“Crenellation” just happens to be one of my favorite words, right up there with “tintinabulation.” Being one of those individuals for whom the fifty-cent word is always the obvious choice, even when there are several perfectly adequate ten-cent words ready to get the point across, I’ve always made a habit of collecting words, just for fun (“Oh, how sad,” you’re thinking. “This is her idea of fun?”).
So, back to crenellation. It evokes images of elaborate layered Victorian skirts, equally elaborate Victorian hairstyles, and even – potentially – elaborate lacy Victorian undergarments.

None of which have any particular bearing on this post, but still. I’m just sayin’.

Sometimes, crenellation occurs where you least expect it.


This year’s fig harvest will be incredible!!! I just completed my near-daily inspection of the garden’s progress, and realized that our dwarf fig tree is absolutely dripping with baby figs. They won’t be ready to pick for at least a month, but this is the first summer I think there will be enough to make jam as well as plenty to eat out of hand.

Luckily for me Ever So Sadly, my darling daughter – the other fig lover in our household – will probably not be back from her camp counselor duties on the east coast in time to share the bounty.

As you can imagine, I feel just terrible about that. I’m positively wracked with despair at the thought of her deprivation.

Really, I am.

You can tell from the photo below that I am grief-stricken at the thought that my child will not be able to fight me tooth and nail enjoy her fair share of the succulent figs.

Happy dance!!!

Be Fruitful

I’m dreaming of putting up dozens of jars of jam this summer, and with good reason:

Our trees have heeded the “Be Fruitful” request this year, in spades. I’m already picking Santa Rosa plums, and the Satsumas will be ready to go within the next two weeks. I’ve had to cull twice this year, picking off dozens of tiny unripe specimens to minimize our losses from snapping branches (they get so heavy with ripening fruit that they break under that weight… I could cry every time it happens.).

I’ve picked just a few of these yellow peaches but we’ll have an avalanche of them within the week if we really get the hot weather we’ve been promised. The white peaches are a few weeks off. I just have to try and keep the birds and squirrels away from them in the interim; they are not as particular as we are about their fruit actually being ripe before they chomp into it.


As unseasonably cool as our summer has been so far (although I hear we’re due for a hot weekend), it’s no wonder I see lace everywhere I go… and find thoughts of lace shawls – so light yet warm – percolating in my imagination.

Project Run(A)way, Or: There’s A Reason Advice Is Free

I may never be allowed to set foot inside a Max Studio store again after today’s experience. I’d gone in innocently enough, intending to scout out the possibilities for using a most generous gift card sent to me by a very dear friend (and while it was completely unnecessary, I was shamefully delighted to receive it) several months ago.

There was only one other customer in the store, and I first saw her from the rear, deep in conversation with one of the saleswomen. The saleswoman was telling her how fabulous she looked in the dress she was trying on. And even having just walked in the door, I could detect the false notes in that enthusiastic flattery. From the rear, the customer was one of those tiny, painfully slender women for whom Size 0 is made. The dress she was modeling was a soft brown silk chiffon, with puffed cap sleeves and a drop-waist that was tied with a long, wide sash. So from the rear, she looked like a turn-of-the-last-century tween about to set her toy sailboat on the glassy surface of the nearest pond.

Then she turned around.

Perched on top of that teeny, tiny, too-thin body (because, in truth, she looked more like a fifteen-year-old in the advanced stages of an eating disorder) was – a face like mine. A mature face, with smile lines. Lots of smile lines. Upon closer inspection, it was clear she spent a hefty amount on her hair – the highlights were carefully and professionally applied, and the cut was Just So. As a woman in her fifties, she did look fabulous. But not in that dress. Thirty years ago, she could have worn the hell out of that dress, but not today. There was nothing wrong with her, and nothing wrong with the dress, but they clearly didn’t belong together.

The dress was, in a word, infantilizing. Especially given her figure. I myself gave up on puffy sleeves at least a decade ago, and the drop-waist? Sheesh. Not flattering.

So, naturally, I felt compelled to interfere, stick my nosy nose in where it so obviously didn’t belong, save this poor woman from making a dreadful, and expensive, mistake. I carried my clothing options to the fitting rooms and took the one next to hers. When I popped out to check on my own outfit in the 3-way mirror, she’d beat me to it. Only this time, thank the High Priestess of Fashion, she was trying on a different dress – black and white, sleeveless to show off her toned arms, with a gorgeous swishy skirt that would be perfect for dancing – that was lovely on her AND age-appropriate.

