New Knits, Take One

It has been a while since my last knitting post, which doesn’t mean there hasn’t been knitting in the works. Despite my vow not to work multiple projects simultaneously, I don’t seem to be able to help myself; it’s better, I’ve decided to have a long-term project going as well as one or more quick little items for that all-important need for instant gratification to be fulfilled. Therefore, I have a few WIP’s to share.

I promised my husband a new sweater for his birthday last year, but it didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I couldn’t find what I considered the perfect yarn for the sweater I wanted to make. Now that I have it (Blue Moon Fiber Arts “Twisted,” color: In the Navy), and the pattern (From Simply Beautiful Sweaters for Men by the Tricoter owners Linden Phelps and Beryl Hiatt – the project is “Larry’s Cabled Cashmere Pullover”), I’m on my way.

Of course, I had to make certain mods to the pattern. The shadings in the yarn color seemed to demand fatter cables to really make them stand out, so I am doing a six-stitch cable rather than a four-stitch cable, and I am structuring them a little closer together.

More tomorrow!

Peonies in Paradise

When my own garden is full of flowers free for the picking, it’s hard to justify paying for them. However, I am nothing if not good with a quick justification. These peonies at Trader Joe’s were so lush, so ripely incipient in their bloomworthiness that I succumbed. Can you blame me?

My own peonies, gorgeous as they were this spring, never produced more than two blooms at a time, enough to add a bit of zest to a mixed bouquet perhaps, but never sufficient to make an exclusive arrangement. Sure, one or two stems in a narrow vase makes a statement of its own sort, but somehow peonies seem to beg for excess, lavishness and abundance. My pleasure in this bouquet is excessive and lavish, so to me they were worth every nickel.

Adjectives For Spring

Rosy: Frothy:


A friend took me to Monterey Market in Berkeley yesterday, and from my gleeful shopping spree you’d think I’d never been to a grocery store! I had two bulging bags of groceries when we left, and she had only one. The most precious treasure in mine were these fresh morels:

I haven’t seen fresh morels in years, and can’t bring myself to buy the dried ones because they always cost such a bloody fortune. However, I have very fond memories of my childhood when we would visit our weekend place in southern Vermont and find wild morels in the woods around our house. My mother used to saute them and add them to brown-butter omelettes for me and my sisters, and I never forgot that earthy, buttery flavor. Seeing these fresh morels in the market, I was inspired to buy just a handful (which nonetheless set me back $3.00!). This morning I made an updated version of the omelette – differentiated from my mother’s by the addition of goat cheese – and shared it with my daughter.
She enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane (God but that kid can make me feel old, as if my own childhood took place in the Dark Ages) and the omelette as much as I did. I have to say, though, that in my mind, the ones my mother made were better!

Agapanthus, Cloned

Last year when the relandscaping project was underway, we had some moments of stressful dithering about the agapanthus. Outside the deer fence they did not thrive. Any bud that dared to poke up among the leaves was promptly devoured by the deer, and slugs and snails blithely made their homes among the tangle of dried old leaves at the base of the plants.

Ultimately it was decided to divide them and place them inside the fence where they might stand a chance. The division was akin to the splitting of a cell; one became two, two became four, four became eight, and so on. We now have MANY agapanthus (agapanthi?). And for a full year they struggled to survive, looking quite anemic and putting forth only the most tentative of new growth. By this spring, all appeared to have settled in for the long haul, but we still wondered whether any of them would bloom. Our concerns were put to rest within the last couple of weeks, however, as these appeared:

And these, on the dwarf agapanthus that we relocated from the back garden to the front:

Late-Season Beauty

You know those potted amarylis bulbs that turn up everywhere around the holidays? I see them in catalogues, at florist shops, and of course at Costco. Two years ago my mother-in-law sent us one for Christmas, and it was one of the gorgeous candy-cane striped ones. Every morning I’d check it to see how the stem had elongated, how the bud swelled, and finally how the enormous flower slowly unfurled into its full glory. When that lovely bloom was spent, I thought what the heck – I’ll plant it in the garden and see what happens. And for the longest time, nothing did. Until this spring, when I noticed it pushing up from the earth long after the daffodils had come and gone and even most of the irises were done for the season.

