Standard Time

Funny, I’ve been so accustomed to the extended Daylight Savings Time that October slipped right by without my missing the early nightfall of autumns past. Even though the days have slowly grown shorter and it’s been discouragingly dark when I get up at 6:30 in the morning, it never seemed strange that we had not yet moved our clocks back.

Wouldn’t it be some small justice if the only good thing for which the Bush administration is remembered, is his decision to extend Daylight Savings Time? I still believe one of the few positive lasting achievements of the Reagan years was his first step at extending DST back in the eighties. Although Bush’s decision has given us more daylight hours in which to contemplate his dangerous brand of idiocy, the fact is it’s helpful: we turn on the lights later in the evening for those extra weeks, saving electricity.

With November here at last – and election day a mere three and a half days away – I am so excited to vote, wish my daughter was just one year older so she could vote too, and am jonesing for Change with a capital C. If only I could persuade my diehard Republican father (that’s you, Dad!) to do his grandchildren a favor and vote for Obama, I’d feel that I had accomplished a major good deed this year. He maintains cynically that “All politicians are the same,” and that therefore he might as well vote for McCain. I disagree. I believe that Obama is different, and different in the best possible ways. The last several weeks he has had to temper his message in order to appeal to the broadest possible number of voters, but once he is in office, I am convinced he will be one of the greatest presidents in our country’s history.

On the knitting front, I’ve submitted secret pattern designs to a couple of different publications and must now wait to hear back from them. Meanwhile, with a college visits trip looming, I’m trying to narrow down the projects I’ll bring with me for the long cross-country plane rides. I’ve given almost no thought to what I’ll pack to wear (other than comfortable shoes, that is), because, well, with the holidays fast approaching, the knitting just seems so much more important. I’ve been narrowing down my choices for what to make for whom, and have come up with some luscious options that I’m excited to start.

It has been pouring rain since last night, and we desperately need every drop. Earlier in the week however, the garden was looking good. Still surprising me with blooms in both front and back, as you can see.

I had no idea when I planted them that the blueberry bushes would turn red in the fall. As a transplanted east-coaster who misses colorful autumn foliage almost more than anything else about life back there, this was a welcome surprise.

And the dahlias just keep on pumping out the flowers. This specimen looks particularly autumnal, don’t you think?

The Sound of My Own Voice

I’ve been derelict at blogging lately, but not for lack of ideas. Just busy with other things. Such as:

It’s always a thrill when the folks over at our local NPR affiliate agree to let me record a piece for their Perspective segment, as I did late last week. I love being in the sound studio, wearing the headphones and communicating with the sound engineer on the other side of the big plate glass window. I love working with him to make the recording, although I can’t remember a session that did not involve a last-second edit to tighten the prose or to make my point more clear. I enjoy the process not so much because I love the sound of my own voice (which, to my ears, sounds a bit gravelly and nasal), but because as I grow older I’ve realized that I think about THINGS (politics, world conflict, the economy, social roles, family) a lot, and consequently have a lot of opinions. I enjoy sharing them and participating in the debate that sometimes results.

The new piece will air tomorrow, and if you want to hear it you can click on the link above for a direct ride to the show. My topic this time is religion, and the way it occasionally and unexpectedly intrudes on our secular lives – and how we deal with it when it does.

While my dear husband channel-surfs a numbing variety of sports events until I’m ready to poke his manhood with my sharpest knitting needle scream, there’s been a lot of therapeutic but secret knitting going on. There’s even some that is eligible for viewing but that has not been photographed because of insufficient progress. That will change in a day or so.

Meanwhile, the garden continues to please. Photos to follow.


Some words just sound better in French. Words like “fleur.” Of course, some sound pretty good in Italian, too. Like “flora.” I went to college with a woman named Flora, and I never wondered what her parents were thinking when they pulled that moniker out of the baby-names book.

Whereas, if they had named her “Flower,” I might have questioned their decision. Fleur and Flora bring to mind images of Botticelli’s lovely paintings of the Three Graces and of Venus Rising from the Sea. Flower, on the other hand, for reasons I don’t quite understand, reminds me of a disheveled Eliza Doolittle pre-Professor Higgins.

