All Wrapped Up and No Place To Go

This is what happens when you leave the garden untended for a couple of days while sitting inside feeling sorry for yourself recuperating valiantly from hand surgery. The zucchini morph into inedible, super-size proportions, making them suitable for use only as lamp bases, baseball bats, and the like.

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Meanwhile, the hand that was subjected to the surgery on Monday is super-sized in its own right, and not just from being swathed in yards of bandaging. Bruising and swelling and aching, oh my. Only ten days until the stitches come out and I can begin physical therapy. Which means there is hope that I will be able to return to knitting bliss before the fall weather turns really cold. Yay!

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Of course, it’s my left hand, and I am left-handed. My right hand has been often and derisively maligned as a “useless appendage,” but now that it is the only one I have that functions, it’s suddenly worth its weight in gold. I’ve discovered that there are all sorts of things I can do with my right hand that I never would have thought possible as recently as last weekend. And most of them are even fit for polite company. Typing with one hand is painfully slow and surprisingly inaccurate, but at least I can do it.

Fig Mutant

Yes, this fig IS the size of an apple. But unlike those softball-sized peaches we’ve all been seeing in the supermarket this summer, these specimens have fig flavor to beat all, in an unctuous, chewy texture that is truly sublime.

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Paired with a bit of blue cheese pressed into the center of each half, they are the food of the gods.

WIP Purgatory

With hand surgery mere hours away, it appears unlikely that I will complete either of the two projects currently on my needles before I go under the knife. The Badcaul sock below is intended to be one of a pair, as socks usually are. The second sock, however, has yet to be cast on since my fingers cramp within about five minutes of picking up the needles – especially tiny little sock-knitting needles. Love this Fearless Fibers 100% merino sock yarn in the colorway “Vivacious.” Can’t wait to make sock #2. Someday. I figure I’ll have to take off at least a month of prime pre-autumn knitting time. Sigh. But better to restore my hands to good working order.

Single Badcaul Sock

Just look at that delicious color…

Badcaul Sock detail

And then of course there’s Mr. Greenjeans. With every good intention of sending my daughter off to college with one more hand-knit sweater (made with love by Mom) for those cold Pennsylvania fall days, I started this at the beginning of August. The hands proceeded to act up most painfully, limiting my knitting to short bursts of enthusiasm that were rapidly quelled when the cramping started up. With only one cuff and one sleeve left to go, imagine my frustration. So close, yet so far from completion. It’s not as if she has any shortage of things to wear in cold weather, but still.

Mr. Greenjeans in progress

Go East, Young Woman

Tomorrow is the big day: DD heads east to her first year of college. And pressing questions remain unanswered:  Will she make her bed even once over the next four years? Will she get along with her roommate? Will she do laundry more than once a month, or only when she runs out of clean underwear (and turning it inside out to get another day’s wear out of it doesn’t count!)  And more important issues: Will she make lifelong friendships? Will the intellectual lightbulb switch on the way it finally did her senior year of high school? Will her higher education help her decide what she wants to do with her life?

But enough about DD. What about me? How will I cope without her, my only child? Will I be one of those nauseating “helicopter” parents we’ve all read about? (No) Will I be able to delay my high-fives and gleeful “empty nester” happy dance until after we leave her on campus at the end of move-in day? Will I be able to contain my tears of maternal sorrow until she is just a waving speck in the rear view mirror as we drive away from the campus? Stay tuned.

I know for sure that Shadow will miss her, but not as much as I will…


All I have to do is go out of town for a few days, and the harvest happens – behind my back, as it were. In about five minutes this morning, I was able to fill a basket with assorted deliciousness.

Finally, enough ripe tomatillos to make salsa verde – which I made for the first time last summer and quickly determined it was my new favorite condiment. Finally, enough ripe tomatoes to make a caprese salad, and still have some left over for bagels and lox this weekend. Finally, enough zucchini go throw on the grill and have plenty for everybody.

Right before leaving town, I peeled and diced a grand total of 14 pounds of peaches and 8 pounds of Satsuma plums, put them in freezer bags, and tossed them into the freezer to be dealt with in a variety of delectable ways upon my return. I came home to discover there are still probably 10 pounds of peaches remaining on the tree AND the Bartlett pears are ready to pick. There were several dozen on the ground when I went outside this morning, and right this minute I am heading outside to pick more before they can drop off the tree. No rest for the wicked.

