And then what’ll we do for fun
Tuesday May 07th 2024, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Knit

Picking up stitches along an edge is right down there with doing seed stitch: things I tend to put off.

I promised myself this was the week, and today I picked up the afghan, now in its fifth month, and I did it, I picked those up. One, two, skip one, one, two, skip one, one two, skip one….

Because (and I learned this long ago the hard way) knitted stitches are not square and going sideways from the ones you’re working from in ribbing, if you pick up every single one you’ll make a ripple that will never lie flat, not to mention the extra yardage and time it takes that you could be spending picking up more stitches on the other side and getting that over with, too.

Seven rows down seven to go on this side.

It feels like a mystery that somehow after all this time, that’s all it needs and then I won’t ever get to knit on this particular afghan again. Right when it’s at its most glorious.


One skein of Rios down to the last tiny bit
Monday May 06th 2024, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Knit

When I give people things knit in superwash wool, I tell them it won’t shrink.

Although, a more accurate description would be, it boomerangs.

Sheep’s wool, unlike from other animals, has these microscopic scales that, when you add in water, temperature change, and agitation, interlock and latch onto each other: the wool shrinks and sometimes it ripples all funny but it can be very useful for all kinds of purposes when you want it turned into felt.

A superwash treatment coats those scales so they just sliiide right on past each other.

All by way of saying, my carry-around project suddenly isn’t anymore and in my surprise I forgot to take its picture first.

As it dries it will shrink back closer to the size it was coming off the needles, with some variance for the fact that lace stitches of themselves relax out the moment they’re wet.

So. Malabrigo Rios, Gemini colorway, US 7 needles, 90 stitches to start, and if you look closely there’s this slight jog (more like the jogger was limping) about a third of the way up where instead of doing a plain row between the yarn over rows, I put in an extra yarn over at each point where the next one would go, ie on the equivalent of the wrong-side row. That took my stitch count to 99 to give a little bit of shape rather than just a straight tube to the thing.

Not only is the cowl wet, it’s upside down in the photo. But that’s okay, we can still have nice things.

With the strength of a mighty river
Sunday May 05th 2024, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life

Someone was at church today whom I saw at the play last night but did not recognize.

I had no idea she was the granddaughter of one of the members whom we had all been asked to pray for a few years ago: she had been pregnant, then the pandemic began, then she found out she had stomach cancer.

It had not looked good.

Today is the first Sunday of the month, when in the Mormon Church people take turns coming up and addressing the congregation as the Spirit so moves them.

She stood.

She was so grateful for all those prayers, and for the ones she knew were to come because there had recently been some bad news again… And that was all she said about that.

The important part, she wanted us to know, is that our good works matter. Our love matters. It matters. Always. Never hesitate.

Later, during a Sunday School discussion, wanting her to know she was not alone on the human front as well as the heavenly, I described being in a hospital bed fifteen years ago too ill to do anything for myself much less anybody else and very very close to death.

Except: I was still me. If I had to go through this (and obviously I had no choice in the matter), then the one thing I could still do was I could pray for every single person who came into my hospital room.

And you can’t pray for someone, and mean it, without loving them.

One doctor confessed later that he’d written on my chart, Patient looks deceptively well. Do not be deceived. Because I was too cheerful.

I said, I knew that the doctors and staff in the hospital see people in their worst moments. If I could love every one of them, that could reverberate forward through all the years they serve there. It could help them to see the best in other patients in whatever circumstances the way I was doing with them, it could potentially ease the burdens on thousands and thousands of people.

The young mom was going, emphatically, YES! YES! You could see the relief in her face that someone got it, how she’d felt and dealt with her own experience a few years ago and that was rapidly coming at her again, someone knew, that what it had been like for her had been like that for me, too. And the result had been blessings. So many blessings. Oh the stories we both could have told each other.

I so loved her for her loving–everybody.

And renewed my prayers for Jordan. And her family, and her medical team. That much, I can do.