So, anyway, the beginning of autumn-blooming fleurs and flora are all around my garden this week. The pink “kangaroo’s paw” is a hummingbird magnet, but they never hover quite long enough for me to capture them sticking their beaks into the centers. Whenever I hear that tell-tale clicking sound they make while feeding, I sneak out with my camera… I’ll just have to be persistent, and eventually I’ll catch one of the little guys in the act.

And the cyclamen leaves seem particularly well-variegated this fall. I adore their heart-shaped leaves and the fragrant flowers that are just beginning to appear.

And for those who are not on Ravelry, here are a couple of photos of my completed Wedding Wrap. The beaded edging went quickly and adds the perfect finishing touch to the wrap. I can’t wait to wear it to the wedding this weekend!

The pattern is for sale here: on Ravelry, for anyone wanting to make their own version.

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Pumpkin?

Surprise! The squash below is now almost completely orange, and little by little the larger guy behind it is also turning from orange-speckled green to more decidedly orange. If I pull it forward where it will get more sun it, too, will complete the metamorphosis. By Halloween I will have two convincing pseudo-pumpkins by the front door to greet trick-or-treaters.

On another note, the clematis that I thought was supposed to bloom only in the spring has launched a surprise second coming this fall. On my way out to pick vegetables the other day, I thought I was hallucinating when I noticed – climbing the fence that surrounds our pool equipment – this out-of-season specimen:


Ahh, here they are again. My absolute, hands-down favorite fall flower, the pansy. I LOVE their little faces, freckled and individual as they are, no two quite alike.

I even love it when they go to seed all over the garden and pop up to brighten unexpected corners throughout the winter. It makes me happy just to look at their bright, uncomplicated colors and the way they crowd cheerfully together as if each cluster is creating its own pansy party. They don’t need to smell good, and they don’t need to make a good cut flower. I don’t need to see them inside the house. It’s the way they perk me up on the grayest, most unremittingly drizzling, bone-chilling morning that makes them worth their weight in gold.

I confess that I usually succumb to one or two unusual color combinations like those above, or to the ruffled petals that characterize some varieties.

But it is the old-fashioned classics with their sweet little monkey faces that draw me in again and again, every autumn without fail.

In my quilting days, I even memorialized the pansy in my first Baltimore album quilt. The little fabric replicas below are pretty much life-sized, measuring about 1 1/2″ across at their widest points. I still remember how much fun I had choosing the perfect combination of fabrics to approximate pansy colors, and finding the tiny beads that would stand in for stamen. That quilt took me nearly four years to complete, and when I look at it today, it is the pansies I see first. They still make me smile.


That’s what I’ve been for the last few days, having committed to the lace edging for the Wedding Shawl. Although the bead placed at the tip of each point slows me down just a tad, it’s going well and by the weekend the shawl should be finished and ready for its close-up. Meanwhile, a pointy close-up of the lace and beading. I love the way the Shibui mohair yarn softens the variegations in Zazu, the Twisted Sister wool.

With the wedding just a week away, there’s no time to fool around.

The first side of the edging is done and blocked, and the second side is half-knitted, to be completed this evening. With no mesmerizing debate to watch today, progress should be rapid. Last night, I kept getting distracted by McCain’s pained-looking “smile,” and his overuse of the term “my friends,” interjected into seemingly every other sentence. Does he really believe that calling people his friends will make it so?

Sasquatch Squashkins

During a particularly hot week late this summer, I suffered a brief lapse in the frequency of my squash-picking activities. This negligence permitted a couple of renegades to get carried away, responding to their neglect with a power surge (“Oh, yes! She missed us again, hiding under these huge leaves! Now we can really grow… Watch us and learn, you teensie little zucchinis over there.”) that left them super-sized and hard as drums. Not to put too fine a point on it, once I discovered them they were still lovely to look at but distinctly inedible. And once I realized just how large and hard they had become, I let them go wild. Just had to see how big they could really get. And they did not disappoint. I present, herewith, my pair of sasquatch squashkins:

For the month of October, they will make excellent stand-ins for the customary pumpkins, don’t you think? And the one in front, as if reading my mind, is turning more decisively orange with each passing day. Every time I see them, I feel oh-so-locavore and thrifty, not because I’m planning to eat them, but because I won’t have to buy pumpkins at the market this year. Oh, sure… carving is not in their future, but there’s nothing to stop me from painting jack ‘o’ lantern faces on them as we get closer to Halloween.