Announcing the Molokini Shrug

Like to knit lace projects? Find yourself in need of a simple garment that covers just enough but not too much? You’re in luck! I’ve added a new pattern to my store, available both here and on Ravelry. Here’s a close-up of the lace stitch:

Say hello to the Molokini Shrug! It’s just the thing to wear over your sun dress into that restaurant where the air conditioning is always going full blast.

It’s the perfect antidote to a hot summer day that cools down unexpectedly when the sun goes down, and you find yourself wishing for a little something to wear around your shoulders.

The Molokini Shrug is so named for two reasons: during our trip to Maui earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of snorkeling in water that was as clear a blue as this Sundara Yarn Aran Silky Merino. This was water so clean that it felt luxuriously soft against the skin – as does this yarn. And, our snorkeling adventure took place in the shadow of the Molokini atoll, where the zigzag peaks were strikingly similar to this lace pattern.

For my sample, I used not quite two skeins of the ASM. But even the largest pattern size calls for only four skeins, so this is a quick-knit project that won’t break the bank. You can read more about the pattern here.

Wrung Out

Between putting the finishing touches on my book manuscript, making enough peach jam to tide over a nationwide peach famine, and working on more new knits, I’m a bit knackered. Plus, I washed several of my winter sweaters in Kookaburra Wool Wash the other day, and that got me thinking about how we care for our precious knits, both those we make ourselves and those we buy in stores.

During a low point in my life, I was a manager at a Banana Republic store. It was not easy coping as a single parent with a small child while juggling a full-time job with a retailer that was distinctly UN-family-friendly (I still feel guilty about the night I had to work ALL night rolling out a new season’s clothes, and had to put my then-4-year-old to sleep on a pile of clothing in a corner while chaos reigned all around her. Though in retrospect, she thought it was a grand adventure.). That’s probably why I lasted only a year. But what a year it was.

I still remember some of the people who returned garments in various states of seriously-messed-up but expected a full refund anyway, even if it was obvious that they had spilled/incorrectly washed/torn/shredded the garment in question. In the days of “The Customer Is Always Right,” we were instructed to accept returns no matter how heinous what their condition. I think BR has since changed that policy.

One customer in particular stands out in my memory. She marched up to the counter and dumped the contents of her (not) BR bag onto the surface. There were three lightweight summer sweaters, made of a silk and cotton blend, and I remembered them from earlier in the season. Much earlier. Way past the standard “30 days and we’ll gladly refund your money” period when it’s acceptable to have a change of heart about a purchase.

Not only were these sweaters well past their born-on date, but they were, in a word, disasters. Stretched out of shape, terribly faded, and so pilled they appeared to have been chewed on.
“These sweaters are NOT the quality I expect from Banana Republic!” the customer declaimed.

Unable to lift my eyes from the warped and wrinkled mess on the counter, I asked her what had happened to them.

She threw her shoulders back and fixed me with a Look as if to say it – whatever “it” was – was all my fault. “Well! I took them to Europe with me this summer. I was traveling for a month, and I planned to wear them all the time.” (And obviously this is exactly what she had done – they looked as if she had slept in them, and perhaps even wore them into the shower.) “I washed them out in the hotel sinks every night, and you know what? They didn’t hold up as well as I expect something from this store to hold up. I mean, just look at them!”

But at that moment I had torn my gaze away from her mesmerizing foaming-at-the-mouth indignation and was looking at the label in one of the sweaters, which stated in bold, easily read text: DRY CLEAN ONLY. So, had she dry cleaned them? Apparently not. I gently pointed this out to her, whereupon her voice escalated. “These sweaters are a mess, and I want a refund!”

I caught the eye of the other manager, who had overheard much of our conversation. She joined us and Crazy Sweater Customer launched into her sad tale all over again. The other manager sighed. She pointed to the label and gently said, “The label clearly says ‘Dry Clean Only.'” But her heart wasn’t in it, and the customer could tell. This was the olden days, after all, when a customer could return a garment even if she had used it as an impromptu diaper for her new baby (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration…).

Now, I take to heart the edict “Thou shall not wring out your hand-washed sweaters,” as well as “Thou shalt not rub, twist, or otherwise mangle your sweaters unless you want them felted.” I use a special product for washing my knits. Although I confess to having some cashmere sweaters with labels that advise DRY CLEAN ONLY, I know from years of experience that a VERY gentle hand washing makes them even softer than they started out, and that they can be reshaped on a towel or drying rack with no ill effect. But I do it all very carefully.

Long story short, we took the sweaters back, wretched as they were, and gave Crazy Sweater Customer her money back. I don’t think BR does this kind of thing anymore. I wonder if they’ve ever gotten more family-friendly?

