Is Anybody Out There?

They say that if one doesn’t write and post regularly on a blog, the audience drops off precipitously. Guilty as charged.

But what happens when life finally calms down and gets compelling enough that blogging begins to seem like a good idea again? Do formerly loyal readers slowly make their way back, becoming part of the blogger’s community with renewed interest? I guess I’ll just have to find out.


Hello. Is this thing on?


Is anybody out there?

It’s me. A Californian no longer, living city life in Chicago for a little more than two years.













Knitting more than ever, and designing collections of creative, fun-to-knit new patterns (all of which are test-knitted and tech edited from heading to footer, from charts to schematics).




























Gardening exclusively in balcony containers…although that’s over until next spring.

Shadow is still the household’s feline companion, never shy about letting us know when she needs a belly rub.

Happy to be back, and hoping you’ll come along for the ride!

Gyroscopic Cardigan – Pattern Coming Soon!

The Gyroscopic Cardigan is on the blocking board (taking forever to dry, I might add), and I am writing up more notes on the pattern draft for my test knitter.

The pattern should be ready to launch by mid-to late-June. I still need to choose the perfect buttons for this project, which will actually snap closed. I will stitch the buttons to the front of the buttonband, but want the snaps to give extra stability to the weighty fabric that is the result of the heavy worsted weight project yarn.

The vibrant yarn color is most accurate above; the photo below, for some reason, is very washed-out.

The Gyroscopic will be a cozy cardi in which to greet fall; it will even work for chilly summer nights. I know we’re all about the linen, bamboo, and hemp now that summer is upon us, but I always think ahead to fall and my first project for cooler days.

With everything blooming insanely in the garden right now, fall seems far away. But this weird weather we’re having in the Bay area (barely 70 degrees even on the nicest days, and lots of drizzle and overcast skies most of May), makes me glad to know that I will soon have a warm new cardi at the front of my closet.

Ever since I cut loose on Mother’s Day with a huge and colorful bouquet, I’ve been raiding the garden regularly – and uncharacteristically bringing armsful of flowers indoors.

These are a couple of my latest efforts. Sometimes, just a few blooms do the trick.

Future Food

Just before leaving home, I planted the vegetable garden. My back may never forgive me.

Now that the weather has finally turned the corner (high 70’s all day today), those seedlings will actually get enough heat and sunlight to grow. I planted three different varieties of peppers,

eight different kinds of tomatoes (three of which are cherry tomatoes) and two different squashes.

The big clump above is a mash-up of beet greens and chard that wintered over and self-seeded.

Four sweet basil plants from Trader Joe’s, which always has them this time of year. Bright marigolds, companion planted near the tomatoes to keep insects at bay. Two different varieties of lettuce.

And finally, three different kinds of cucumbers. After all these years of trial and error, I realized that once we have picked the green beans a few times, everybody gets sick of them and the rest get huge and woody – and remain uneaten, so it made no sense to plant them again.

Can’t wait to start picking – though the harvest is at least 8 weeks away.

Baby Cardigan, WIP It Good!

Although at first I thought I’d make a simple stand-up collar for this little cardigan, I was having so much fun working strategic increases (along the center back of the collar so it would spread a bit more and lie a bit flatter) that ultimately I worked collar points to frame the top button that will close this little gament at the neck.

Here it is, close up (and regrettably blurry):

And of course, working outside as I’ve been for the last few days, I keep getting distracted by the garden. This bright yellow ranunculus began its life in a 4″ pot from the drug store about 3 years ago. I stuck the entire plant into one of the garden beds, not really expecting it to survive, but here it is, year after year.

And here is more of the mysterious spreading plant the name of which I can never remember.

They bloom in white, pink, deep red, and orange, and the centers often differ from flower to flower.

April WIP

I really hoped to post on April 1st, but the day got away from me. The only “fool-ish” thing about it was when I went to a lunch get-together for a friend’s birthday, only to discover that the guest of honor didn’t show. Her daughter had gone into labor the night before, and my friend wound up spending most of her birthday on a plane to meet her new grandaughter on the opposite coast. 

Bleeding hearts – later than usual this spring

This friend’s own mother passed away several months ago, and so I was very touched to read her email announcing that the new baby has been named after the great-grandmother. From all I’ve heard (and seen, since I was fortunate enough to meet her a couple of times), Harriet was quite a pistol – her new great-grandaughter will have a lot to live up to!

 Blueberry blossoms – foretelling a bumper crop this summer!

Only two days earlier, I went to the funeral of a different friend’s mother.  Another vibrant, feisty older woman, much loved by her family and friends, who was taken suddenly from them by a freak fall and head injury. No one was ready to say good-bye to this woman.

During the funeral service, my friend and her older brother and sister-in-law spoke movingly of their mother’s life. The services, both at the synagogue and at the graveside, were brief but very touching and powerful.

Sometimes the cycle of life, its fragility and its renewal, hits home with greater force than usual.

