High on a Hill Lived a Lonely Goatherd…

Rachel’s spring recital was this afternoon. Her voice teacher of four years assembles his students twice a year for a formal recital at the Berkeley City Club (a gorgeous Julia Morgan building near the UC Berkeley campus)

so all the parents, friends, and significant others of our favorite singers can hear their progress. It is always an enjoyable event, but today’s was bittersweet because Rachel is heading off to college in the fall and this was most likely her final recital with her teacher, Jonathan Nadel. Although she already had a naturally sweet soprano voice, Jonathan’s instruction has helped her achieve vocal maturity and depth.

Her singing was lovely (not that I’m biased…) and it was a gorgeous afternoon. I won’t make any snarky comments about some of the other performances because although the level of professionalism varied widely, none was downright painful to hear and everyone did his or her best – it showed.
On the way home, we spied these adorable little guys:
munching and scavenging their way around the hills just before the entrance to the Caldecott Tunnel on our way back home. Goats are so darned cute! At first we thought there was just the usual traffic back-up near the tunnel entrance, and then we realized all the rubbernecking was due to the official Weed Control Goats on the job! Keeping the Berkeley hills weeded and the grass short is their raison d’etre, apparently – they all seemed perfectly content to graze their way across the hills in full view of and close proximity to the freeway traffic.

All Things French

I admit to being a francophile, though I have not visited France in several years. But aside from the obvious attractions (the wine, the cheese, the CHOCOLATE…), there is something about driving out of Paris into the countryside and seeing, suddenly, rolling green hills and tidy manicured farms appear where only minutes ago suburban sprawl was everywhere. This is simply by way of preamble to introduce today’s topic: the French Child’s Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush.

I’m working my way down the foot of the first one and so far am quite enjoying the process. It has been a long time since I last knitted a pair of socks, and I’d forgotten how wonderful they can be. And giving, generous knitter that I am, I’ve never before knitted a pair for myself – only for others (who shall remain unnamed, because they don’t even wear the socks I slaved over to make for them! Hissss…). These, however, are to be all mine. Between the Signature DPNs in size 2 that make the knitting an absolute pleasure, and Sundara’s delicious sock yarn in Basil Over Buttercup, I am in heaven. The only other thing I need beside me with my cup of afternoon tea is a vase of these:


They’re called Honey Perfume roses, and yes, they are aptly named. The fragrance is strong, spicy, and absolutely intoxicating.

May Day

When I was in college back in the Dark Ages before Ravelry and blogs, when knitting needles were mostly metal or plastic and yarn choices were woefully limited, I had a friend named Harriet who made a sweetly big deal out of May 1st.

She’d tiptoe out of her dorm room at four in the morning with a pair of sharp scissors in her back pack and a basket handle over the crook of her arm. Dressed all in black and padding quietly out of the quad in her sneakers, she’d slink over to the residential neighborhoods that flanked our campus in order to steal liberate armfuls of flowers from the pristine spring gardens that decorated the grounds of those homes. She was never greedy, though – her next stop was a roadside meadow not too far from campus where she could supplement her cultivated treasures with wildflowers that were never part of anybody’s garden scheme, but just as colorful and fragrant.

Back in her dorm room an hour later, she’d fill small glass jars with these unique bouquets, wrap a wire handle around the lip of each jar, and – still before sunrise – quietly hang her May Day floral arrangements over the doorknobs of her friends’ dorm rooms. These utterly charming nosegays were what we’d find when we first opened our doors to greet the day. And I’ve never forgotten them, even years later.

In the spirit of May Day, thought I’d share a few more beauties from my garden. It’s really outdone itself this year.

I’m gonna get you, sucka!!

There’s always an element of magic in the spring garden, where from one day to the next I can watch this:


slowly unfurl itself into this:


and finally, reaching its full glory, into this:


Early response to the Guinevere Evening Cardi has been very positive on Ravelry, inspiring me to get busy writing up the pattern ASAP. I have notes – lots of them – that will be fairly easy to write up into a multi-sized pattern.

What I don’t have yet is a test knitter, and I’m reluctant to put a sweater pattern out there unless it has been ruthlessly examined by other knitters first. If anyone would like to test knit this design, let me know and I’ll send a suitable yarn along with the pattern as it stands.
Just call me Grace – Grace Kelly, that is!
The vintage buttons were such a joy to use – finally. I saved them literally for years, waiting for something special to give them a home. The top one is the enameled turquoise, and the other three are the iridescent blue and green domes. As mentioned elsewhere, I applied large snaps to the inside fronts of the cardi, and stitched the buttons to the outside where they lie nice and flat.

http://www.julieturjoman.com/2009/04/203/

Guinevere!