In a couple of frenzied hours over the weekend, I pulled all the dead annuals out of our patio pots and replaced them with those traditional harbingers of fall, chrysanthemums. It went faster because I had a little helper:

She supervised from her post at the front door. I never could have done it without her.

My Daughter the Hat Model

Right around the corner is the birthday of a dear friend, for whom I have not knitted a single loving-hands item in years. And this is a friendship with such history that she deserves to have something handknit by me every year, so I have really fallen down on the job. With just enough time to remedy that situation at least for this year, I pulled a ball of fabulously soft and lushly colored Schaeffer yarn (a wool and alpaca blend, if memory serves) from my stash and whipped up this pattern for the adorable Cassidy Cap by Bonne Marie Burns of ChicKnits:

My dear old friend has snappy blue eyes, and this beret will make them even snappier.

Doesn’t my daughter make the most wonderful hat model?

I’m biased, of course, but I think if her ultimate career choice allows for a bit of free time, she could definitely moonlight.

Not-Quite FO: Wedding Wrap

Hot off the blocking board, I present herewith my almost-complete wedding wrap. Two different lace stitches, one – the more open and airy of the two – creating a graceful border:

and the other filling in the body with a dense yet rhythmic design, offering just the right degree of warmth around the shoulders on a cool evening.

Two matched halves joined by kitchener stitch at the center. See how perfectly it complements the little silk evening bag I will carry along to the mid-October wedding?

At the end of the day, I realized the wrap blocked out wide enough not to “need” an edging down the long sides. However, need and want are almost always two different things. Although I suspected that in this case more would simply have been more – and not necessarily better – I’ve decided (in consultation with a couple of discerning friends and family members) that an edging will actually dress up the wrap and give it even more grace than it already has. Plus, it will give me the opportunity to practice the knitted-on border technique of which I have become so enamored. I still have to ask my husband to take photos of the wrap being modelled by a real person (probably yours truly), but that will have to wait until the weekend. Here, take another look. You know you want to.

Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah, Hey, He-e-ey, Good-bye…

Good-bye to summer veggies, that is. We picked the motherlode, including the baby yellow squash seen above, this past weekend in anticipation of planting cool weather crops. A couple of the round green squash that somehow escaped my notice long enough to grow to bowling ball proportions (and with bright orange stripes that make them look quite festive!) are now displayed like renegade pumpkins by the front door. Photos forthcoming a bit closer to Halloween…

There are peppers still on the plants, but I picked and pulled the last of the tomatillos (enough to make a final fresh batch of salsa verde), a gorgeous sweet orange pepper, and a few underripe tomatoes (to keep them from the aforementioned neighborhood rats). Some of the ripe ones wound up sprinkled liberally with fresh basil in this ginormous salad, which we ate with dinner last night. It was soooooo delicious, I took a moment between bites to think about how lucky we are to be able to grow so much of our own produce, and for so much of the year. More than lucky, actually. Privileged.

And of course there was enough rhubarb to make a crisp or two, or maybe a batch of the rhubarb-citrus chutney I like to serve with cheese and crackers for a savory snack or appetizer.

My next big push will be to pull all the basil plants and make a huge batch of pesto to freeze in baggies for the winter. I did that last year, and although I don’t remember making THAT much of it, I am just using up the last of that crop. Jeez, is it any wonder I seldom sit down with my knitting until after dinner?

Now That’s a Fuzzy Heinie!

And just how does one correctly spell heinie anyway? Heiney? Hinee? Hiney? More to the point, have you ever noticed how most grown men have peach fuzz on their heinies? Not that I’ve ever seen most grown men’s heinies, or even – now that I think about it – more than a few. But still.