Knitting baby clothes takes on a particular hopefulness at times like these. While I knit, I imagine the tiny recipient wearing my gift, and hope the child will feel all the love and joy that went into every stitch.

As you can see, I’m making speedy progress. Since this photo was taken, I’ve completed one side of the front up to the shoulder. I love working baby garments in one piece up to the underarm – feels like I can see the end in sight so much sooner.

Next post, I’ll share the button options I’ve come up with. I might need some help deciding – they all work, but each gives a different effect!

Say Hello To My Little Friend March

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring in my part of the country…

Of course, we’re being revisited by the torrential downpours tonight through tomorrow…

So I shall have to enjoy these glimmers of things to come while I have them…

Hope you’ve enjoyed them, too!

Vacations Are For Fun…

…but there’s no place like home. My knitting is off-camera for the moment, so nothing new to share there. While I’m away from the blog, thought I’d treat you to a few photos snapped in the garden just before I left.

Peaches still hard as rocks, but should be ripening by the time we return.

Santa Rosa plums on the verge; keeping my fingers crossed that I beat the squirrels and birds to them.

And of course, there’s always something lovely blooming…

Usually several somethings!

And the all-volunteer army of pansies (no such thing as “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in this garden!) establishes outposts and wins hearts and minds all summer long in every shady corner. See you in a few days!

Agapanthus means “Goose” in Gardenese

Every summer, among the dozens of agapanthus buds stirring in the front garden, we get a few of these mutants:

But this summer it’s a bonanza.

Every once in a while I am struck by the similarity between plant and animal life forms, and these gooseneck agapanthus buds crack me up. I do the same double-take when I see someone in Craftyland has knit up life-size, anatomically correct fruit and vegetables, space aliens, or sea creatures out of yarn.

But then, I am easily entertained.

I’m Ba-a-ack…!

So you’ve probably noticed that I have finally resurfaced after a couple of weeks of radio silence (just what IS radio silence, anyway? I’ve always wondered…). Was off traveling to see my aged and not-terribly-healthy parents, and to take them to visit my daughter at college. She (my darling daughter, that is) was performing in a modern dance program – a timely occasion that proved sufficient enticement for my parents to make the four-hour car trip with me from NY to PA to see her.

With a double major in Business and French, I’m not sure how my daughter is finding the time to minor in Modern Dance, but she loves it and has come to regard the classes as nothing less than her guaranteed hours of exercise every week. The performance was wonderful; it was a choreographer’s showcase with about two dozen short dances created by a group of former students and professional choreographers.

Got to spend one day in NYC, where I met my publicist for Brave New Knits and a yarn shop owner – Pearl Chin of Knitty City – who would like to host a signing/trunk show when the book is released this fall. She is so nice, and I am really excited about spending more time in her wonderful shop!

When I returned to California, it was to this:

and this border of lavender and poppies along the driveway:

And the first of the roses; the Joseph’s Coat are always the first to bloom:

And the irises, which have really taken off this year. They are everywhere!

Shall I Compare Thee To An Uncorrected Proof?

What could be more exciting than the promise of a peach harvest this summer, even after a heavy pruning to minimize the damage of broken branches?

What could be more delightful than finding this riot of California poppies in the garden this morning at the same spot where only a few days ago,

there was only this lonely pair?

What could be more wonderful than discovering that the newly planted gazania are adapting happily to their new home?

What could possibly be more thrilling than the sight of the new Japanese maple tree bursting into wonderful spring color on the site of the recently-deceased pear tree?

How about a box full of galleys of my book, Brave New Knits? As happy as it makes me to wander the garden with camera in hand, none of it brought a smile to my face that could compare to this.

Pyrus communis

That’s Bartlett pear to you and me, and last week we had to take down one of the two remaining pear trees on our property. It had succumbed to scale and fire blight over the last few years despite all efforts to restore it to good health. Our neighborhood used to be acres of pear orchards, back in the  early to mid-20th century. Few of the original trees remain, making it especially sad to have to cut this one down.

The one in our back garden is still, thankfully, in fairly good health despite being ancient, despite having served as pecking practice for a neighborhood woodpecker, despite having split and healed over, and it still bears more fruit every August than we can possibly use. A lot of those green pears go to the local food bank, and the rest I use to make pear sauce, pear butter, pear and ginger jam, and the caramelized upside-down pear tarts adored by my husband.

The tree that had been in the front garden also produced lots of pears, but not of as good quality because of its diseased state. The local deer are not as picky as we humans, however, and our house had been a regular stop on their annual tour of summer deer candy. Although the plan is to plant a Japanese maple at that corner, one with brilliant fall foliage to remind me of home, I’ll miss that pear tree.

All Right Already! Enough Rain…

It has been raining since January 16th, to be precise. Knowing how badly we need it, I haven’t wanted to complain. Kept telling myself how good the moist air is for the skin. Kept breaking out the baseball caps and my Indiana Jones felted wool hat to keep the rain off my glasses when I venture outside. Kept poking around in the garden to see what new spring bulbs are sprouting and budding. Kept brewing comforting cups of tea while working indoors. You get the idea.