(Finally) FOs

I know, I know. Not a lot of knitting content lately. But today your patience is rewarded. I finally completed the French Child’s Socks from Nancy Bush’s Knitting Vintage Socks, and I LOVE them. So cozy and comfortable. My tootsies will be toasty this coming winter (which right now seems an awfully long way off…).

These photos do absolutely no justice to Sundara’s Sock yarn in Basil Over Buttercup. The green shades are rich and grassy, with hints of straw and, yes, buttercup.

Although I’m still on a quest for the right buttons for this baby sweater, otherwise the Viking Baby Ensemble is complete. The (to my eye) very Viking-reminiscent Baby Thorpe hat was the work of half an evening, although I suspect the newborn is going to have to grow into it… it seems a bit large to me for an infant.

Some may recognize the Blue Moon Fiber Arts “Twisted” yarn in the colorway In the Navy, from a sweater I made for DH last year. I had quite a bit of that lovely yarn left over from his project, and it seemed perfect for a baby boy sweater and hat combination. He won’t be born until August, so I’ll have to be patient – but I can’t wait to see the little guy wearing it!

Peach Fuzz

A friend came over today and helped me turn this:

into quite a bit of this:

Three different flavor combinations, to be exact: Peach-Ginger Marmalade, Tropical Peach Jam (with flaked coconut), and plain Peach Jam with both yellow and white peaches. Plenty to share, and plenty for us to enjoy.

And yet there are still plenty more of these both in baskets and still on the tree. I have a feeling my peach jam-making days are not yet over for the season.

Ziggurati… Like Glitterati, Only Cuter

Introducing the lace Ziggurati Shrug and matching beret, birthday gifts for an adorable little girl of my acquaintance, who just turned two today. Since she is not available to model for your viewing pleasure, Miss Teddy will have to serve as a stand-in.

Cute as she is, she is not as cute as the intended recipient, whose parents have promised to send me photos of their little darling wearing her gifts ASAP. Given that the temperature went to 97 degrees today, it may be a while before they can persuade her to put on these pure wool items… and I can’t say I blame her! Meanwhile, Miss Teddy to the rescue…

The beret is knitted on DPNs until all the increases have been worked, and then it is transferred to a 16″ circular needle. All ribbing is done on size 6 needles, and the rest on size 8.
The picked-up-and-knitted body ribbing is bound off with a sweet picot edge.

What sartorially stylin’ two-year-old wouldn’t rock this cozy little combination, I ask you?

The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Green Line Worsted 100% Organic Wool in color Mirth, a lovely shade of warm lilac. Both projects together took less than two skeins, making this a great stash-buster or a wonderful way to experiment with a small amount of soft and fabulous yarn.

100 Degrees In the Shade

Now please excuse me while I retreat indoors where all the drapes are drawn, the better to rub ice cubes on the back of my neck.

Garden of Earthly Delights

My strenuous efforts to distract readers from the fact that there has been no knitting content in a while do not necessarily imply that I have not been knitting.
The not-knitting.
Actually, I’ve completed a new secret project, as well as a Baby Thorpe hat and an adorable sweater (gifts to be bestowed upon the soon-to-arrive son of friends) that are blocking while the sweater awaits its buttons from greenrayprod’s Etsy store.

Definitely not the knitting, but oh, how gorgeous.

(This is what happens when you allow an artichoke to bloom)

Soon, all shall be revealed.

How Many Zucchini Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb?

I have no idea, but I can tell you how many it takes to make a double batch of chocolate zucchini bread (A la Chocolate and Zucchini, still my favorite food blog). You need one big, fat one that is too large to eat but absolutely perfect to grate into a chocolate-enriched cake batter.

And just that one big, fat zucchini will yield enough loaves of the cake to share, if you are so inclined. At the moment, I’m feeling generous (let’s spread those calories around…).

I have no idea how many you need to change that lightbulb, but I can tell you how many it takes to make a really good pot of ratatouille…. all seven of the ones in the fridge, balanced out with red, orange, and yellow peppers, onions and garlic, tomatoes, and fresh thyme and basil from the garden.
Mmm… last time I made a pot of brown rice, I froze the leftovers in a Zip-lock baggie. Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight?
Of course, by the end of the summer I’ll be using those overgrown zucchini as lamp bases, baseball bats, dressmaker dummies to model my knitting projects (well, they don’t usually get that big, but I’m making a couple of baby sweaters so you never know.).