And it is no small thing.

A one hour shaggy dog story
Saturday May 04th 2024, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We will all be telling the tale with a laugh for a whole long time to come.

We have in our ward a woman whose heart belongs to the theater. She’s been writing plays for the community since before I was born, often at the church with and for the kids.

But it had been a number of years. Colette is 91 now. The bishop asked her if she wanted to do a production again–and she was instantly the happiest I’ve seen her in a goodly while. She felt seen. She wanted the kids to feel seen. We’re on!

And so there were rehearsals every Tuesday for Jack in the Beanstalk. Two wards were involved, not just ours, over a hundred people got into it.

Tonight was showtime.

So: Jack lives in Texas. His mother is a witch, a sweet fairy godmother type, sparkles and all, but a fairly inept one. She tells him to sell their cow and go buy some magic beans so they can make their fortune.

Bull, he corrects her.

Right. Bull.

So off he goes, wandering through various story lines, including: Hawaii (we have a seriously good ukulele player in the ward, and watching one of the hula dancers I suddenly realized oh that’s right her mom grew up there), there was Mary Poppins and adorable little girls who about brought down the house, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (which I think was included in honor of the late JoAnne K, who’d sewn that incredible coat years and years ago for one of those productions and which instantly delighted a whole lot of us adults who knew. Joseph was the tall teenage second-generation of these productions), there was New York City with little boys wearing Mickey Mouse ears and long narrow tails and throwing pizza boxes and chip bags in the air in great delight. Rats in NYC.)

And at long last a dance and a solo by a bunch of men in suits with briefcases playing Wall Street.

They had been searching. They needed a logo.

They saw Jack. He had a bull! That was it! That was perfect! Sell it to us!

No can do, says Jack: I promised my mom I would only sell it for a beanstalk.

WE CAN DO THAT! They exulted. Out came half a poster from offstage: Bean. We have an IPO and we can make you part of it! The rest of the poster came out, then another on the other side, spelling it out: LL Bean stock!

How now round cowl
Friday May 03rd 2024, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Life

Four falcon chicks now, getting dinner this evening. They’ve grown visibly since the last one hatched twenty-four hours prior.

I think the rest of this weird day is requiring a Thumper’s Admonition–but we got one business entity’s screwup hopefully fixed and the other figured out and about to be. But it took a lot of time.

At least I got some cowl knitting done while on hold.

Addition edition
Thursday May 02nd 2024, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Life

Well that was a surprise, as I looked up and saw the worker. Had no idea that was going in.

And then the double take: how did they do that without there being any hammering sounds? And it’s not just me, Richard didn’t hear any either. Curious.

Wednesday May 01st 2024, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Politics,Wildlife

The first San Jose peregrine falcon eyas of the year hatched today, three more eggs to come.

Remember the two guys in our House race, Simitian and Low, who got the exact same number of votes for second place and so we had three winners in the primary? Someone not currently affiliated with any of them paid for a recount and it was decided today.

But not till after Low had thrown a fit, calling the person paying for it a stooge of the guy who’d come out #1 because they’d had connections in the past, and when asked, Is it not democracy to make the effort to find out who the voters wanted the most?, continued to call doing a recount a corruption.

Well well well guess who came out ahead by five votes after that recount? Egg, meet face.

Personally, I think he found an effective way to make sure Liccardo stays in the #1 spot come November. Real leaders don’t bully.

Starting the season off right
Tuesday April 30th 2024, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

That distinctive wide, low swoop caught the edge of my sight and I stood as I turned to see if maybe I could see it way over into the neighbor’s yard.

But that’s not where it was. It was perched right there on top of my birdnetting tent.

I looked at the Cooper’s hawk and it looked steadily back at me for about half a minute. It was an adult, a little paler at the lower front than its (grandfather?), Coopernicus, who used to come people watch from time to time during breeding season. Including, memorably, one time when a mourning dove fluttered down off the awning right in front of him and how do you describe a bird doing a double take as he did this sudden, ‘Scuse me, my young’uns would love some of that. Whoosh!