In the annals of NaKniSweMoDo, it can be said that I completed the fourth project in less than four months, ahead of schedule. I present herewith my Guinevere Evening Cardigan, an original design using Sundara Yarn’s Aran Silky Merino in Green Tea from her 2008-09 Sweater Club.

This cardigan, with its visible waist shaping, elbow-length sleeves, two simple stitch patterns, and sparkly vintage buttons from my stash (I’ve talked about the yarn stash, but the button stash not so much. Probably better not to get started on that…) was a pleasure to make from start to finish. Even sewing on the large snaps was a snap, and make the buttons sit so much more neatly on top of the knitted fabric.

The shaping idea was a detail I’d seen in an old issue of Interweave Knits, and the Dot Stitch texture on the bodice is straight out of the Barbara Walker Treasuries. That picot edging around the neckline was a simple but elegant finishing touch where a collar would have been too much. The goal here was feminine, fitted but not too, enough coverage for a cool summer evening. A little romantic. A little dressy. A little old-fashioned. You get the idea.

I’ve already worn it once, and predict that it will hang at the front of the closet for easy access all summer and into the fall. The amazing thing is that I found the sleeveless top that I’m wearing underneath the cardigan at my favorite consignment shop, and the color is a perfect match. Blends in, but the lace detail gives it just enough personality.

Alas, I fear this may be my final NaKniSweMoDo project until the end of the summer. I hate to wimp out, but my left hand in particular has been in terrible shape. It feels as if the fingers are sprained in spite of the cortisone injections I recently had. Work on the computer doesn’t help but – Gasp! Hard to believe – has to be my priority until the end of July when I have a major deadline. Asking me to choose between knitting and writing was like asking me to pick a favorite child, but nonetheless the choice had to be made. It’s a temporary setback, but these hands need a break. I’ll still knit – it’s like breathing, after all – but not at the pace I kept up for the first quarter of this year. I’ll still have show-and-tell, but the going may be slow.

Meanwhile, I’ll write up the pattern for Guinevere as soon as I get a chance, and will put it up on Ravelry in my designer store.

Alcatraz, Sausalito, and Lappert’s, Oh My!

My daughter’s friend Sophie visited from Boston over the weekend, and we took advantage of her presence to be tourists in our own town, showing her the sights of San Francisco. Starting off with dim sum at Yank Sing is never a bad idea, though the girls were a bit flustered when little plates of unrecognizable dumplings appeared on our table within seconds of being seated.


I hate to say this, because fans of the soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai in New York City’s Chinatown will take it as a challenge; BUT the soup dumplings at Yank Sing are as good as, if not better than, the ones at Joe’s. No lie. We ordered seconds!!! And that’s ordinarily something that happens only in New York. We ate like Olympic athletes loading calories before the big race total pigs, but it was all too delicious to stop.

Never having ventured to Alcatraz on our own (well, we’ve lived here only eight almost nine years, after all), we took the cruise ferry over to the island and spent a happy couple of hours touring the prison, reading about all the big name residents such as Al Capone and the Birdman, and enjoying an uncharacteristically gorgeous and sunny San Francisco day.

Without planning it in advance, we crossed all three of the major bridges that lead into and out of San Francisco by deciding to take Sophie up to Sausalito following the Alcatraz tour. It was either that or Ghirardelli Square, and there’s only so much schlocky tourism one can tolerate in a single day without the help of ice cream. And no visit to Sausalito would be complete without a visit to Lappert’s Ice Cream, the rock sculptures at the harbor,

and the Birdman of Sausalito, whose gorgeous feathered friend took a shine to Rachel…

Forget eating out of her hand, I want to nibble her lips! Squawk!

This was no ordinary bird – it could bark like a dog, which was most confusing to the various canines promenading along the pier. Made me wonder what else it could say…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Knit Blog

Which is that this blog seems to be rather often about gardening as well. And now that I have a new camera which downloads photos differently than my old one (that died a slow death over the last six months), I’ve been “losing” files of knitting photos that were intended to dress up my most recent posts. Quite frustrating, but eventually I’ll figure it out. Hope you’ll stick with me until I get the bugs out of the system.

So yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment to get a referral for physical therapy for my neck and shoulders, which are all knotted up from the amount of time I spend either knitting or at the computer. These are no ordinary knots, either, lest you think I’m just a whiner who wants my HMO to pay for the “luxury” of massages. The deep tissue massage I paid for out-of-pocket a few weeks ago out of desperation left me sore to the touch for three days afterward, but the knots were gone, by golly!

