Calla called, cowl could
Saturday August 18th 2018, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus

Afton (should I say Other Afton, or Local Afton) told me last week she’s about to move to Denver.

Denver is going to be awfully cold to a Californian. So I made it to Green Planet on Thursday (while I could still buy this yarn), started Friday night, got right back to it first thing in the morning and by this afternoon had two skeins of Chalet in this cowl and called it done. (It was densely knit, too, before water touched it, but I still think it’ll give her some good warmth. The photo is less than half of it.)

Ran to Trader Joe’s this evening, where they had small pots of flowering plants out front; I did a quick visual skim so I could keep going and ignore them–but that darkest-pink-to-purple calla lily jumped up and down and refused to let me not pay attention to it.

Wait. That’s IT!

I’d been looking for it for a long time without quite knowing what I was looking for–and with my sun sensitivity, it’s hard to go browsing at nurseries.

I’ve had a large chestnut-brown ceramic pot near the front door ever since my friend Sheryl gave me several when she moved. Two have long been used. The third was very heavy, and when we found it had a crack in it it seemed like an announcement of, well that’s where that goes, then, and it’s a good thing that’s a good spot because even empty it was too heavy to safely move it again and it was far too nice to just toss it because of that.

I just never came across anything that felt like the right thing to put in it. It seemed kind of dumb to have this big empty gorgeous pot just sitting there, and it was, but if I was going to put the effort into keeping anything alive it needed to be something that constantly drew me to it.

It was pretty dark by the time I dragged the bag of soil from the back yard and got this all tucked away in its rightful new place, where it will bloom and the bulb will spread out to fill the space for years to come.

I’d been waiting for it for a long time.

 

 



Kudos to Kooba
Friday August 17th 2018, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

Back in January, I needed a black purse for my father-in-law’s funeral. I found one at Costco that, well, I wasn’t sure it would hold up well past a year but it was certainly not expensive given that it was leather and it was big enough for traveling. Good enough. I needed one immediately. I was glad to have it.

There was some fraying on the straps ten days later.

One simply came unglued at five months.

All the more incentive to get my Charlotte Ronson knitting bag rehabbed, and I did that, but meantime out of curiosity I looked up Kooba. One of my daughters had a Kooba bag that was a very nice leather, well designed, which was part of why I’d bought the one I did. Hers was similar to this one and it was made to last a long time.

Their website said they warrantied any bag bought at a full price outlet for one year.

So I sent them a question: did Costco count as a full price outlet? (I mean, I’d paid a tenth of the list on that other and I’d expected going in that I was only going to be getting what I’d paid for.) My guess was the answer was going to be no, and reasonably so.

The person who usually dealt with such customer inquiries was out on a medical emergency. Which I found out when the vice president of the company personally stepped in after a few weeks and asked if anything had been done yet?

Actually, no it hadn’t (but then I hadn’t been expecting anything.) He explained the delay, apologized, followed up with several emails–

–and today this showed up in the mail. (Picture taken after the paper stuffing came out.)

It is the same as the one I bought–except that the leather is better.

They really didn’t have to do that. But I’m very very happy they did.



They were just helping
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I remember wondering as a kid how on earth a measure of fruit–or Peter Piper’s famously pickled peppers, for that matter–could come in…pecks. Who thought of that word and put it in that context? So strange.

After gleaning these from the ground (which, truth be told, is an easy way to harvest) with, if you turn them over and around, a single beak mark in each, I think I get it now.



Nine? Or eleven?
Wednesday August 15th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

There were nine skeins in the one dye lot and two that were so near a match that after the store wound them for me, I find myself digging the ball band out of the center each time I start a new one to make sure I’ve got the right lot.

Having them be that near a match is a good problem to have.

I’ve still got time to decide what the best way to blend the two together would be. Two rows of each, alternating, sure, but for how long.

I like those afghans to still be useful for our tall grandkids after their babyhood is over.

Meantime, on a totally random note, if you ever wanted to go live in a cave, here’s your chance.  Four bedrooms, indoor waterfall, and helipad. Must provide own chopper.



Halfsies?
Tuesday August 14th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I got my first fig two days ago, and it was just about a breakfast unto itself. I’d almost forgotten how enormous Black Jacks get.

There were two more that would have been perfectly ripe today and I was quite looking forward to them. Halve them, put some Brie in the center and put in the oven to roast… Just one more day’s heat to make them perfect.

Yeah well and early this morning one was snapped right off and this was the other, quite hollowed out and nearly all gone–I was going to have to work harder than that.