But lately, early every morning when I first open the drapes to face the day, it feels as if we live in Seattle, or another equally rainy location. There has been such dense fog in the mornings that we cannot see the hills behind our house until well into the afternoon, if at all. For nearly two weeks now, the pool appears to be on the verge of overflowing, and don’t even get me started on the picturesque way the french drains around the perimeter of the house have backed up, forming small pools in their own right as they make agonized gurgling noises. So all right already. Enough is enough. Not that I can do anything about it.

Much knitting going on off-camera, but a bit here and there that I can share. Yes, the February Lady Sweater now has one complete sleeve. I may yet get to wear it in February, as I hoped. By the end of next week, I’ll have a break in the secret knitting projects and hope to complete the other sleeve then. Working this sweater has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I seldom knit garments from the top-down, and the FLS has me wondering why I don’t do it more often. The construction is almost ridiculously simple, although the absence of seams gives the finished garment – at least to my mind – a bit less structure, less of a framework for stability.

And this project has given me the opportunity to experiment with shorter circular needles to work up the sleeves. I had high hopes for the 7″ long KA bamboo circs I purchased a while back (Unicorn Books & Crafts, Inc.), but found them waaay too short to work comfortably on these sleeves. So I bought a pair of the Addi 12″ long metal circs, and found them so slippery that I eventually gave them up for my trusty double-pointed bamboo needles from Clover. Just call me Goldilocks, but the dpns worked just fine until I came within the last few inches of the sleeve cuff. Then I switched back to the Addi circs, determined to give them one more try. I don’t really understand the difference, but this time they worked just fine; my stitches were in no danger of slipping off, and the length worked well for a sleeve knit in the round. Perhaps the sleeve was long enough at that point that I wasn’t worried about the bulk of the sweater body bogging me down. Whatever it was, I am now a convert.

You Can’t Fool Mother Nature

Right after New Year’s, when I returned home and had an opportunity to see my garden through fresh eyes, it seemed as if spring was already pushing its timid way up through the soil. Or through the stalks of last year’s callas, as the case may be.

The citrus crop was badly compromised by hard frosts, and we lost almost all of the limes. Meyer lemons and radishes more than made up for them.

Hellebores are budding, looking like some alien plant species, more at home on Mars than on Earth.

Then the rains began in earnest. Seriously, this is the most exciting weather we’ve had since I moved out to California nine years ago. I’m talking thunder, lightning, and hailstones. I’m talking thunderclouds that would inspire fear and dread in the hearts of Druids everywhere. I’m talking vivid double rainbows that shatter the afternoon sky with their brilliance whenever the sun peeks out momentarily. And it’s supposed to continue like this all week!

Remontant Irises

Perhaps you remember seeing these irises last week, enjoying their second bloom cycle in a single year:

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Well, I don’t mean to go on about it (despite my iris aficionado bona fides), but here’s another one that opened up this week:

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And just for good measure here’s another shot of the pink dogwood in full autumn glory:

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Winter Squash

This is as festive as it got chez moi this Halloween season. We used to have very few trick-or-treaters, just a handful of little kids with their parents hovering protectively at the front gate. Suddenly in the last year or so, our neighborhood seems to have been discovered, and this year we had a steady stream of children and teenagers (Though my husband insists that when a boy is old enough to shave and his voice has changed, he’s probably too old for trick-or-treating) ringing the doorbell. I was amazed at how polite they were; perhaps only one or two did not say thank you after choosing their candy. (“Oh, come on… take some more,” I kept urging them, jiggling the bowl encouragingly, not wanting to be left with anything that I’d feel duty-bound to eat myself after the fact.)

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One tiny girl, presented with the bowl of candy and told to help herself, carefully picked up, inspected, and then put back nearly every fun-size bar in the bowl before making her choices. I mean, she took so long that her gaggle of little friends started rolling their eyes and noodging her to get going. Because, you know, the neighbors down the street would surely run out of the good stuff right before they arrived if they didn’t get a move on that very minute. She was so cute, I just stood there watching her deliberate rather than grab a handful of candy, fling it into her plastic pumpkin tote bag, and send her on her way.

But I wondered later what her indecisiveness portends for her as an adult. Will she always be so paralyzed when confronted with many choices? I could imagine her shopping for shoes twenty years from now, with multiple pairs in every style arrayed before her, and the salesperson near tears as she hemmed and hawed over which ones to buy. Or lipstick. Just imagine the awful potential… that child may someday own enough lipsticks to open her own make-up salon, simply because she couldn’t choose just one. Fascinating. Has there ever been a study on how children choose Halloween candy? I bet Nestles would pony up for that one.

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While the Japanese maple above leaves me distinctly underwhelmed by its fall foliage, the dogwood below (Dramatic leaf color! Shiny red berries!) does not disappoint.

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