It fascinates me how the tree just keeps on randomly throwing out new flowers with the fruit in various stages, keeping the feeding station open for the bees and hummingbirds.

Jean is 94 this year and I think others will be bringing her pomegranates inside to her. I hope she gets to see them fully ripe again.

And one of my mangoes, too: two more months. I would not make her wait for an Alphonso, knowing she misses the Hadens of her childhood in Hawaii but her late husband even more, but I hope to help her discover something new to love and partake of just like she did for me.

I don’t dare risk bringing one to her in this pandemic, but if her daughter okays it I’ll pass one along through her.