So I did. (I also chucked this and washed my hands a good one after the photo–who needs raccoon spit contamination?)

I happened to look out the back window this afternoon to find a squirrel twirling away on a branch. But they don’t even like figs! Well maybe now they do. How did it… I scared it away, but by the time I grabbed a hat and a sun jacket and came around the outside of the house to reset that netting it was back at it again.

So I worked a little harder on covering the survivors up. That had worked up till then and I wanted it to keep working.

I at least got better netting this year: it’s heavier and it doesn’t glom on and tear things as if it had been glued to the leaves.

I sprinkled chili flakes liberally. More stabby acanthus stalks. Then I got some of the older stickier netting and pulled it over any gaps.

And that was that. No more sign of squirrels. Success.

Till I walked out this evening to see if everything had gone as well as I’d thought.

Somehow the scrub jay hadn’t gotten the memo that the bird netting had been reinforced. It had managed to get in there between the two layers but it couldn’t find its way back out in its sudden emergency and it really really wanted to as I approached. Its blue wing appeared to snag on I couldn’t see what while the rest of it fought furiously to get free, with me two feet away and the netting between us. It felt just like my finches had the moment before it had stabbed them to death, awkwardly and too slowly because it’s not good at being a predator.

Neither am I. I gave it a verbal what-for just to reinforce whose figs those were and at last it found that one open-enough spot, burst out of there and zoomed up into a tree. Okay, good, you didn’t damage yourself.

More acanthus stalks. Spiky spiky spiky. Although that’s more a mammal thing. (Picking a splinter out.)

More hopes of getting the best-tasting figs in the world, ie picked fully ripe at the break of day. I’ve waited a year for this.

If nothing else there are still some very green ones to give me time to plot my next move.



Two and new
Monday August 13th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

He was two. And he was determined to be shy.

His baby brother, newly walking, let me read him a book twice and let me vroom vroom with a hot wheels car–that he promptly wanted back. He could give it to me but then I had to give it back to him: that’s the rule.

That’s okay. I know that rule.

His big brother watched from his ride-on toy and turned away when I tried again to engage him. I might look like a grandma but I was not *his* grandma.

Tough crowd.

Singing softly, though–wait, he knew that one. “The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.” He watched me intently. I got to the verse of “the driver on the bus says move on back…” and suddenly he found his ride-on bus moving backwards from under him.

He laughed! I totally got him. Forward again on the wheels going round and round, backwards on the move on back, again and again and again.

And with that we were finally friends.



25″
Sunday August 12th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

After a week-long knitting drought it felt good to get back to work on that afghan again.

Perspective is an odd thing, though: when I first picked it up, it felt like, is this all I’d gotten done so far?

After working at it for awhile, it felt like, wow, I really did get a lot done before that break. Onward!



Simple pleasures
Saturday August 11th 2018, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I’d been really wanting more of that berry cobbler all week but given that I like to add two tablespoons more butter than the New York Times version, I really needed to have people around to help the two of us eat it. Four+ cups of fruit only excuses the indulgence so far.

This evening was our friend Phyl’s annual last-Saturday-before-school-starts pool party so I had my excuse.

I used unsweetened Kefir (a type of pourable yogurt) this time instead of whole milk.

The cobbler came out less crunchy on top than the first time but the sour better balanced out the sweet.

Any chance at leftovers disappeared pretty fast.



The better Angelus of our nature
Friday August 10th 2018, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

My sister-in-law’s been dividing her time between various northern Californian loved ones and we got to have her again today. She’d been to the ocean with our aunt and uncle, so I took her for chocolate at Timothy Adams.

She happened to mention that her husband, having grown up in Arizona, has loved real Mexican food all his life, and so does she: but living in Texas, there was only Tex-Mex where they are and it was not the same thing at all.

Hey.

And so we took her out to dinner at Estrellita. It was what she’d been missing.

We came home to Andy’s peaches for dessert. I cut a few, served them up, and Jennifer took her first bite, I’m sure wondering if they would live up to my hype.

Her eyes flew wide open and she took it in for a moment–swallowed, then pronounced, I. have. never. in. my. life. eaten. a peach. like. this.

Then she said to me, Did you have any yet?! Take a bite take a bite!

I grinned. I knew what those were like.

She was off to see our niece next and then her childhood friend north of San Francisco, who’s had early-onset Alzheimer’s probably since her 40s and could definitely use a connection like that to how good life is despite all the things she can’t do anymore. And whose incredible angel of a husband could use some of his own good coming back to him, too.