If you’re guessing that this post is intended to serve as a distraction from the pathetic lack of knitting content on this blog lately, you’re correct. Not that I haven’t been knitting. The Wedding Wrap halves are complete and kitchener stitched together. All that remains is the blocking.

And I’ve begun a hat project – a birthday gift for a dear friend who has received no knitted things from me in far too long. There’s not enough of it to show at the moment; I just cast on last night to celebrate completing the two halves of the Wedding Wrap. Never say I’ve no talent for distraction. Or is that procrastination?

Anyway, I herewith present the fuzzy heinie:

There’s a drink called a Fuzzy Navel, and that’s apparently a perennial favorite despite the unsavory mental images, so why has no one invented the Fuzzy Heinie? I’m just sayin’.

Still Life with Lemons and Dahlias

This late harvest is just a fraction of what I’ve picked this weekend as I begin pulling the summer vegetable plants out of the garden to make room for the cool weather crops (butter lettuce, cauliflowers, and swiss chard figuring prominently). Out of all of it, this is probably the most photogenic:

Oh Rats, Foiled Again!

Just look at this mess. Every time I look at this image, I want to take up target practice. Despite weeks of near-obsessive vigilance – mitigated by my willingness to share – the neighborhood “roof rats,” as they are known in these parts, have been helping themselves to my figs and heirloom tomatoes.

This year I’d say we’ve lost nearly half the figs to these marauding critters, and the only reason we’ve gotten to eat even half of them is my reluctant decision to pick the figs before they’ve had a chance to ripen fully on the tree (which means they don’t reach quite the degree of lusciousness that happens then they stay on the tree a few more days) and bring them inside to soften and ripen further. The flavor never quite reaches that divine intensity you get when they are dripping and splitting with juiciness, but they’re still pretty darn good.

The tomatoes, now they’re another story – but no less annoying. The local rats know exactly when to sink their sharp little fangs into them – again ju-u-ust a couple of days before they’re ripe enough to pick. Interestingly enough, they are particular about their tomatoes; they have definite preferences; the green-and-red-mottled and the yellow tomatoes go unmolested, but they have decimated the Black Crims and Abraham Lincolns. Go figure.

And of course, once the rats are through with them, the flies move in for their share. Yuck!

Say Hello to My Little Green Friend

The other day I sat inside knitting and minding my own business when I noticed a movement outside the window. Getting up to take a closer look, I found an extra-terrestrial-looking visitor peering back in at me as if wondering what strange zoo he had stumbled upon, and who was this strange giant creature staring back at him.

Even after I grabbed my camera, this fellow was pretty unflappable. He cocked his head and gave me an inscrutable stare, as if his clinging to the window screen was far more normal than my clamoring about snapping his picture.

On another note, small signs of fall are everywhere in the garden.

Continuing Indian Summer days give way to chilly nights, and the last week or so I’ve noticed that when I get up early in the morning it is still quite dark outside. Now that we revert to Standard Time in early November, those dim mornings will last longer and make it that much harder to get out of bed to start the day. I’ve had to adjust the light timers twice in the last couple of weeks because the evenings creep upon us earlier and earlier.

Finally, Tomatoes

I’m talking heirlooms here, not the little red and yellow cherry tomatoes that have flooded the kitchen for over a month already (although we still have plenty of those). Now, finally, in mid-September, the heirlooms are ripe… round and red Abraham Lincolns, Pineapple and Black Pineapple with their tasty streaks of gold, green, and red, Cherokee Purple and Black Crim. They’re all delicious, and I can’t get enough of them. And for a few short weeks, I’ll be able to eat my fill just by taking the short walk to the vegetable garden to pick another bowlful.

Instead of our usual tossed green salad accompaniment to dinner, lately I’ve been slicing a variety of these tomatoes into eighths and tossing them with a handful of salty, cubed cheese such as cotija or feta, a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil, and a scattering of shredded basil leaves. There’s nothing better.