But I digress. Back to the doctor’s office. First, I adore this doctor, and her physician’s assistant is also wonderful. I’ve been a patient of their practice for several years and see no reason to look elsewhere for medical care. However. (You knew that was coming.) Within the last year, my doctor moved to new office space where she evidently has fewer examining rooms. Ever since the move, I – and I assume all her other patients as well – have been kept waiting well beyond the scheduled appointment time before being seen. I don’t mind waiting fifteen minutes past my appointment, but when it drags out to half an hour, forty-five minutes, even an HOUR past the scheduled time, well! That cuts into my other commitments in a big way. My time is worth something, too.

Having come in simply to request a referral for PT, it irked me to pay my insurance plan’s office visit co-payment. It’s like paying a toll to cross a bridge that is not even the bridge you need to cross; but no co-pay, no referral.

This time, I decided to say something about the wait. While I sat cooling my jets in the open reception area, the office reception staff could be heard having (very) personal conversations. One woman in particular discussed her upcoming divorce in such detail you’d have thought the waiting room was full of divorce lawyers and she was trying to persuade one to take her case. Definitely Too Much Information.

When I commented on the long wait, I was greeted with stone-faced silence as if the admin was debating whether to upbraid me for interrupting her soap opera life story. Hmmm… back to my seat and my knitting for another fifteen minutes until I was finally called into an examining room, the Official Limbo of Doctor’s Office Hell. There, I had the pleasure of flipping through a two-year-old copy of National Geographic while waiting still longer to be seen. Finally the nurse bustled in with thermometer and blood pressure gauge at the ready.

“But I’m just here to pick up a referral… I’m not actually sick.”

This was greeted with a frown. What do you mean you’re not actually sick? her look implied. She unfurled the blood pressure cuff as if debating whether to strangle me with it.

Narrowly preventing myself from snarling at her Maintaining my composure with questionable success, I said, “My blood pressure might be the teensiest bit high right now because I’m pissed off about being kept waiting FORTY-FIVE MINUTES PAST MY APPOINTMENT TIME.”

In a supremely passive-aggressive maneuver, she checked my blood pressure, scribbled the numbers in my chart, and declined to enlighten me as to whether my blood pressure was actually elevated or not before slapping my chart shut and leaving the room.

Finally, the physician’s assistant came in. Trained professional that she is, she let me rant about the long wait, the unprofessional office staff, and – oh, yes, let’s not forget the reason for my visit – my aching shoulders. All of this took about two minutes and then, referral for PT in hand, I was on my way out the door. Only to realize that the examining room I had been in backed right up to the reception area, which is hard to figure out because once the reception area door closes behind you, you walk down a hall, and turn left and left again. From the glares and dead silence among the staff in the reception area, it seemed likely that they had heard every word I said to the PA. Guess I’d better stay healthy for the foreseeable future…

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose…

A rose is a rose is a rose… but even though they come back every spring, I’m amazed all over again when the first ones of the season appear. These are Joseph’s Coat, a colorful climber that will finally make its way, I fervently hope, onto the fence that protects the front rose garden from our hungry local deer population.

Amazing, too, are the delicate pink blooms of our only dogwood tree. Dogwoods always remind me of growing up back east, where one sees them everywhere. The pink ones are not as common and I didn’t have great hope that this one would fare well in my garden, but every year it surprises me by making its comeback.

And these little bluebell flowers are volunteers. Their bulbs were turned under when we relandscaped a couple of years ago, and I thought we had lost them. But no, they made their way back up to the surface to delight us every spring.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, LILY AND HERB!!

My parents are celebrating their fifty-third wedding anniversary today, and although the last few years have presented them with more than a few health challenges, I think they’d say that the good still outweighs the bad.

They are still living in the house they moved into more than 25 years ago, are close to their grown kids and grandkids, still have friends with whom they socialize regularly, and still feel a strong attachment to their community. They still read and travel and take walks, and nudge each other to take their meds at the right times. They still enjoy the kind of symbiotic relationship that only a long marriage can produce.

This was taken at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, and they still look pretty damned spry. Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Very Bad

Yes, I’ve been bad. Very, very bad. Not a single post in more than a week bad. And it’s not as if there’s nothing to report. There’s the usual garden activity – even more than usual now that the latest week of rain has ended and sunshine is bringing all the blooms out.

The last of the daffodils and narcissi are hanging out in clusters as if there’s safety in numbers. I haven’t picked any to put in vases around the house this year; their fragrance indoors sets off my allergies. Better to enjoy them outside.