Are you sure? as I urged her to take enough of the Angelus peaches for all.

I can get more a lot more easily than they can, I told her.

I couldn’t wait for her to get to see their eyes like I got to see hers.



Paul Kalanithi. And Jason.
Thursday August 09th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life,Lupus

A book or the baby blanket project…

“When Breath Becomes Air” won. Written by Paul Kalanithi, whom I first stumbled across in a New York Times article. He trained as a neurosurgeon at Stanford alongside our friend Jason, which I knew was going to make the book feel very personal. I watched Jason’s family go through that hard long slog; when Jason’s training was finally over, he took a job in upstate New York and his wife Sheryl, who loved to garden and did what she could while living in a rental here, gifted me with several large flower pots when they left. I have raspberries in one and a squirrel-surprise fig seedling in another to remember them by.

When Kalanithi wrote of going out with his wife to a great barbecue place, I thought, I just bet you that was Armadillo Willy’s. California does not do barbecue like the South does but that’s the one place I know of that tries.

Kalanithi wrote about what it’s like to be diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at 36 when you’re so close to achieving all that you’d hoped and worked towards but then life flips the tables over and everything spills off.

I remember Jason coming into church once, which was always notable because during those residency years he so often couldn’t take the time off to. He looked down, and it could have been just the endless hours of it all–and yet.

So I asked him.

And he, knowing that I knew the inside of Stanford Hospital well, just spilled: he’d had a patient, a lovely woman, cheerful, happy, healthy all her life, (and it was clear he really admired her and loved her) and all the sudden there she was needing brain surgery and bam just like that despite all his training, despite all his years of preparation to be able to help other people in moments like this, there was suddenly no more they could do and to his great surprise she was gone. Gone. How. It had just happened and he hadn’t had time to process it yet. He wasn’t sure right then that he could process it–it just didn’t compute. Sixty years old–so young.

Looking at this love of a human being himself, my reaction surprised him. I was in my early fifties, so an endpoint that seemed so close to him in his thirties was a lot closer to me. But still, I was going, Sixty. She made it to sixty in good health. How would it be! I marveled rather than ached, and told him, That’s really cool, I’m so happy for her. I’m sorry she’s gone but I’m glad she had such a good life!

I was picturing all the things one could do if, say, one could be a normal person who could be out in the sun. No lupus. No Crohn’s. You could travel. You could go to the beach and not just right at sundown. You could play with your grandkids on the grass at noon, you could celebrate in any way and at any time you wanted and the fact that she was such a good person while living that life… And then blink and it’s over and you don’t even have to do much of the suffering part in between.

To have that reaction out of someone so close to his patient’s age–that was exactly what Jason had needed. The gratitude. And towards him, too, for having been there for her when she’d so needed him. It turned it around for him completely. He had done his best and he had been there for her and what he could do and be had been enough.

I think both of us will never forget that moment.

Today, at long last, I read his friend Paul’s posthumously published, beautiful, heartbreaking book, a love letter to the daughter he would never get to see grow up, and wished Jason and Sheryl were still here to talk about it with. About their friend.

But life changes and people move on.

This I know: we will see each other again.



Pound plus per
Wednesday August 08th 2018, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Andy’s was open for business, said a sidewalk sign put right there just for that, but the flag man said no as the two-story truck and the smaller soccer-cleated truck behind it chugged and beeped. (The grandsons would have known their names.)

Now I understood why Catherine had raved over the kindness of the woman who’d offered to meet her with her peaches two weeks ago: that woman hadn’t just been willing to walk out to the road carrying everything but down to the next block across the length of the orchard.

Go back out to the main road and then right on Peach, the flag man told me, nodding yes over the noise when I repeated it back to him to be sure.

Can I get in that way?

Yes you can.

Peet, actually, it turned out. Coffee not fruit.

There was another orchard turning into housing. Beautifully landscaped like the others around there but it still broke my heart.

Down near the end, Peet too had a Road Closed sign across my lane. I considered briefly, thought, well he told me to and there’s nobody there to tell me not to so I can. I’m going.

The road curved towards Andy’s.

I waited for the men driving those trucks in front of his orchard to at least notice me so they wouldn’t back up over my car, then scooted down his driveway.

Where his guy retrieved a case of Angeluses from the back for me and raised an eyebrow at my request for a second. (I know they try to make sure they have some for every customer who makes the trek out there so that nobody comes away disappointed.)