This morning on my daily perambulation of the garden, I found this:

And by “this” I mean BLISS!

Shetland Triangle: FO

Finally, photos of the Shetland Triangle being modeled by yours truly.

Although it no longer smells so overwhelmingly of goat, the shawl still has a slightly, um, organic odor that has nothing to do with the Woolwash in which I soaked it. In addition, although it is a nice cozy wrap for a cool evening, the truth is that the cashmere did not fluff up as I anticipated, and the twist in the fiber is so loose that it split quite a lot while I was knitting with it.

Most distressing, though, is that the yarn still has a sort of flat, dead look about it. None of the soft lustre one expects from cashmere. Which won’t stop me from wearing it, especially after I added a little discreet beading to the border to perk it up a bit:

Officially Drought Season

Yes, folks, it’s official. Here in the Bay area (and I’m east of Berkeley), “drought” is the word. I got a recorded message phone call from the water utilities people (EBMUD, they call it) letting me know what I can and cannot water for the next few months, and how often I may water the things that are permitted.

I’ve never been one of those individuals whose slavish devotion to her car monopolized my weekends anyway… which means, yes, you CAN write your name in the dust coating my auto. But I’ve always pitied the folks who’d rather wash and wax their vehicles than do anything else. So check that one right off the list.

A vibrant green lawn has also never been one of my priorities, which is why our little postage stamp of yellowish green is just fine with me. You’ll never see me out there with a hose coaxing it to a more perfect shade of emerald. It’s big enough for me to lie down on at night to watch the stars, and that’s all I require.

The good news is that our drip system is already on a more restricted schedule than is allowed; where I water twice a week, which is most of the garden, they actually allow three times a week on nonconsecutive days. This means my flowers and veggies should survive the season just fine. Of course, it also means I’ll be out very early in the morning to pick lettuce while it’s still cool enough for it to be crisp instead of wilted. But that’s my favorite time of day anyway. Today I harvested a basket full of mesclun mix and baby arugula and a big head of curly leaf lettuce that is just this side of bolting. All of which I’ll add to the salad with dinner tonight.

I repotted all the big planters around the house because they were full of thriving but stinky alyssum (Boy is that “Sweet Alyssum” a misnomer, at least the ones I had). Kept it simple – petunias, verbena, and sage, all in shades of pink and white.

The heirloom climbing roses continue to amaze me with the growth spurts all have undergone in just a year. These fragrant little beauties are climbing up a trellis off the back of the house:

And every year over in the deep shade bed around the side, the climbing hydrangea fills out further until now it reminds me of lace:

On a knitting note, the Lizard Ridge blanket seaming is progressing nicely. I hope to have photos by the end of the weekend… just the idea of having this finished at last is all the motivation I need. Then it can sit in the closet for a year until my daughter takes it to college with her.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Nearly 100 degrees today. I’ve been hunkered down in my office with the ceiling fan directly overhead, staring out the window into my back garden. It’s just too damned hot to get out there and weed, although I did do a little watering early in the day (when it was already about 80 degrees). There are a couple of pleasant little surprises in the garden. These columbine reseed every year, but every year fewer of them seem to come up. Time to plant some new ones for next year; I do love their delicacy.

And I didn’t actually expect the peonies to bloom. I never do. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when they burst forth. Either it doesn’t get cold enough in the winter, or it gets hot too soon in the spring. Just in my garden, of course, since I see them in all their glory blooming in other peoples’ gardens every year. Maybe I should give myself a little more credit.

We’ve been advised by the County that they will ration water this year. Our temperatures in mid-May are already what we can usually expect in July. And what genius said there’s no such thing as global warming?

The drip system we installed last year is so efficient that although most of the garden gets watered twice a week (and the baby veggies three times until they are all settled in), the water goes directly to the roots of the plants and is on for about fifteen minutes per zone. In addition, we have it start at 5:30 am so it is finished by 7… when it’s still cool enough that there is no evaporation.

All of this is by way of saying that although the green Shetland Shawl is complete (no photos of me modeling for the moment), I’ve been too sweaty to want a pile of wool in my lap.