And the old rhododendron that I pruned back drastically two years ago has finally decided to embrace its re-shaping. Its blooms are spectacular this year.
California poppies have sprung up all around the front garden, but are nowhere are they as glorious as they are beside these deep indigo carpet flowers that spill over the moss rock wall. This is what I think of whenever someone talks to me about colors “popping.”
But more than that, there’s a nearly-FO to share. I say nearly because it lacks only snaps down the inside of the front before I can sew on the buttons and wear it out in public.
And this one is a perfect fit. My measuring and calculating and misting and blocking paid off, and the Guinevere Evening Cardigan is a winner. From the elbow-length sleeves to the vibrant yarn itself, Sundara’s Aran Silky Merino “Green Tea” color, I can’t wait to wear it.

I love everything about it, from the inset waist shaping that adds a design element to the stockinette body in both front and back:

I am obsessed with the spot stitch employed for the upper bodice, which looks like a variation of seed stitch but is, to my eye, so much prettier. And I love the delicate finishing touch of the picot edge around the neckline.

Now all that remains is to sew on the buttons and take some modelled shots: this week’s task.

Beantown and Back

In the last five days, I have visited six states on the east coast while researching a big secret project. First I flew from San Francisco to Washington, DC, where I was supposed to make a connection to New York to visit my parents. Instead, my connecting flight was cancelled due to terrible weather in the New York area, so I wound up spending the night on the sofa of a dear old friend; the same friend I visited back in January after she underwent major surgery. While I was sorry to miss the extra time with my folks, it was an unexpected treat to catch up with my friend Diane, whose recovery from her ordeal has been absolutely remarkable. Two months ago she could barely hobble across her apartment, but on Sunday night we walked (and briskly, I might add) at least a half mile to the supermarket nearest her apartment, where we picked up some salads for an impromptu late dinner, and then walked – again, at a good pace – the half-mile back to her home. It was amazing. No, she is amazing!

When I did fly early – oh goooood, soooo early she whined – on Monday morning up to New York, my parents and I first stopped off at the supermarket (literally, on the way to their home from the airport), to pick up ingredients for split pea soup. Once back at their house, Mom and I got busy peeling the carrots and celery (and how did I get stuck dicing the onions, I’d like to know… it’s my least favorite cooking job!) and before long a big pot of soup was simmering away on the stove. This time, Dad wasn’t kibbitzing about how I’d used way too many onions, or why was I putting in that chopped up ham steak? After all, he’d eaten the same split pea soup when I visited them in February, and suffered no ill effects. Even though I had to leave Tuesday morning, it felt good knowing they had four quarts of homemade soup in their freezer.

My drive to Boston that morning was interrupted by a detour to Uxbridge, Massachusetts. I can’t say just yet why Uxbridge was a not-to-be-missed destination, but soon all shall be revealed. The 200-mile road trip was a blast, however, and not something I get to do very often. The only problem with doing all the driving over a distance of two HUNDRED miles is that I kept thinking of all the knitting I could have been doing had I only been sitting in the passenger seat.

Wednesday brought two Cambridge-based work-related meetings, also to be explained at a later date. An unexpected treat was meeting an old friend for dinner that night. Elizabeth and I worked together a dozen years ago when we both lived in Washington, D.C. She is an architect, one of the most elegant and talented women I know, and in the twelve years since we last saw one another, she has also produced three children (including a set of twins), earned a masters degree in the history of architecture at Harvard, and has maintained an impressive career as director of interior design for a Boston architecture firm. In fact, a home she recently completed on the North Shore will be featured in Architectural Digest later this year.

Today I made – and thoroughly enjoyed – another 200-mile round trip car ride up to Portland, Maine where I met two more amazing women whose professional interests are dear to my heart. Back in Cambridge late this afternoon, I met with one more person before calling it a day. Whether it’s jet lag or all the driving or a combination of the two, I am absolutely exhausted! In fact, here’s how it went with my plans to go to the hotel’s fitness center tonight upon my return:

Me, looking at watch: OK, it’s six o’clock. I’ll go to the gym and then head out to pick up some dinner at the Star Market next door.

Me, gazing at work-out clothes laid out on the enticing chaise in my room: But I’m hungry now. I know! I should go pick up dinner first, then come back to the room and change. It will be easier to go to the gym if I know there’s a yummy dinner waiting for me when I get back.

Me, sitting down on the edge of the chaise, patting the pillow and fingering the TV remote: If I go pick up dinner right this minute, hustle to the gym and put in even just a half-hour, by the time I get back the news will still be on and I can eat dinner while I watch it.