With the tall redwood and silk oak trees gone now that they nested in it was a joy to see that they’re still in the neighborhood.

The butterfly lady
Monday April 29th 2024, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life


She stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, “I thought that was you!” as we threw our arms around each other.

I was at the clinic for my follow-up to see if they needed to do retina surgery yet.

That department has always been busy in the extreme when I’ve been there, with an employee lounge turned into an overflow waiting room, but at that particular moment there was a single person in the original waiting room and the receptionists were waiting for anyone to show up. One of them called over to me with a smile, Name? Birthdate? so she could check me in without interrupting the joy any longer than necessary; it was putting a smile on her face, too.

We caught up a little bit and then they called Ginny back.

Since I wouldn’t be interrupting any other patients, I turned to that receptionist and explained, My kids are 36, 38, 40, and 42 this spring, and she was the kindergarten teacher to all of them.

Kindergarten! Wow!

I waited my own turn, sitting there remembering the time I’d attended the funeral of our favorite fifth grade teacher, gone far too soon. Ginny had been there. At one point after the service, a 6’9″ young man was helping the family move a tall easel covered in flowers to where they wanted it for their luncheon, and he spotted us talking and came our way with it.

“Alison,” Ginny said, “You need to step out of this man’s way.”

“Ginny,” I said–“That’s my son Richard. He’s coming to say hi to you!”

“OHMYGOSH! Ohmygosh, he’s not little anymore, is he!”

I wished we’d had more time. I always wish for more time when I’m with her. Soon enough they called my name. Did some tests, dilated my eyes, talked to the doctor and the med student tagging him for the day, came back out, and once again as I approached the desk, needing to schedule the next followup, she was coming out, too.

This time we had about fifteen minutes to ourselves. It was glorious. And you know a retired kindergarten teacher would love hand knit finger puppets and she did.

Both her kids had had twins, all four grands were born the same year, college is coming up in a couple of years, and everything is all at once for everybody. She asked after mine.

She had retired, then she had subbed, then covid, then–

–Parkinson’s, and she couldn’t risk falls around the little kids now.

“Oh I’m sorry!”

“Yeah,” as she looked me in the eyes, “I am, too.”

But she knew I knew about living with…stuff, health wise, and I think it helped to be able to talk about it to someone who simply understood and that you just go on with what you have the best you can.

She had put those finger puppets on and she kept them on and we laughed about flamingoes in her lawn and they were still on as they called her back to finish her appointment; we said our goodbyes.

Her one kid who lives a plane ride away is coming with her family next week, the other is nearby. There will be a grand time and Ginny will be surrounded by love and by teenagers, who are such interesting people to talk to, always.

This was our teacher who’d built a little enclosure with hanging beads, ’60’s hippy style, with the monarch butterflies inside it that she had had her students raise. If a kid was getting angry and full of feelings he didn’t know how to deal with, he got a few minutes to calm himself in the butterfly room.

Where the rule was you had to be absolutely still so as not to scare nor injure these delicate, beautiful creatures the kids had put their hearts into seeing coming to be.

The orange and black monarchs would peacefully land on their shoulders or head or arms or everywhere, wings gently folding and unfolding.

It was Ginny’s cure for Nature Deficit Disorder.

Oh, and I got to tell her when I came out: they told me things looked better than they’d expected and for now I don’t need to do surgery.

Because I knew that when you’ve struggling with a new diagnosis, when hope seems a difficult thing, borrowing a piece of someone else’s helps.

Happy and ever after
Sunday April 28th 2024, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Family

You know how when you’re going to meet someone that someone you love loves, you hope you’ll instantly love them too and that they’ll do the same for you? And then–you do?

And then you just fervently hope?

I told my kids earlier this year, She’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her. He’s clearly good for her and good to her and she for him.

