Farewell, 2013

Still shocked at how quickly this year has flown by, but now I’m looking ahead to an exciting 2014, when not one, but TWO of my self-published knitting books will be released. A shiver goes up my spine just reading those words!

Had a wonderful visit with my daughter when she spent a week here over Christmas…

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The weather was appropriately wintry and festive with holiday lights.

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We ate lots of excellent food, much of which we cooked ourselves, but which also included a return visit to Eataly (so much for my vow not to set foot in that temple of all foods Italian again until after New Year’s).

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And a trip to Black Dog Gelato.

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Mostly, we goofed around and enjoyed each other’s company.

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There’s a lot to be said for having adult children. And although I’m most definitely biased, I think mine has turned out to be a pretty spectacular human being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace and Quiet… and Knitting

When my father was alive, every year as his birthday approached my sisters and I would ask him what gift he would like.

His response never varied from year to year; “Peace and Quiet,” he would say wistfully, surely aware that his three rambunctious daughters would be unlikely (and constitutionally unable) to follow through with such a present.

Following a long weekend that included no fewer than three – yes, three! – birthday celebrations, with multiple house guests and other family members staying at nearby hotels in order to be close to the festivities, I have a new appreciation for my father’s annual request.

Enjoyable as it was to have a full house, loved ones to talk to, lots of cooking as well as eating out, and to make a suitably sweet and sugary fuss over all the birthdays:

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now that everyone has flown back to his or her own home, I am relishing the peace and quiet that has been restored to my space.

And after no knitting whatsoever for three full days, I am anxious to get back to it. I’m completing a cozy winter hat for a friend:

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and am just starting a new cardigan for myself after spending most of this year designing and knitting the sweaters for my new book.

After a freakishly warm Sunday that included sheets of torrential rain and tornados (!) touching down all over the Midwest – just to add to the drama – we are now heading into what feels suspiciously like “real” winter. By the end of this week, the temperature won’t get much higher than 30 degrees during the day.

Sunset arrives earlier every day, and that lovely orange glow from the setting sun is deceptive because it has no true warmth.

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(Yes, that white dot is the moon, and this photo was taken from our balcony around 4 pm) 

Chicago is donning its holiday regalia; this is from one of my favorite neighborhood attractions, the courtyard garden at the Driehaus financial offices. Today I couldn’t resist playing tourist to capture their latest lovely seasonal planting:

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In Which I Wax Philosophical As Summer Speeds By…

One minute you’re waiting impatiently at Baggage Claim at the airport for your daughter to step off the plane and begin her summer vacation. While you wait, you fantasize about all the fun things you’ll do together: a couple of day hikes, floating leisurely around in the criminally underused backyard swimming pool, a little shopping, cooking her favorite meals together.

Next thing you know, she’s back at college for her sophomore year. Unbelievable though it seems to me, Rachel is already back at school. She arrived about ten days before the start of classes because she is an orientation advisor for incoming freshman.

Within hours of her arrival on campus, we were Skyping. She wanted to show us her new room in a 2-bedroom on-campus apartment, which she will share with 3 other young women; the bedrooms are doubles. The kid knows how to decorate, that’s for sure, and at lightning speed. Posters up on the walls, desk set up, bed made. Don’t know how long it will stay that way, but at least she’s getting off to a great start.

 It’s much nicer than her dorm room last year (which was smaller than her bedroom at home, and had to accommodate two people instead of one), and this year’s roommate is an improvement over last year’s as well from what I can tell.

She looks pretty happy, wouldn’t you say? (I’ll have to do a “Before and After” shot once classes have actually started, and this one is definitely the Before!)

Summer has gone by incredibly fast for us. I feel like I missed out on most of it because even when my daughter was home, I was often back east helping out with my parents during their recent health crises. So although it’s only mid-August, I have the nagging feeling that summer is already over. Adding to that sensation is our recent weather; northern California has had an unseasonably mild summer… and my usually prolific vegetable garden is showing a definite failure to thrive as a result!

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of days when the temperatures went above 90 degrees so far. And where I live, just east of San Francisco, our summers are usually termed “semi-arid,” that is to say very dry and hot, hot, hot. At least we still have September and October to come, and those are months when we often have warmer days. So there’s hope.

Our family vacation was all too short, but we’re lucky that we even had the time and the resources to take one.

 The fact that we went in the off-season to a part of the world that is reportedly lovely during the winter, but during the summer months not so much, coupled with the fact that I succumbed to a long-ish bout of what I will politely term “intestinal distress,” does not take away from the fact that we were able to relax together as a family for the first time in many months.