She made eye contact first, I swear.

“That one looks beautiful on you!” I piped up on cue. “So elegant, and, um… (Quick, what’s the opposite of ‘infantilizing’?) sophisticated.”

“Did you happen to see the other one?” she asked. “The brown one?”

“Uh… yeah.” I paused, searching for just the right tone. “Listen, you and I are about the same age, and personally, I stopped wearing puffy sleeves years ago… but it did fit you perfectly, so…” So go ahead and buy an infantilizing puffy-sleeved dress if you must.

She mentioned, with an endearingly sheepish grin, hoping to “meet somebody” at the wedding for which she needed to buy the new dress.

“Oh, in that case, you’ve got to go for the black and white. It makes much more of a statement, it’ll be great to dance in, and it’s so flattering on you.” As opposed to Puffy Sleeves, which decidedly was not.

What I didn’t realize is that the mendacious saleswoman had snuck up behind me and had been listening to most of our exchange. Her withering glance in my direction said it all – What the hell do you know about clothes anyway, wearing your wrinkled shorts in here and carrying that no-name designer-knock-off purse? – and furthermore suggested I should perish immediately in a personal shopping hell littered with ugly clothes. She fulminated some more to “her” customer about how Puffy Sleeves was gorgeous on her.

Naturally, I couldn’t let her get away with this. I mean, she was outright lying to this sweet, lonely, indecisive little woman who had a wedding to go to where she just might meet somebody and goddammit she should have a dress that suited her. And besides, the black and white dress was more expensive than Puffy Sleeves, so what was this saleswoman making such a fuss about?
I looked her up and down. She was tall – at least 5’8″, with a very European style about her. She bore more than a passing resemblance to Diane Von Furstenburg, though it pains me to admit that. The bottom line, however, is that this saleswoman could wear the proverbial brown paper bag and on her it would look like couture.

“Listen,” I drew myself up to my full 5 feet and glared at the saleswoman. “You’re tall. You can wear all the puffy sleeves you want. We, however,” and I leaned closer to my new friend, gesturing to her that we were united in this and that only I was being honest, “we are petite. And,” pointing at New Friend, “she, especially, is very… slender. We have to be careful about what we wear. We don’t want to look like we robbed our teenage daughters’ closets.” Did my new friend have a daughter? Who knows? But I do, and there’s not much in her closet I’d borrow.

And then, I swear, my new friend spoke up for herself. Finally. With surprising firmness. “I think this one,” she gestured to the black and white, “is more age-appropriate, more classic. Good for dancing. And the neckline looks better on me.” Hell yeah. Little chicken-chested thing that she was, she NEEDED that graceful draping over the bustline. She gave me a complicitous smile, and retreated to the dressing room.

I think I succeeded in my efforts not to smirk at Diane Von Furstenburg. But after my New Friend had paid for her dress and left the store, it was my turn to step up to the counter. I hesitated for just a second. But then, realizing I had nothing to lose, I met DVF’s frosty glare and in a reasonable voice I said, “OK, so I’m sorry I butted in. Will you ever let me shop here again?”
DVF was totally disarmed. She couldn’t very well say, “No, retail sucks but you should still take your money elsewhere, and never again talk one of my customers into buying a more expensive dress than the one I intended to sell her.” I could tell it hurt her to squeeze out a smile, but she did it anyway. And I appreciated the gesture.

July, Up Close and Personal

Sometimes color is a state of mind. Sometimes color alone is all that is required to convey the essence of a particular month. July, to my mind, is HOT, and I don’t mean that in a Paris Hilton sort of way. These colors are also hot. And in their own melodramatic, sexy, and vivacious way, I will grudgingly concur that, yes, they ARE hot in a Paris Hilton sort of way.

With flowers as with yarn, sometimes their combination of texture, color, and fragrance is so intoxicating that I have a visceral, physical reaction to the mere sight of them. I can feel my pupils dilate when I gaze upon them.
I want nothing so much as to eat them – as if they were made of the world’s finest chocolate – to gobble up their lush gorgeousness and make it part of me. If that seems weird, so be it. But Paris would say it is HOT.

Even the magnificent magnified image above fails to capture the fantastical brilliance of nature. Unrepentant atheist that I am, the sight of this hibiscus is almost enough to make me suspect that Mother Nature had a helping hand in creating her masterpieces. And if I could knit with these colors, I’d say hot, hot, HOT.

