Embroidered Shirt Day
Monday May 23rd 2022, 8:06 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I don’t usually lift other people’s pictures but I wanted to show you this one before it’s sold to show you what I’m talking about.

In the middle of the war, the Washington Post interviewed people and had an article, bless them, on the traditional embroidery and clothing of Ukraine and the women who create it. Vyshyvanka is the word but they said it carries memories of the Soviets’ efforts to erase the village-by-village patterns in order to basically de-Ukraine the country.

So President Zelenskyy simply called the traditional day of celebrating that part of their heritage National Embroidered Shirt day. Simple, to the point, and good marketing for his people.

One mention jumped out at me:

“The designs are often intricate and brightly colored. They represent scenes from Ukraine’s varied geography, which spans forests and steppe, prairies and river canyons.

Many of the keepers of Ukraine’s traditional clothing methods are older women, who receive little support for or income from their embroidering.”

The reporter talked to people who’d spent their time in the bunkers with floss and needle trying to declare beauty in the face of devastation.

In the comments, readers were mentioning their favorite Ukrainian shops on Etsy and assuring each other that yes they do ship, yes they can still get items out.

I wonder just how many people immediately went to Etsy. I know I did.

Some things immediately leaped into my cart Saturday, but I decided to let them sit there till Monday so I could step back from the impulse buying–although I did order a happily bright red jacquard toddler skirt for my younger granddaughter. At two, you can do that for them, and she has a birthday coming up this summer (and Etsy warns that shipping from Ukraine will likely not be speedy at all), while at seven, her cousin’s age, I’d have to check in with the kiddo or her mom first to get a feel for preferences before doing the grandma thing.

Some things learned: linen is the most traditional and common, cotton’s a close runner up–but if it says chiffon, it’s polyester, although the reviewers I saw liked the quality of it. Most work is machine embroidered, and when I was into embroidery as a kid I thought that was a total cheat.

Now, hey, anything that helps them out: you can make and sell a whole lot more in the same amount of time. One vendor proudly shows a video of a multi-needle industrial machine embroidering the design she’d created. Cool.

Not everything is traditional. This sure isn’t but it is stunning, and though I wouldn’t look great in it (nor is it in my budget) I sent the link to one of my daughters, who most definitely would.

This seller’s work is gorgeous. Lots of hand embroidery and traditional blouses there. Here, too.

You can even buy embroidered cotton t-shirts. I’d show you the more formal looking one from another shop but, um, oops, probably they’ll make more before mine gets here.

I really like this blue one. Maybe they’ll have one next month. Because this heavy cotton jacquard skirt (with pockets!) was the splurge I decided on, along with one of those hand-embroidered blouses to go with. (Not that one, but close; I picked one with a tighter neckline for lupus’s sake.)

A 17″ tie would be laughably short on my husband–but if you know someone who likes the one whose picture I swiped, here it is. That handwork definitely deserves a link.

There was another shop that I’d picked a few things out of to debate over today before buying what I ended up with. But between Saturday and today that vendor in Ukraine, with beautiful work and lots of glowing feedback and a number of items for sale–


Um, maybe they simply sold everything? I can wish. Things are being snapped up quickly, though.

But that is another reason why I went ahead and bought what I did: because I could. Because they’re there, now, doing their best while I’m here where it’s safe. I want them to know they have the whole world supporting their every single day in what they create to bless this world of ours.

And because they just plain make beautiful things.

The cure
Tuesday May 17th 2022, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Woke up running a slight fever but got up and stayed up and didn’t mention it because it was just a slow-start morning, right? Plus I didn’t want to interrupt his meeting. So he didn’t know.

Finally, no, enough already, and at about 2:00 I went to go lie down, telling Richard, Wake me up in half an hour. Um, maybe forty.

So he tried, but nothing doing. I was not getting up yet.

At the hour, he came in and, knowing I don’t like insomnia at night after too long a daytime rest–

Okay, here’s where I explain about being toddlers and preschoolers in church together sixty years ago. Little kids need movement and song and dance is their thing.