And now it’s over… yet September always seems like the beginning of the year to me rather than a month that is technically closing in on the end – 4th quarter and all. All those years we spend in school do something to our hard wiring, I’m convinced. When I see “September” on the calendar, I start making fresh plans and starting exciting new projects… I invariably go out and buy myself a little notebook with a pretty cover, and a shiny new Pilot rolling ball fine point pen (dark blue or black ink, please), just because. Just because it’s September, and I can’t resist. Who’s to say what will fill that little notebook, or what brilliant words I might write with that new pen with its crisply flowing ink? Life is just redolent of Possibilities in September.

In Office Max the other day, I dallied for way too long by the school supplies – all those fabulous notebooks, folders, and pens! – even though I had gone there in search of more mundane office supplies. School supplies have gotten so much more interesting and attractive since I was in school!

Hoards of kids and their parents were squabbling over which looseleaf binder to buy (our schools open next week, for those of you back east where Labor Day weekend marks the official end of summer break), which mechanical pencil and calculator, and seeing them made me deeply nostalgic and envious – I loved shopping for school supplies with Rachel, and now those days are over.

Parents’ Weekend at her college is a month and a half away, but I’m already looking forward to it!

My Favorite Accessory

In conversation with eyeglasses-wearing, outrageously creative Kim Werker the other day, I began to reflect on my own love for eyeglasses and how they have come to represent, in a couple of weird ways, my own creativity.

Yes, it’s strange, but I feel naked without them. I think better when I’m wearing them, or at the very least when they’re pushed up onto the top of my head, which is where they go when I need to read something.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a design for a knitted, felted eyeglass case. Something chic but functional. Cruising around Etsy, I saw a couple that are similar to what I have in  mind, such as this lovely horizontal version with a Swarovski crystal button embellishment, created by MaisonMilli:

I also really like this felted one by bonniegoldingpurses:

Those little roses are adorable, and the no-sew aspect is very appealing. Time to put on my creative thinking cap on and see how I can improve upon these ideas!  A hand-knit eyeglass case (or two or three) would be wonderful, and felting seems like the best way to give it some structure to protect the glasses within.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was two years old, which might explain why it feels so natural to wear them, and so unnatural to face the world without them. At first, their purpose was to correct a lazy eye. One of the many reasons I will always love my mother is that when I was that toddler wearing the pink cat’s-eye glasses (with tiny silver stars in the corners! Fashionable even then, folks…), she worked with me both morning and evening on exercises to strengthen that lazy eye.

I have no recollection of that fluffy kitty I am holding in the photo above. Was it a muff? I am wearing a coat, so it must have been cold out. My favorite doll was my Raggedy Ann, and it’s hard to imagine this stuffed kitten usurping her place in my affections.

I have my mother to thank to this day for my improved vision, for which I am even more grateful knowing that the prevailing wisdom in those Mad Men days was apparently to operate on the lazy eye or risk losing the vision altogether.

Mom nixed the operation and put all her effort into getting that toddler me to concentrate on strengthening the eye muscles through a series of boring but necessary exercises that ultimately worked. Thank you, Mom!

Notwithstanding a brief flirtation with contact lenses in my twenties, I have worn glasses throughout my adult life. While I no longer have that gigantic pair from the 80’s (big shoulder pads and bigger hair were only two symptoms of the craze for everything oversized back then!) with lenses the size of a windshield, it’s obvious from the photo below that my color preferences have been consistent: either red or black frames work for me. I definitely opt for the squinchier variety now, as long as my lineless trifocal prescription can fit into them.

Glasses are definitely my favorite accessory (not counting a hand-knit accessory or garment, of course). And, of course, they bring the world into focus.

Getting Old Is Not For Sissies

I can say that because a) I just had another birthday and it made me wonder if it would be kosher to start subtracting rather than adding a year from this point forward, and b) tonight I’m on my way back to New York to spend another week helping out with my parents. New round-the-clock aides are in place and (we all pray) will work out, meaning they will be able to tolerate my dad’s, ahem, quirky personality. Friends tell me that they see an entirely new – and not usually good – side of their own parents when their infirmities necessitate the help of paid companions. And my dad was not terribly patient to begin with. So, we’ll see.

I’ve already been ordered to make a stop at the pharmacy to pick up a new prescription on my way to their house from the airport. And believe me, it was not a request. Aye-aye, Dad, SIR. Make that aye-aye-ai-ai-ai!

Here’s a bit of what I’m leaving behind for the week:

I’m taking my knitting, and this time am determined to make more progress!