On a side note, he also happened to love the hat I introduced myself to him with a little while back. For all the hundreds of hats I’ve knit, I’ve never made any other quite like that one, just different enough with its gansey motif in a dark denim shade.

He was wearing it when they showed up today and told us their happy news together.

Her mother would have been so thrilled for them both.

2000. The fierceness all over again of missing her as I typed this took me by surprise. But we could be there, and they let us be, and that was high honor indeed.

With the blessing of St. Marks
Saturday April 27th 2024, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We were given the honor of being invited to our neighbor’s senior piano recital, to be held at a lovely old church.

We surprised them when we said we knew the place well: our son had had his organ recital there. The acoustics in that building are amazing.

The daughter, heading off to college in the fall, plans to minor in music.

Not only was she a joy to listen to, but her every movement conveyed the sense of what the composer was trying to offer to the world. She is *good*.

We told them our son had minored in organ performance and had played the Mormon Tabernacle Organ for his final.

It felt like passing the baton to the next generation and saying, You’ve got this.

It’s the coverup that gets you
Friday April 26th 2024, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

So when you only have ten skeins because that’s a Malabrigo dye lot and you want to make a baby blanket and you know that any kind of openwork will stretch the size/yardage ratio nicely but will also get tiny fingers caught in it–you know that really, it ought to be a solid knit. Also because (hopefully) it is going to be a favorite and loved and dragged all over the place in one hand with fingers in the mouth with the other.

On the other hand, this is going to be a Texas baby. Maybe the yarnovers aren’t such a bad idea.

My brain is having a hard time picking just one pattern. Actually, I am thinking of one, but it’s a right twist/left twist that will shrink the amount of coverage I could get out of those 1000 grams.

The mom wants gray. Anyone got any baby-boy favorites for a solid color blanket?

The beam in thine own eye
Thursday April 25th 2024, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Wildlife

I caught the rabbit nibbling on my sour cherry blossoms.

Then for several days it avoided this strange new thing.

Today, not so much. And it kept going back in there! Hawkproofing, what’s not to love, right?

Meantime, I had this moment of, hey, that’s it: the infamous white beam! And the gray grooved interior wall in the living room! Ours was exactly like that, only a fair bit darker of a shade in a shaded room, terribly depressing, the only thing I really didn’t like about this house. It took us six years to get rid of it and it may be why I dislike gray on walls so much. Our contractor nailed wallboard over ours, but anyway, here’s a listing that takes me straight back to when we first walked in the door here. Same builder, same floor plan. This one has not been changed much.

Picture number 18. See that white beam connecting the refrigerator side to the oven side?

Eileen, DIL of the then-owners, was in the kitchen, phone in hand, as we and the realtor came in. She saw Richard’s forehead matching up with that board and said to the person on the other end, Oh, THESE people aren’t going to buy this house!

What she also knew was that the master shower had been remodeled to be short enough for her Japanese in-laws. The shower head hit him near bellybutton level, and the stall was small enough that he couldn’t fit in it to kneel down under it.

Within a day or two we had a telescoping shower head. Later, the stall became part of the hallway to the new master bedroom and that beam in the kitchen was the first thing the remodeler took away.

So it was kind of fun to explore our pre-remodel house in those pictures without having to actually live in it again.

Keeping an eye out
Wednesday April 24th 2024, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Garden

My Stella sweet cherry. It looks like it’s going to be a good year for it again. There is an Erva cage protecting its trunk from the rabbit in the bushes.

I had two apricot seedlings last year whose growth tips got killed by a heat wave not long after sprouting–they didn’t make it past two inches tall. But I knew from experience that if I just kept at it, winter would hit the reset button and they would grow normally this spring. A leaf or three was enough till then.

And they did, they are making up for lost time. It’s so gratifying.

Yesterday I saw a couple of leaves along the branch on one that seemed…odd. But they were too small to really see and I figured just let them grow and show themselves, I mean, typically you get a tiny new leaf tip and it grows out to a whole new branch when they’re at that stage.