So here’s my 6’8″ husband holding his arms over his head for a sun or a tree, take your pick, singing, Innn the leafy treeTOPS* the birds say good morning. They’re first to see the sun! They must tell everyone! Innn the leafy treeTOPS, the birds sing good morning! as he leaned to the right and stood on that foot, then clapped the other against it then leaned to the left and clapped the right foot against it in rhythm the best he could, swaying back and forth with his sun held proudly high.

You goof!

I hadn’t thought of that song and especially those movements in just forever. I was laughing as I put my hearing aids in.

And then he had to sing it again so I could hear it this time.


*(That’s the highest note so you have to sing it the loudest. It’s the rule.)

Double eclipse
Sunday May 15th 2022, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Life

I looked at the sky at 6:00 tonight as knitfriends in a Zoom bemoaned stormy skies on the east coast that meant they wouldn’t be seeing the red total lunar eclipse tonight. I didn’t say, Blue and clear and bright as could be here. (I did tell myself, don’t be smug.)

Cue the comeuppance of the fog coming in on little cat feet...

During an eclipse, you know it’s there, you just can’t see it. Tonight, we know it’s there being not-there while it’s there, we just can’t see not seeing it.

And more since April
Friday May 13th 2022, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

I was looking at some old pictures: this is my oldest Anya seedling, pictured a year ago when it was finally really starting to grow its second year, and three weeks ago.

Suddenly I got why the young termite guy last week, on stepping out the sliding door, stopped right there a moment, transfixed at the changes since last July. On everything. He was delighted–and a little wistful.

I found myself so much wishing I could give him a yard big enough to grow his own fruit trees, because I knew in that moment he’d take great care of them and if he didn’t know how he’d go learn. In a heartbeat.

His moment of wonder stayed with me and finally I had to go flip through the pictures to see for myself what he’d been able to that I should have. To remember to appreciate it more.

When you see it every day it’s easy to not quite notice what the very intermittent viewer can.

Follow up
Wednesday May 11th 2022, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Politics

So this post is a little like the fledgling finch I watched trying to land on the newest leaves of an apricot seedling today: kind of flapping its wings all over the place with its feet flailing before flitting off thataway.

Pete Buttigieg, talking sense and being reasonable on the whole Roe issue before the Court.

Last night I was going to start Gansey squares above the brim next on the requested gray hat–when all that other stuff happened. I took it to the emergency dental appointment because you just never know.

But my brain was just not doing patterns. Stockinette on auto-repeat only.

Just need to decrease at the top now.

My new Skacel olivewood needles showed up for tomorrow’s highly anticipated new start in brighter yarns and I’ve never had olive ones before. I know it’s a particularly dense wood. If you’ve tried them I’d be curious to hear what you think.

(And yesterday’s post should have been titled, Another one bites the dust. I think my brain is back.)

I took a gross picture of my face. My husband, with better lighting, took a grosser one and sent it to all the kids. Um, thanks I guess?

The new dentist called this evening to follow up to make sure things were okay. I like this guy.

Rudolph the red-nosed
Tuesday May 10th 2022, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Life

You know how sometimes you think you should get something done and then life makes you?

I haven’t been to the dentist since just before the pandemic. Yeah, I ought to, but yeah, I floss religiously and they’re looking pretty good, and unnecessary exposure, so, yeah, whatever.

Turns out my dentist had back and heart surgery starting in March and his doctor basically told him, Retire. Now.

So when I went looking for any missing teeth–no, looks like they’re still attached, yay–as I picked myself slowly up off the ground, I found out I had nobody to call to ask if I needed an emergency appointment.

I’d gone straight down and bounced off my front teeth. They are loose. Not knowing what else to do, I put a note on the ward chat and six different people instantly recommended the same one and it’s actually someone I know a little and he says yes that needs to be seen and he is having me in to his office at nine pm and it’s actually quite close by. He kind of apologized that he couldn’t get out of (whatever it was) sooner, and I was a little dumbfounded that he would worry about the inconvenience to me when I’m the one who should definitely be apologizing for messing up his time.