(I go to the Star Market and return to my room twenty minutes later lugging not one, but two grocery bags containing salad greens, dressing, small containers of hummus and tabbouleh salad, a tiny bag of potato chips, two apples and two bananas, and a box of cookies.)

Me, gazing at the food laid out on the handy little side table by the really very comfortable chaise, where I have once again sat down and leaned back into the pillows: Who am I kidding? I’m starving. I haven’t eaten since lunchtime and here it is – dinnertime! I can’t work out now. I’m too hungry to concentrate. I’m too weak to subject myself to the treadmill on an empty stomach. The smart thing to do is eat now, watch the news, do some work on the computer – AND GO TO THE GYM IN THE MORNING!!!

And that’s exactly what happened.

One more big meeting tomorrow morning (after the gym, of course…) and then I’ll have a couple of hours free before heading to the airport for the trip home. Despite the bleak bare trees lining the interstate and the patches of dirty snow on roadside hills in New Hampshire and Maine, the weather was surprisingly mild, holding enough of a hint of spring that I found myself missing the east coast more than ever.

Unfurling

When I planted ranunculus in the back garden bed, it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Those frilly petals! The glorious colors! Those feathery leaves! It never occurred that they would die off rather quickly and thus put an end to my adoration.
Until this spring, that is. Suddenly whorls of those feathered leaves appeared out of the mulch. Tightly gathered buds emerged in all the colors I remembered so well. And slowly, slowly, they are unwinding, turning their crenellated faces up to the sun.

There are other surprises as well. I bought a bag of tiny bulbs at Costco last fall, then forgot all about them. At the tail end of the planting season, seized by gardener’s remorse, I flung them into the ground by the handful. They looked a bit shrivelled up after sitting out on the back stoop for several weeks, and I had little hope that they’d actually survive the winter. Oh, me of little faith. For there they are, and I can’t even remember their name – only that they are native to Africa but perform well in our semi-arid climate as well.

But the piece de resistance is the bleeding heart that comes back year after year. It reminds me of spring on the east coast, where they were often among the first plants to surface at winter’s end. Their delicacy and charm never fails to arouse in me a bittersweet feeling; I still miss the seasonal changes back east even after nearly nine years in the Bay area. I’m grateful that they bloom here, too.

The Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well

So the other morning I trotted outside to collect the daily newspapers when something nestled deep in the shadows near the back gate caught my eye. Something tiny, with just a hinted spark of color that stood out from the cool shade. Something I had not planted there, but that had taken the initiative to set its seed anyway, and to persevere through the chill of winter until the earth warmed enough for it to announce its arrival.

Here I am!

All my relatives live under the pear tree around the corner,

but I’ve got that pioneer spirit.

Down the Primrose Path

No new knitting content today. Instead, I had a deep tissue massage to try and soften up some of the knitting-related knots in my neck, shoulders, and back. But this was no spa treatment, lemme tell you, despite the ambient background nature sounds of birds twittering and waves breaking on the shore. This was hard-core, not-that-dissimilar-from-childbirth massage. It sort of worked. I feel a little better. Not much, but a little. And even a little is an improvement.

Primroses are in full bloom along every path around the garden, turning their faces to the sun. They emerge annually, asking nothing from me but a little water and pinching back from time to time, filling the patio pots by the front door and on the back landing. Over the years, I’ve added a new plant here and there, wherever there’s a spot in the garden that could use a little brightening. And here they are, for your viewing pleasure:


I feel so much better now. Hope you do, too.

Iris’t My Case

No new knitting pron today, I’m afraid. I’ve had to take the last few days off as my hands badly need a rest… the trigger finger locking and cramping activity on my left hand has been so bad that I’ve scheduled a masochistic pre-emptive visit to the hand surgeon in hope of persuading him to administer one of those walloping and excruciatingly painful cortisone injections. It’s reached the point that only cortisone will relieve the pain.

So with no new knitting content to share, I thought instead I’d show you a couple of photos of the first iris of spring, that has sprung up along the front walk in the last few days. Slowly unfurling…

And here it is, in all its apricot-shaded glory:

In other news, it looks like we will have peaches this summer. After last year’s homicidal pruning by the gardener (OK, yes, I know – I should have done it myself), we didn’t have a single peach… not even one. So sad. And the year prior, peach leaf curl decimated all the new growth (hence the radical pruning last year), resulting in spindly little twigs that were too fragile to produce any fruit. But this year, finally, a full recovery appears to have been made. The tree is covered with rosy pink blossoms, and I am already dreaming of fresh and frosty peach sherbet.

And jars of glistening peach jam. And savory, spicy peach chutney. And peaches roasted on the grill. Mmmm…