At night when it cools down, I’ve been seaming my daughter’s Take-To-College Lizard Ridge blanket. I’m kicking myself wishing I had done all of it in long strips because it is no fun sewing each block together. I’ll have to piece it with the long strips in the center, and the pieced strips on either side to give it the most uniform appearance. Meanwhile, take another look at the shawl:

Green Is Good

A fresh-picked basket of artichokes from my own vegetable garden can always make me drool with anticipation, but then it occurred to me there is an equally green WIP in the house that deserves a little love – now that I’ve started on the border, I can believe it’s nearly complete.

Mine will be somewhat larger than the shoulder wrap in Evelyn A. Clark’s pattern from Interweave’s Wrap Style, since I added three extra repeats of the pinecone motif. The yarn is a grassy green, Scottish cashmere mill end on the cone, which I purchased online and which smells quite pungently of goat (A minor but important feature that cannot adequately be conveyed over the Internet). I pray for the gods of Eucalan to correct that little issue when I wash and block the shawl. It feels pretty nice already, but I hope its bath will full the fiber and make it truly live up to its cashmere billing. Here it is again, snuggled in with all those beautiful baby artichokes.

Meanwhile, I’ve done just a little stash-building recently, after being pretty frugal the last couple of months. Sundara offered her first year Seasons Club members the opportunity to purchase some of the “left-overs” from the club. Having signed up for Autumn, I was tempted to try an offering from one of the other seasons, and wound up with a skein of fingering silky merino in Robin’s Egg, which I imagine is from the Spring group.

Oh. My. God. Utterly gorgeous! I’ve been admiring the subtle color variations, stroking it, and generally treating it like a very beloved pet. Much as I’m dying to knit it up, it may take a while for me to decide on the project that would do it justice. Would you like to see that skein up close?

I thought so. Sundara is a genius!

Cursing California Poppies

Yes I am. Once they bloom and that swathe of brilliant orange fades away, they hang around for the express purpose of tripping me up as I navigate my way among the rose bushes trying to do my daily dead-heading duty. And there’s a lot of dead-heading to do. This is just one small section of the back flower bed:

Not that I’m complaining. I noticed today that one of last season’s brand new climbers, Lemon Meringue, has settled in along the pool fence behind the fig tree, and is pumping out the blooms:

But back to those pernicious poppies. Today vengeance was mine! I pulled them out by the roots with a twist and a yank, and very satisfying it was, too. At the end of a rather frenzied half-hour, I can now see soil between the roses and irises in the front garden, making for a much easier path between them. Now it’s possible to wend my way among the irises, which are in full bloom up front. Here is one of the new ones, known for some strange reason as Elainelope:

Say Hello to My Little Summer Wine

While my latest knitting projects continue to grow but remain annoyingly unphotogenic, the garden is growing with miraculous speed and every day presents me with more new photo opportunities than I can capture. This Summer Wine climber from Heirloom Roses arrived on my doorstep last spring in a cardboard box with several other teeny-weeny specimens. Seriously, it looked small in its four-inch pot.

But the canes shot up and spread over one side of the back fence, and as soon as that new growth hit the sun, it prospered. It’s still a little leggy, but the old-fashioned roses have a sweet scent and lovely translucent color, with red anthers that stand out impressively from the pale golden base of the petals.

Purple Haze

I knit absolutely nothing last night. Not a single row. Not a single stitch! And night is pretty much when I have time to knit.

I did, however, make six dozen cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles for my daughter to take to school as part of an ongoing cheerleading fundraiser. We’ve already been advised by the new vice principal that there will be no cupcake sales allowed next year, and as soon as I got over my umbrage at the high school’s excuse that they are implementing more “healthy food on campus” strategies (a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but you should see the crap they dish out in the school cafeteria! Somehow they seem unaffected by this new healthful direction)… I was RELIEVED. I mean, I was up until midnight making those cupcakes, donating three hours of my time as well as all the raw ingredients so the cheerleaders could raise, what, maybe $70.00? I should just have written a check.

I can hear you thinking, why don’t you let your daughter bake the cupcakes? But the sad reality is that by the time she got home from her cheerleading practice, and then her tutoring, and then reviewed for both this Saturday’s SAT and her upcoming AP exams, I didn’t have the heart to force her into the kitchen. Although now that I think of it, she did assist with the frosting and judicious distribution of sprinkles just before she toddled off to bed. And only one of those cupcakes toddled off with her.