Half A Year

We’ve run out of June already. Unbelievable. I know it isn’t just me, but time definitely seems to speed up the older I get. The more precious the days are, the faster they fly. This seems patently unfair, much like that old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I get it, do I ever.

There’s seldom enough time to play without keeping an eye on the clock.

Or enough time to spend with the people we love, doing absolutely nothing but enjoy one another’s company.

Or to capture a single vibrant image of nature’s perfection and really, truly see it.


Where but on vacation would you find an island full of license plates that begin with “Lazy?” Turned out to be the perfect encapsulation of our trip!

Where but on vacation would you be able to swim and snorkel for hours in water this clear? (although I suppose if you LIVED where others get to spend only limited amounts of time vacationing, you could do it all the time – but would you ever get any work done?)

In your home town, you probably do see glorious sunsets like this from time to time, but I suggest that only on vacation does it occur to you to pull out the camera and capture it for posterity.

This bird may be the Hawaiian cousin of the Stateside pigeon for all I know, but it came right up to me and fixed me with its beady eye as if to say, “Hurry up and take my picture, willya?” I could only comply… the lovely soft blue-gray of its breast feathers was captivating. Wish I could find some yarn that color.

The only problem with being a tourist, as I see it, is the other tourists. Their bodies inconveniently clutter up your otherwise perfect photos of gorgeous natural beauty. They leave gum wrappers, soda cans, and other bits of garbage along what should be pristine stretches of hiking trails, making it impossible to sustain the fantasy that you are the only people ever to have walked through this particular sunlit grove or wooded trail. Just as the sound of ocean waves is about to put you over the edge into a hypnotic trance, screeching squabbling siblings appear to pierce the tranquil haven you thought you’d discovered.

But these are small complaints compared to the enormous pleasures to be found in Maui. In addition to the stunning surroundings of the island’s unspoiled areas, there are the pleasures of “civilization” as well. We ate some fabulous meals, such as this:

Black sand beach along the Road to Hana.

Bamboo grove at the start of the Twin Falls trail.

Sunset as seen from the plane window as we flew over the Pacific Ocean.

Too much fun is too soon over. Back to the real world… sigh!

Postponing Re-Entry

It’s going to be hard to return to the real world, after a week of this:

Parasailing over the ocean.

and this:

These two are braver crazier than I. When it was my turn up there, I warned my daughter (riding shotgun) not to try any funny business – or she’d be fish food. No such constraints exist with her stepdad.

and this:

On the way up to the top of the Haleakala volcano crater at 10,000 feet.

and this:

The air is thin and time seems to stand still when you’re high above the clouds.

Maui Wowie!!!

The next few posts will come to you from Maui, where we are spending a few days of R & R after surviving (Okay, yes, it was wonderful and poignant, but still – not to mention this is our final pre-college vacation with her, and who knows where she will end up on future school breaks?) my daughter’s high school graduation. One of the great things about living in California is that it’s not too grueling to travel to Hawaii from the west coast. And since we picked up 3 hours en route, it felt like we had an extra-long day even on the day of the trip itself. And I got some work done on the French Child’s Socks during the plane ride, much to the amusement of my seatmates: “How many needles are you using? Gosh, those are tiny…” (4)

This is the oceanfront view from our lanai (known as a balcony when you’re anywhere but Hawaii), which wraps all the way around the corner condo we rented. It’s incredibly windy here, and listening to it howl all night was truly splendid!
I miss “extreme” weather in our beautiful-but-bland little suburb at home, where even the legitimate fear of earthquakes is tempered by a general and somewhat weird air of self-satisfied well-being. Californians are surprisingly blinkered about the devastating potential of earthquakes; I guess that attitude is not completely unreasonable given that we never know when the next one will strike. Who wants to live their lives in fear of nature, especially when they live in this stretch of the country by choice?
What did I just say? Windy, windy, windy.
Our final view from the lanai after a late dinner was of this gorgeous sunset over the ocean:

Flora Incipientis

For knittin’, I got nuttin’. But for various and sundry flora bursting forth in the garden, I got sumpin’. These surprise me every year, rising up from a tangle of unpromising and often discolored leaves on stems that are nearly invisible until they suddenly open into this:

The agapanthus is rioting this year, having finally triumphed over their transplanting woes of a few years ago. We’ll have more of these than we can count, opening great big spidery heads to the sun (do I seem to have an unhealthy obsession with spiders lately?):

Pink calla lilies are among my husband’s favorites, and these (with lovely speckled leaves that thrive in the shade) have just opened into full flower:

But to my eye, the most wonderful of all is this one specific agapanthus (unlike most of the ones in our garden, it will flower white when it finally opens), which resembles nothing so much as a tall goose, her neck extended aggressively to protect a nest of young ones:

Flora imitating fauna.