Do your back teeth still connect when you bite? he asked over the phone.

Yes. They feel a little funny, but, yes.

He was relieved. “That’s a good sign.”

(Update: no breaks in the teeth. I lucked out.)

The burned saplings growing back in the yarn
Saturday May 07th 2022, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The knitted redwoods are ready to go.

Twenty-something years ago, we used to make the drive from the San Francisco Bay area to Salt Lake City every summer, usually for five days, after Richard’s sister who lived there was diagnosed with lymphoma. We wanted to see her and her family and that was the way we could make it happen.

A CD would get popped in in the minivan and my husband’s favorites in particular would get played again and again and again and again (with me trying not to say more than once, For the love of pete can we please play something else?! Do those have to be every single trip?)

Tom Paxton. Willy Nelson. Pete Seeger. The Dave Matthews Band picked by the kids as they got older was pretty good, though I’d have gone for some James Taylor, myself.

To his credit, Richard did occasionally fiddle with the radio dial, but there’s a whole lot of nuthin’ going through Nevada.

Those albums became imprinted on my brain as part of, we’re doing a hard drive and we’re getting past my fears of driving past those thousand-foot drop-offs and the roadstop McDonald’s that missed half our order (again! Please can we do the Arby’s next time dear) and you don’t find out till you’re a mile or two down the road and you just go forget it because you’re not doing those miles over and you let a kid have your burger so they don’t go hungry because we’re going to see Cheryl and to show her kids they’re loved and we are not getting there late.

Especially after their dad decided he was afraid of being widowed and alone and was determined not to feel that pain.

I’ve met men who later cheated on their wives but never to the degree that one did. She was so much better off after their divorce.

We came.

There were zero cures and three known cases of remission of the type she had when she was diagnosed on her 40th birthday but she was determined to see her kids grow up. (They say they can cure that type, now.)

And she did it. She did it. Eight years. She made it through her son’s wedding looking far better than I would have expected and got to see him married to the best young woman she could have hoped for, and the two of them so happy. And they still are.

J., his baby sister, was a freshman in college along with my oldest when her mother passed six weeks after.

This afghan is for J.

What I wouldn’t do to be able to give her her mom back instead. But I can offer love and she can wrap it around herself at any time forevermore and know that I’m thinking of both of them.

This new Tom Paxton song for Ukraine came courtesy of my friend Anne today and I found myself near unexpected tears.

With the sound of his voice, all those memories and associations of piling four kids in the car and making that long thirteen hour drive across mountain and desert and salt flats, driving, driving, driving, heading towards people we loved to make good memories with them while we could.

And thinking of all those families who, if they’re lucky, have piled into all those cars to drive drive drive to flee the country and friends and places they’ve loved, wondering if they’ll ever see them again.

We are with them in heart and song and we will play it over and over and over and over. For them.

Babies! Almost
Wednesday May 04th 2022, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

There were reports of two pips spotted among the three peregrine falcon eggs on San Jose City Hall. These are the tiny holes where a baby beak begins to do its first job. White fluff was spotted on the first, video was taken, and I am told that you can hear the tiny sounds of the eyases (chicks) as they are slowly showing themselves out.

I don’t think I can–there might be something at the very edge of my hearing with everything turned full blast, possibly–but maybe you can hear it.

Here we go again
Tuesday May 03rd 2022, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Life

I read the leaked Supreme Court draft and I think I just need to take a deep breath about that for the moment. I will say that it unconstitutionally establishes by the power of the government one religious viewpoint above others. They picked and chose what historical context they wanted while pretending anything that contradicted them didn’t exist.


I’d found a few new spots (one of which, it turned out, was indeed termites–directly above this computer, so that one was easy to spot) and with our five year warranty the guy was here again. Just him, not the rest of the crew this time, but he noted the work that had been done on the house during the repairs since he’d been here. It looked nice and he was quite pleased about that and happy for us.