Just Peachy

I knew the avalanche was coming, but this is ridiculous! Two baskets full, and at least three times as many still on the tree. They are small peaches – definitely not the softball-sized ones that our local Safeway seems to favor – and their flavor is intense, peachily divine.
Peach jam, anyone?

Meow-ouse Calls

Who knew that veterinarians made house calls? I certainly didn’t, until the vet forgot to inspect Shadow’s “sensitive” paw while we were at his office and I knew there would be no way I could get her back into her crate and into the car and back to his office for a follow-up. So he came to us. Shocking.

Shadow is not a cat who could be said to enjoy any aspect of “travel.” Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the only place I ever take her is to the vet, where she invariably gets poked and prodded and usually also injected with some sort of vaccine. Oh, the horror.

Just getting her into the travel crate to begin with has gotten rather involved. First I have make sure the passenger door of the car is open and facing the back door of our house (which means I often have to turn the car around in the driveway so it’s facing the right direction). Then I have to get the crate out of the garage. Put it into the car and strap the seat belt around it. Make sure the crate door is wi-i-ide open, and leave the car door open.

Then I go back into the house and get my purse and keys, acting as if everything is normal so that if Shadow is watching me (as she often does) she won’t suspect my nefarious plan. Put the purse in the car so I don’t have to come back inside for it later. Finally, go back into the house, scoop up my unsuspecting cat (“Hey, Shadow! How’s my girl?” Scratch her behind the ears, rub the belly, whatever it takes.) and before she can smell my betrayal – for surely it reeks like garlic on my traitorous skin – I whisk her out to the car, gently toss her into the crate, slam the door and bolt it, and finally go back inside to lock up the house. Whew!! What a production.
She howls all the way to the vet’s office. Though I am not one to anthropomorphize our four-legged friends, I have a pretty good idea of what she’s telling me. It doesn’t take a cat whisperer to figure it out. I mean, “irate” in any language is still “irate.”
The vet cannot even coax her out of her crate once we get there. He has to turn it literally upside down, whereupon Shadow clings as fiercely as possible, for as long as possible, to the grille at the back of the crate. Gradually, her deathgrip loosens (making this horrible scraping sound that is worse than nails on a blackboard) and she slides haplessly out onto the examining table. Then she cowers in fear while glaring saucer-eyed up at the vet (she won’t look at me at all. No hope of rescue there, and she knows it, poor thing.).
The irony is that our vet is this utterly benign, totally gentle guy who probably dropped too much acid in the sixties. You know the type. He couldn’t hurt a fly – probably because on one of those acid trips he saw a fly with his mother’s head on it, but that’s another story – and certainly not my sweet kitty.

So on this trip, we learned that Shadow is OBESE. 15.6 pounds of furry love, to be precise (And I think her thick fur coat makes up about half of that). Which is actually not as bad as it could be – the vet gave her an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, after all – but definitely making her a candidate for the Fat-Flush, South Beach Diet Kitty Kibble Plan. He got so involved in telling me how to cut back on her food but not piss her off that he forgot to inspect the paw that she jerks away every time I trim her claws. He also forgot to give her the vaccine that was the ostensible reason for our visit in the first place. Too much LSD will have that effect, or so I’m told.

When we got back home and Shadow had bolted from the crate to hide in her favorite spot under the dining room table, and I had recovered my composure with the help of a glass of wine, I remembered both the paw and the vaccine. Shoot!

Obviously, there was little likelihood I’d be able to get her back into the crate anytime soon. It takes her at least a year to forget each vet visit, despite what we think of as her peanut-sized brain. I called the vet to yell at him for forgetting two out of the three reasons we’d gone to see him – never mind the fact that I’d forgotten all about them myself.
That’s when the house-call option popped up. I was down with that, lemme tell ya. So two days later, at the end of the work day, Shadow got a personal visit from the physical embodiment of her worst nightmare… Mmwa-ha-ha-ha.
But guess what? Seeing the vet on her own turf was an entirely different matter. She ran to the door when the bell rang (because she’s friendly, yes, but also because surely every caller is here to see her, right?) and just stood there looking at him once he stepped inside. No mad dash for safety. Hmmm… maybe Peanut Brain is more apt a nickname than we suspected.

I picked her up and held her while the vet gave her the vaccine and inspected her tender little paw. And you know what? Not a whimper. She was so relaxed I couldn’t believe it.
Then, today I got the bill for the house call, after he had promised me I would be charged only for the vaccine itself. But wait. It gets better. They had listed her weight at 115.6 pounds. What kind of cat do they think I have? A mountain lion?