Coming in from my daily perambulation around the garden, I noticed that these new irises are finally up. Their true color is a dark eggplant, mysterious and with great depth. I’ve christened them “Purple Haze”:

And the Zepherine climbing roses are finally in full enough bloom that I felt only a little greedy about picking enough for a small bouquet to admire in my office. The Eden climber over the back fence is just beginning to take off, but I could not resist adding a couple:

Yum… Tuna

Despite incremental progress on the green shawl, I have no new knitting photos today. I do, however, have a photo of the most fabulous tuna salad I have ever eaten, bar none. I found the recipe on Serious Eats and printed it out on the strength of the reader comments. Otherwise, I have to admit, a recipe by Rachael Ray would not tempt me. Her weirdly Howdy-Doody grin and unimaginative reliance on prepared foods, coupled with the fact that she seems not to know how to spell ‘Rachel’ makes me suspicious. That said, this tuna salad is amazing!

The recipe supposedly makes two servings, but six is more like it. The first time I made this salad, I wound up eating it for lunch every day that week. Which was certainly no hardship, I might add, and I’m not a person who usually gravitates toward the left-overs more than a couple of times unless they contain chocolate. Rather than attempt to pack it into a sandwich (which strikes me as difficult anyway because the salad doesn’t hold together well), I pile it onto a bed of greens and have at it!

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind the Curtain…

My husband was invited to a conference in Cabo last week, and spouses were encouraged to join the attendees. Never one to turn up my nose at a free mini-vacation, I had my passport in hand and my bag packed within seconds of reading the invite. I even did some uncharacteristically girly fussing over appropriate “resort wear,” and almost as much fussing over which knitting project to pack for the three-hour plane ride. Hint: It was this one-

Imagine my horrified disbelief mild surprise when upon our arrival in sunny Mexico we were asked to sign an agreement not to swim in the sea that glittered so temptingly just beyond the resort’s infinity edge pools. Evidently the undertow was deadly and the resort did not want the liability if one of us was to do something inconvenient, like drown. In the next breath the concierge assured us that all the water at the resort – even the ice! – was filtered and purified, and therefore safe to drink. Methinks she doth protest too much! whispered through my mind, but only once and without sufficient foreshadowing to make me limit my water intake to that in the bottles provided to us in our room. Big mistake…

Anyway, our room was lovely. Marble floors. Bed big enough for an entire flock of these:

Whirlpool tub and private balcony with a view out over the water!

A welcome platter of guacamole, salsa, and chips! I entered, dropped my bag, and decided to suspend disbelief for the weekend. What the hell. It wasn’t until the next day that I even noticed, across the highway – literally right across the street from the resort – a vast desert of scrub and cacti as far as the eye could see, which made it obvious to anyone with a brain that our verdant resort paradise, and all the other equally lush resorts that shimmered one after the other up the coastline, were works of utter artifice dependent upon the importation of millions (billions?) of gallons of water, without which they would quickly devolve back to scrub and cacti.

Anyway, suspension of disbelief shakily reinstated, I enjoyed the meet and greet, not to mention the mojitos. The deep sea fishing excursion the next day was kind of fun, mostly because I love being out on the water (with no immediate need to fear the undertow). I’d been led to believe it was a “catch and release” policy, but from the way our crew wrestled those yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi into the hold it seemed pretty obvious to me that he intended to sell them on the dock the minute we were off the boat.

About halfway into the plane ride home, I started to feel suspiciously like I was about to hurl unwell. We actually made it home in time to take photos of my daughter and her date before they headed out to the junior prom (because I insisted that we take only carry-on luggage, if you must know)
and that activity distracted me momentarily from my nausea. Couldn’t eat any dinner, just went to bed early so my poor patient husband wouldn’t have to listen to me moaning. An hour or so into my self-imposed exile, I staggered out of bed and into the bathroom, suddenly jump-started by the need to purge – everything. The only question in my mind was which end would explode first. I’ll provide no further details except to say that by 2 am I was basically empty. Most of yesterday I couldn’t eat, but my legs stopped wobbling and my stomach stopped aching by dinner time. And, mirabile dictu, I got on the scale this morning to discover that I weigh less now than when we left for our trip. So Cabo was good for something after all!