I told him there was this one corner where there had been a bag of soil leaned against the siding that none of us had thought to move and check behind–and the repair contractor had found a bit of termite damage but had assured me it was all gone when they replaced that part.

He wanted to see the spot. I took him outside to it.

He tapped on the wood here, here, here, over here, and then again just to be sure: it was solid. Everything was good.

But he pointed to tiny ants scurrying to where I’d first pointed: “Those are carpenter ants. You’ll have to call a pest control company.”

I looked at him a moment in astonished amusement, started to laugh, and then waving at him said, “I did!”

That stopped him for a millisecond as he considered it from my point of view because yes that did seem reasonable, but–and then he explained that they used to, till the state changed the code and required a different license for termites vs ants and rodents and the like, and they didn’t have that license, they just do the one job now.

He also explained how the Eichler houses with their planked ceilings are a particular target for those ants, but said spraying around the base of the house should take care of it, and cut away any trees overhanging the house.

I explained that we had after finding raccoon paw prints on the cracked plastic skylight in the master bath. Another reason why we now have frosted glass ones–I didn’t want that one coming through!

He laughed.

Inside, there were a few places where quite small spots of paint were peeled away on the ceiling. Near where a couple of those cracked skylights had been.

The ants had done that, too, he explained.

So, if you ever need incentive to organize your house, get termites. The crews need to be able to see everything. But don’t put it off.

He’ll be back for the annual inspection in July.

Dr. Y the art historian
Monday May 02nd 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Today was one of the great honors of a lifetime: we got invited to attend a friend’s doctoral thesis defense today. Zoom was an option.

And so I did.

I kept my camera on during the introductory remarks and then, fearing I might in any way be a distraction, turned it off and just watched, needles and hat project in hand. I and so many others had been praying so hard while he’d been so worried and had worked so hard to be ready.

But now it was happening. Once he was actually up there facing the faculty for it, he knew his stuff, he knew what he was going to say, he knew he could answer their questions, and he just nailed it again and again and again with the confidence he had put the effort into earning.

Congratulations, Eric! filled up the chat sidebar at the end as I turned my camera back on long enough for him to see the huge smile on my face.

He did it!

I will forever wish he’d gotten a chance to meet my dad–they so much would have hit it off.

Wherever he and Aubrie and their two young sons go next, if there’s room in the car, a little Anya apricot tree will start to set down roots along with them.

And if when they get all done packing the space just isn’t reasonably there, I’ll send them some kernels from this year’s crop. They want one as a memory of California, I want to send a bit of my heart into their future, and we can make this happen.

Every baby deserves something handmade just for them
Thursday April 28th 2022, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

The young couple across the street.

The husband showed up on our doorstep about a month ago with the misdelivered birthday box addressed to us of Hawaiian-grown chocolate. It was clear what was inside. We both had a good laugh as I thanked him for being willing to give it up.

A Pod storage unit showed up in their driveway two days ago.

Yesterday evening, I saw her briefly across the street in silhouette: she was!

This morning there was a truck.

I spent too long diving through stash, looking for that perfect skein in my head, sure it must be there, and finally thought, C’mon. Speed. Speed is what matters. Hurry. The undyed (and thankfully already-wound) Rios won, even though my brain was in anything-but-white mode after two months without colors on the needles, and I cast on. It’s more formal anyway, they could use it for more places and to match anything.

The truck with the Soft Air Pac writing (?) left, a different one arrived. Box trucks, both of them, big ones.

I took a break only because my hands demanded it and fed Richard the fastest microwaved lunch I could think of. (Sorry, dear.) I got back to work. It surprised me how long this was taking me. Go go go. You don’t have time to stop. Go.

1:00 pm: I DID IT! I ran the ends in, wrote a quick note of washing instructions and tucked it inside the hat, found a gift bag, and went over there and knocked on their door.

The mover guy opened it with question marks all over his face: who are you and why are you here now of all times?

But she saw me from across the room and her face lit up as she quickly took his place at the door.

Me, stammering: I saw yesterday–pregnant? Are you–? holding out the bag.