I explained that I was buying for two; I’d been commissioned by a friend who was a regular, too. (Ever since I’d told her about the place, and now she’s joined the Rare Fruit Growers Association that Andy is so much a part of and talked to him herself. I didn’t say all that.)

Alright, then. And he let me have another for her.

I was just about to hit publish right there when my doorbell rang. At 9:30 at night? I flipped the outside lights on.

Andy! (Or rather, Other Andy.) Catherine’s husband, and not only did he pay for the peaches I’d dropped off (you should have seen the look in their teenage son’s eyes at the sight of them this afternoon) but he was bringing us some honey from his hives in thanks for making that trip after they’d run out.

He let me send him home with two more of the biggest peaches I had in thanks. But only two.

Some friends just never let you keep up. And that is a wonderful thing.

 



This one, yes, that one, pass
Tuesday August 07th 2018, 10:47 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I finished Red Notice and I wanted to start right back at page one again. Read it, if you get a chance. Make the chance. This one’s important.

John McCain of all people made me cry, in a good way. He’d been there. He knew. He did something about it.

“What are you going to read next?” I was asked this evening.

And so a shorter book that had been on my to-do list is also finished.

Well, huh.

For the author’s sake I am not going to name it here. Let’s just say it definitely suffered by the comparison and some books make me glad I like to knit.



Change of fortune
Monday August 06th 2018, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Before he died, my uncle, the late Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, told all his kids to read, “Red Notice,” by Bill Browder.

Which one of them happened to mention on Facebook the other day in memory of her dad.

I picked it up today and I finally made myself put it down just now with a third to go because there simply is no more time in the day.

The man can definitely write. And Uncle Bob was right: everybody should definitely read this.



Caaahs and effect
Sunday August 05th 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I was showing my sister-in-law around the fruit trees in back when suddenly she did a startled double take.

Oh, that’s the dead crow.

The !??!

I explained.

She burst out laughing, just like I did when the lady at the bird center told me all the crows in the area would caaaah a funeral together at their fallen comrade, and then leave and not come back–because they didn’t want to be where a crow had died.

The trick, though, is to set it out at night and then retrieve it at night so they don’t associate you with harming it and that peach tree it was under was long since done and I’d only been remembering the retrieving part during the daytime. Which wouldn’t do.

I have seen zero crows in the yard–though I did see one croaking away at full blast at the top of the tree next door yesterday, where it had direct eye contact with the deceased. No translators were available.

What mine really seemed to protect against was squirrels–they clearly did not want to go near that beak.

Nobody has confessed to ruffling its feathers.

But at this point I figure it’s been dead out there for three weeks, and if I put it over in the apple tree it will have moved and thereby be deemed alive–telling the squirrels to scram and the crows to come celebrate. Free food!

Jennifer’s guffawing did it. I remembered. I bagged it.



That Napoleon guy
Saturday August 04th 2018, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Family

I was cleaning the house, as one does before one’s sister-in-law arrives from Texas, and stumbled across a spring alumni magazine I hadn’t gotten around to reading but hadn’t wanted to let go of before I did. I almost chucked it straight in the recycling. This was not a day for being patient with clutter.

But wait.

Okay, years ago when the movie Napoleon Dynamite came out, Newsweek ran a small blurb praising it, with that iconic picture of the curly-red-headed lead character.

All I knew was, I turned the page on my magazine and why on earth was my husband’s high school picture in Newsweek?! In his suit–I recognized it.

But wait (looking more closely), is that… (reading). Wow. Man is that guy a dead ringer from back in the day (although mine’s better looking.)

So here I was, alumni magazine in hand tonight and the cover looks sort of like an artsy-fartsy graphic that you might even think was that guy. It couldn’t be. What would that movie have to do with BYU?

Plenty, it turns out, given that the writer and most of the actors were students there at the time; the cover story was an interview with the cast. I’d had no idea. And they were funny!

I’ve said for years I really ought to see it just to see how else that guy looks like my husband 40 years ago. Now I want to see how those guys pulled off those scenes they described.

They borrowed a van and it broke down, so, okay, they shot that scene right there in the middle of the field. They needed a cow in front of the school bus and theirs was a no-show; well, everyone in this quite small town has the same first three numbers on their phone, so they just dialed the last four numbers randomly till they got someone.

I’m doing this movie (oh they knew who this was) and we need a people-friendly cow. Know any?

Well, we’ve got Bessie the 4-H cow. And so Bessie was there in ten minutes.

I want to watch her world debut. Finally.

Anybody around here seen it?