Up In The Air

I’m no Ryan Bingham, and certainly no (spoiler alert!) cheatin’ Alex, but lately I’ve been up in the air way too often for my liking. Air travel takes on a whole new perspective when you’re doing it because you HAVE to instead of because you WANT to. While I’d do anything for my family, this back-and-forthing from California to New York is taking a toll. I just don’t bounce back the way I used to, and it takes a full week for me to get back to normal (well, as normal as I ever get!) from the jet-lag.

Dad is back home after two weeks in the hospital, precipitated by a fall that broke 4 ribs and also caused him to 1) suffer massive internal bleeding when one of those broken ribs pierced an artery, and as a result required 2) several blood transfusions, leaving him so compromised that he 3) developed a serious bacterial infection, and 4) had a heart attack, and then 5) developed a secondary bacterial infection. The man is 89. Evidently, he has nine lives and if it is left up to him, he will tell you that he still has a few to go before he’s done.

In order to make it feasible for him and my mom to return to their very old and creaky two-story house, several things had to happen. The most important of these was that we had to make it possible for them to live exclusively on the ground floor. And then, we had to make it easy for a very frail man (who gets around s-l-o-w-l-y with a walker) to get from the house out to the car for the doctors office visits that now comprise the bulk of his activity. Ramps were installed, furniture was moved, new showerheads and grab bars were installed. And none of this takes into account my mother, whose dementia is pretty bad at this point and who was being taken care of by my dad until all this happened. And let me tell you, it takes a village – but we got it all done. This is what we do for our family, right?

Meanwhile, while I was away, the garden continued to do what it always does at this time of year: it bloomed! One of the best things about coming home from these trips is that I am blown away by the changes in the garden. This means these tiny heirloom roses that were in bud before I left, and ju-u-ust beginning to adapt to their new life climbing the pergola column on the back patio, are now in full, glorious bloom:

The Satsuma plum tree is LOADED with green fruit that over the next several weeks will turn miraculously deep purple and sweet. These plums make the most divine jam, not to mention tarts and crisps. Mmmmmm!

When I left home, the last of the irises from spring were beginning to fade away. The asiatic lilies of summer had not yet begun to bloom, and yet, upon my return it was clear they had decided in my absence that it was time to get their show on the road:

The roses bloom all summer long, and last month they were particularly gorgeous. Still, these Eden double-flowering ones are among my favorites. They cover a back fence (smother is more like it) in a profusion of delicate pink set off by shiny dark green serrated leaves. Although they have only the most subtle fragrance and I usually like my roses stronger, these are so lovely that I gladly forgive them their lack of scent.

Another good thing about travel is that it often presents the opportunity to knit. Ordinarily, I can get quite a lot accomplished when I’m out on the road, but under the circumstances I was often so exhausted by evening that it was all I could do to work a few rows of my current travel project, the Emily Dickinson Shawl by Kieran Foley. Never one to leave well enough alone, I’ve made a couple of modifications to Kieran’s lovely design. As already mentioned, these were the result of having insufficiently sparkly beads coupled with the need to make that broad swath of stockinette a bit more interesting to work sans beads. Wish I had more progress to show, but I also worked on a couple of secret projects for which I was under deadline. And unbelievably, I met those deadlines. Don’t ask me how.

Close-up of my little yarnover modification:

The best part of being home, however, was definitely seeing these two smiling faces again:

Happy Anniversary

My long-suffering husband and I have been married thirteen pretty wonderful years as of today.

 

Last night we went out for dinner to celebrate at a local restaurant where the staff spoiled us rotten; they seemed so happy to see us, and were so attentive that it seemed almost ungrateful to quibble over the weak cosmopolitan that had been described (optimistically but, alas, erroneously) on the specialty drinks menu as “The Best Cosmopolitan In the World.” It seemed as if everybody who worked there knew about our special occasion, and even our menu got into the act; at the top of the page there were several “Happy Birthdays” listed and then our jaws dropped slightly when we noticed, “And a special happy anniversary to Mr. and Mrs. T.” How sweet is that?

Tonight, sentimental as I am, I cooked a reprise of one of the first dinners I ever made for my husband when we were dating. We’ll disregard the fact that he had absolutely no recollection of this meal when he saw it again tonight, even though I distinctly remember him making a big fuss over it at the time… and that was, what, a mere 15 years ago? I sauteed jumbo shrimp until they were just firm, and served them blanketed in a sauce of finely minced onion, lime juice, white wine, butter and heavy cream, with lime zest scattered over all. Not diet-friendly, but absolutely delicious over a blend of black, red, and brown rice. 

And with a centerpiece of flowers from the garden, what more could we ask? Well, another 40 good years would be much appreciated.