Her: Yes! Thirty weeks. It’s a girl!

Me: I didn’t know your tastes, so, y’know, frog? puppy? lace?, so I just made it plain, but I’ve been knitting like crazy since I saw you.

She laughed with so much joy in her face. So much happy anticipation: towards the next two years abroad, towards her daughter, life, everything, made all the sweeter as she looked at that hat all squished up in a ziplock. It wouldn’t take up much room.

She declared it perfect. She said Oh thank you! when I assured her it was superwash wool, so that while it would fuzz out in the laundry, it wouldn’t shrink, even in the dryer. She saw I knew and still remembered what it’s like with a new baby.

She was so glad to see me to say goodbye before they leave on that temporary assignment and the hat just topped it off.

I didn’t keep her but a minute. I knew she had a ton to do.

The moving van pulled away a half hour later.

He might want his shoes after all
Sunday April 24th 2022, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of my favorite pictures from last weekend. Spencer is 3.

It reminds his grandmother of how, in elementary school, when the door opened for recess I would run and run and run and run and burn off all that energy from having to sit too long and too quietly.

The only time I ever got sent to the principal’s office is when one larger older boy decided that I needed to be chased and since I didn’t know what he was going to do if he ever caught me and he wouldn’t stop even though I told him to, he socked me and I socked him back. Once each because we instantly found we did not like this turn of events. But being kids, we needed help being stopped so we would both know we both knew it wouldn’t happen again.

There happened to be a teacher steps away right at that moment.

The principal was dumbfounded that I of all his students had done such a thing. So was I.

And it never happened again.

In sixth grade they were doing Presidential Fitness Awards (I think Nixon started it) for athletics in young kids, so then the other kids had to run, too. Measured. Competing. All the boring stuff.

Which made me officially the third fastest kid in my grade. I was the fastest girl, by quite a bit, and when the boys I’d beaten tried to put me down about it I was having none of it–I’d outrun them fair and square and they knew it even if they didn’t like it.

Go Spencer go!

An early start
Saturday April 23rd 2022, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

When Richard and I had been married about a year, I discovered a farmer whose wife had a few apricot trees that were for her personal pin money and she was offering 27 lb wooden crates (with a strong request that you return the crate) for $5.

I brought that crate home in great anticipation and glee at our adulting–all that fruit from pick-your-own farms in my childhood that my Mom had put up every year, and now we got to do it–and my husband and I spent a Saturday in grad school jamming and bottling and creating rows of all those gorgeous jars of summer sunshine.

I lined them up, tired and proud and admiring what we’d accomplished, when my sweet new husband turned to me with a smile and a half-apologetic half-bemused confession: “You know what? I really don’t like apricots.”

He’d waited till we were done. He hadn’t wanted to wreck my enthusiasm. We gave most of it to his older sister when we moved away and she was quite happy to have them.

I remembered that day when I read last week someone saying she’d picked a hundred pounds of apricots off her four year old tree. At least mine were growing from seeds, not nursery stock, so I figured we wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that for awhile yet. Besides, all you have to do is ask friends to come over and help themselves and a good time will be had by all.

He has actually tried the Anyas from Andy’s and though not as bowled over as I might have hoped, he conceded that for an apricot they were good.

I have six seedlings left, with two spoken for.

I figured we have several years before I even get to taste from the two I intend to keep long enough to find out which one has the fruit most like its known and loved parent.

This evening, I saw, really saw for the first time, and how had I missed this? My third-year has this one branch near the top that hadn’t been sprouting any leaves off it, and it was now quite a bit thicker and browner than all the young ones around it growing straight and red.

What had happened was that we had our first warm day in awhile today and the buds had burst out from it. Thus the nubbly randomness that had caught my eye at long last while the other branches around it had grown past it and obscured it.

Those are flower buds!!! That’s a fruit spur!

I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid.

I don’t get it. Not that I’m complaining! My cherries, peaches, and plum, my other stone fruits: they all bloom first and then leaf out as the petals begin to give way in the spring. That apricot was the first one to leaf out starting over a month ago and there were no signs of flowers then. As a matter of fact, I had thought that in years to come it would be more likely to lose its crop to the weather because it had leafed out three weeks before the second-year seedling.

