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?


“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.