This evening there were a lot more of them and it definitely demanded more attention.

I squinted. I got close. I found myself keenly aware that the retina surgeon is next week. I took pictures so I could embiggen them, but the camera kept focusing on the actual leaves and the breeze kept moving the thing and this was the best I could get.

I stayed there with my face right in it, trying to see–when suddenly the teeniest, tiniest clear wing went up. I went after it and found myself with green bug squish on my fingers.

There it was. I knew I’d better deal with them fast before they spread. But how? I didn’t have any Safer soap.

I ran in the house and grabbed a Kleenex. I very very gently held it around that fragile little branch and slowly carefully killed the lot of them. What was either black bug poop or bug eggs showed up against the white tissue as well. As far as I could tell I got everything.

I walked around the outside of the house to the city’s lidded compostables bin to get rid of it to try to make sure there were no escapees, then went over my four other apricot seedlings ages 1-5 years but found no trace of the little monsters.

Dr. Google says green aphids.

I am getting me some plant-friendly Safer soap from the local nursery pronto.

Tuesday April 23rd 2024, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Our parents were three thousand miles away, her kids were off at college, and Alma became our kids’ surrogate grandma when we moved in.

When our youngest was born a year later, she was insistent that she was going to come take care of the kids whatever time of day or night it might be while we went to the hospital, so at 10:30 pm that Sunday when I said I was two minutes apart she came right on over.

As I told her daughter today, we have been grateful all these years that we so lucked out on who we got to have as neighbors.

Richard hurried home around 2:30 a.m. to thank her and relieve her, bearing the news that we now had two girls and two boys.

About 8:00 a.m. she was ringing the doorbell to come take care of the kids again so he could go off to work.

Going to work that day had not occurred to him. Nor his boss. He had been going to sleep in a bit but who was he to argue with someone being so kind–and he could see that from her generation, that’s just what you do, and so he dutifully got out the door and went off to work for a few hours.

He never told her he went and found a cot there and snoozed under his desk for a bit.

Alma and Jim had a big, old plum tree and freely shared of their harvest. (My kids would later plant me my own Santa Rosa tree as a Mother’s Day surprise.)

One year there was enough that I made a batch of jam and gave them two jars.

Jim thought this was great!

And so I ended up coming back to their door with I think it was four more jars, which is how Alma found out that his eyes had lit up at the first two and he’d gone back out to the tree and when she wasn’t looking he’d shown up on my doorstep with forty more pounds of plums. Forty. He’d slightly staggered coming up my walkway with that big bag. And you know they had to be processed quickly because the ones on the bottom all nice and ripe like that were definitely going squish under there.

Not that I said any of that out loud but she instantly knew.


The two of us laughed and then she did too but somehow they never gave me quite that many again even if it was fine with me.

The last few pounds were pureed with lemon juice and thrown in the freezer, but I did it, I got them all done.

There was the time I walked next door a moment with toddler #2 in tow, and when Alma opened the door he promptly chatterboxed her ear off.

She listened in amazement, and then turned to me and said, He really does talk when his big sister isn’t there!

Jim’s beekeeping. The hive that swarmed and were every bit as peaceful as I’d heard described. They were in a cloud just above and next to my mango tree by the fence line. I surprised myself at suddenly wanting to inspect its flowers just then and they all but invited me to come join them in their life dance in the air. I suddenly understood why people would keep bees, and I will forever be grateful for an experience I can only describe as glorious. I would never have known.

So many years of good memories.

Jim passed a few years ago at 86.

Last night, just after I posted here, I got a note from their daughter: her mother had quietly passed away. She had been so fortunate to be there with her when she did. She knew I would want to know.

I knew the day was coming but the reality is that I cannot fathom not having Alma and all her love and shared memories right next door.

We exchanged messages and love and then by light of day today threw our arms around each other.

She travels home tomorrow and I will so much miss her, too. She and her brother are so much like their mom and dad. The best.