Granted, it’s still a baby and its timings could be random for now and time will tell.

But an apricot that doesn’t bloom till the end of April or more? If that holds, that would be a highly desirable thing indeed.

Edited to add: I just heard back from the friend I gave a Blenheim to as a housewarming present several years ago. She told me that the lower blossoms do open first in the spring, before the leaves, but that there’s often a few fruit spurs at the top of the tree that open up at the very last like mine is doing.

Well there you go.

Alternatives, energetically
Friday April 22nd 2022, 8:43 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I do not remember which TV show from when I was a kid had it as a tagline but I do remember “Here in beautiful downtown Burbank!” as the audience applauded and the show host waved his arm to the stage. I always wanted to know what did Burbank actually look like? Were they being proud? Ironic? Sharing a good day?

Okay, I just googled the phrase and apparently a bunch of shows and businesses there have now adopted it as their own. But–Price is Right, maybe? Who did it first?

Well, anyway, Southwest Air wanted hundreds of extra dollars each for the only nonstop return flight three weeks ago, so we flew Salt Lake to Burbank to San Jose instead.

The Bob Hope Airport at Burbank.

Which looked like it was straight out of the 1950’s. That had to be the original signage. Possibly the carpeting, too. Roll the metal steps up to the plane and cross the tarmac and should you want a wheelchair, the people working on the ground urgently requested a strong complaint to Southwest to finally provide them because they don’t.

But what I actually sat down to write about was what I saw on the way there, that I would never have on any other route nor even from the other side of the plane: a solar farm, sure, that was cool, but also another one that I had to figure out how to even search for it to learn more about the giant cobweb.

A solar tower that runs on melted salt. Including up to ten hours at night.

Melted. Salt.

What I can tell you is that the very top of that thing is brilliantly, painfully bright, so you know it’s doing its job.

It was very expensive to build and it was apparently a proof-of-concept endeavor.

But I figure (with admittedly limited knowledge) that once you build it you have it so why wouldn’t you and why aren’t there hundreds of these already.

Just make sure the pilots have sunglasses.

More and more and more
Tuesday April 19th 2022, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

One and a half milk chocolate tortes were still in that fridge. After our big Easter dinner, even with all those people here, we’d only eaten the other half.

I put a note on the ward chat explaining what they were, why they were there, the fact that they freeze easily whole or by the slice, but that they were milk and not my usual dark chocolate and that I had no freezer space for them.

Please rescue us from these calorie bombs, I wrote.

It took no more than the time it took him to type it for the first response to come in, where the guy said he was so glad he’d been on the computer just then. He’d love to share one with his neighbors. He knew what my tortes were like.

He got the whole one.

I write notes in my cookbooks, which is how I know that the first time I baked the original version before it morphed over time into richer and darker was in June 1990, and the person who answered next had been enjoying them that long; she got the half.

Her husband stopped by to pick it up on his way home from work and by the quizzical look on his face I’m not sure she had told him not to expect a whole torte. But he was certainly willing to let me give him that one.

The third person wished so hard and was a dear enough friend that I measured the cream I had left, found a half–I never have a half, but there was a half, and only a half–of a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar for the glaze and there was enough cream for just one plus for whipped cream on a certain somebody’s birthday cake tomorrow but there was not enough cream to glaze two tortes. So that settled that.

A few hours later I sent her a note.

Wait what?! You did not!

Did too.

So she stopped by a little later to pick up the one I baked this afternoon, a proper bittersweet chocolate this time, and she surprised me back with her favorite balsamic vinegar plus a jar of honey from her bees.

Because if I can do it to her she can do it to me. So there.

And then she told me her family was going to share it with a mutual friend whose husband has been in the hospital for some time. I’d had no idea. So glad that torte got baked and ended up where it needed to be. (And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the second set of recipients shared theirs with that woman, too.)