Garden Porn

It never occurred to me before now, but when photographed from just the right angle, Monarda (AKA Bee Balm) bears a striking resemblance to a large, pink and hairy spider. If I saw this “critter” coming up my water spout, I’d scream bloody murder.

This is nothing, however, compared to the recent news flash I received from the exterminator (who is essentially on retainer chez moi, due to the pesticide-resistant population of Terminator ants and squirrel-sized roof rats in our neighborhood). Evidently, my vegetable garden is home to a large nest of real black widow spiders. So now I go back there to pick the squash and strawberries with my hiking boots on, just in case. Not that I’m squeamish or anything. Not me. No. Never have been. But black widow spiders? A bit of precaution, that’s all.

The Rose of Sharon is in bloom back by the back door, where it gets just enough sun. We put this in last summer, needing a shrub that would grow large enough to conceal the air conditioner unit. “Bring me a shrubbery!” my husband had said in his best Monty Python voice, while eying the bare spot back there (one of the very few bare spots in the entire garden, I assure you) – and off to the nursery we went seeking a shrubbery with just the right mix of spread and density.
Finally, the day lilies are plentiful all round the garden from now until the end of the summer. The amazing thing about them is that we started off with just two spindly but unruly clumps when the garden itself was just a dream. The day lilies were almost the only blooming plant in the back yard in those days, so we carefully divided those two clumps into six very small ones, and planted a couple of them around the pool, a couple in the optimistically named “flower bed,” and a couple more in front by the driveway.

Today, I swear we must have a dozen clumps of these sunny golden day lilies brightening up their places all around the garden, and all originate from those first two. Kind of reminds me of that old “Stone Soup” story that someone told me when I was a little girl, about poor villagers who wanted to make soup for supper but had nothing except a caldron of water and a smooth gray stone. Deciding that the stone might add a bit of flavor to the water, the villager put it into the caldron and stirred, sighing at the thought of her simple supper. “But I have a carrot,” said one villager, bringing it along and adding it to the caldron. “And I have an onion,” offered another, tossing it in. “Here’s a little turnip,” said an old woman, hobbling over to the caldron and dropping it into the boiling water. And so on and so on, until that caldron was bubbling away with bits of this and that, all combined to make a lovely big pot of “Stone Soup” to share. Does anybody else remember that story? Anyway, the day lilies remind me of it, the way they’ve added their flavor to what was a pretty poor plot of ground a few years ago.

Guinevere Pattern Now Available

Announcing the arrival of my Guinevere Evening Cardigan pattern, available for sale through my Ravelry store and on this site over to your right in the sidebar under “Patterns For Sale.” The pattern was expertly and oh-so-patiently tech edited by the lovely Shiri Mor.

Remember Guinevere? As cardigans go, she is as lovely and comfortable as can be (if I do say so myself). Her fitted bodice and body-skimming drape flatter a wide variety of body types, and although many other yarns would make suitable substitutes, it was a complete delight to knit up the sample in Sundara Yarn’s Aran Silky Merino. I cannot say often enough how luxurious that yarn is, and how gifted Sundara’s color sensibility is.

And of course, if you are a bit of a button fiend, Guinevere offers an unbeatable opportunity to raid the button stash for the ones that will add the perfect complement to the design.

For the 34″ size, I used 4.5 skeins (at 200 yards each) on size 7 needles. So if you’ve been wondering what kind of garment will do justice to your own skeins of Sundara ASM, perhaps Guinevere is the answer to your prayers.

Up, Up, and Away…

Preparations for Saturday night’s graduation party led to all sorts of evocative silliness, such as:

It’s going to be hard to keep her feet on the ground now that she’s a high school graduate with college right around the corner. I’ve already been asked to knit leg warmers and a cozy hat to complement the Lizard Ridge Blanket I knitted for her to take to college:

She Did It!!!


I am so proud of my little girl!

The New York grandparents made it out to CA for the big day!

The world’s best uncle came all the way from Ohio!
And a wonderful time was had by all…