Moo To You, Too

Major excitement around here: I received a phone call from Eunny Jang (Yes, the Eunny Jang, editor of Interweave Knits.). I sent in a design proposal for the Winter 2008 issue and Eunny called to let me know she loves my idea and wants to publish it in the magazine! I can’t say more about it for now, but aside from the immediate thrill of having my design chosen for publication in my favorite knitting magazine, there is the additional thrill of knowing I’ll be keeping company with such illustrious designers. Many of my favorite knitting bloggers are featured regularly in IK; for now, I can only aspire to such success. And to that end, I recently mailed off a design proposal for the Spring 2009 issue of IK. You never know; sometimes lightning strikes twice.

A tip of the hat to Knit and Tonic, who turned me on to the British company Moo MiniCards. I ordered a box of 100 cards (which came in the mail today; they are absolutely adorable) and pretty much the instant I looked through them, I decided another 100 with different images would come in handy. Clearly I take too many photos, since I had a very hard time deciding which ones to use on the fronts of the cards.

The clematis climbing the back garden trellis has turned into quite the show-off.

The nearby hydrangea is evidently so stunned by the gorgeousness of the clematis that it has turned a paler shade of blue with envy.

Speaking of blue, the first blueberries are RIPE! And delicious… not enough for a blueberry pie (maybe next year), but enough to sprinkle into a bowl of yogurt or over my morning cereal.

June Bugs

In addition to the ladybugs, the box elder beetles, and the assorted other winged and shelled insects alighting in the garden these days, I’ve got the knitting bug, and I’ve got it bad. Finished the little Koigu parachute scarf over the weekend, and although the dye ran significantly in its blocking bath, the grainy Dijon mustard color is relatively intact.

I tried my new lace blocking wires and became an immediate convert. Why did I wait all these years to invest in a set? They make the job of blocking lace so much easier!

Some of the calla lily plants have grown so huge and heavy that they simply toppled over and had to be cut back. Not so with these three, settled into shade so deep they can’t seem to grow that large. I’ve christened them the Three of Hearts, so perfectly valentiney are they, and so – to quote one of the early English poets (John Donne, perhaps?) – “so lovingly contiguous.”

These clematis made an appearance here last year around the same time, but they merit a repeat photo because of their sheer simple persistence. For the first five years we lived here, I thought this vine clamouring up the pool fence was a pernicious weed, and I pulled it out as soon as it made an appearance in the spring. It was so persistent, thought, that one year I decided to let it grow just to see what it would do. At the time, I had not yet planted any other clematis vines around the garden so I had no basis for comparison regarding the leaves and bud shape. Imagine my amazement when it flowered for the first time on my watch, and I realized what I’d been consigning to the green waste bin all those years! Never too old to learn, right?

New Knits, Take Three

Knitspot is one of my favorite blogs, and Anne Hansen is one of my favorite knitwear designers. Aside from the fact that she is an adorable little pixie person whose gardening and cooking exploits are almost as charming as her knitting, she is a prolific designer. Her lace shawls and scarves are always stunning, and meticulously charted, and carefully test-knitted. If she had ten feet instead of only two, she would nonetheless have more than enough pairs of socks to keep them all warm and beautifully shod. I suspect Anne has discovered a way to survive without sleep because how else could she accomplish as much as she does?

In any case, I have been enchanted by her Little Nothing scarves over the last several months. Just the kind of instant gratification I crave, they inspired me to crack open my Barbara G. Walker Treasuries and identify some easy, short-repeat lace patterns. They reliably provide the means to creating little FOs that make the long-term projects seem like less of a chore when I’m knitting the millionth cable or the umpteenth row of stockinette.

Here is one such project, for which I raided the orphan balls of Koigu in my stash and found this warm, speckled golden wool that reminds me of grainy Dijon mustard.

Although it will block out longer than it appears at the moment, I expect this to be a rather short little neck warmer, perfect to tuck into the neck of my leather jacket in the fall.

In the garden, new things are blooming as well. My mother-in-law amaryllis keeps pumping out magnificent candy-striped flowers; truly the gift that keeps on giving!

The newer climbing roses have sprays of tiny little blossoms that scamper up every available trellis. They’re so completely different from the hybrid teas and floribundas that they hardly seem like roses. And yet, from fragrance to thorns it’s clear they are members of the family.

New Knits, Take Two

Interweave Knits always inspires me. Sometimes, however, an issue that seemed only so-so when I first received it turns out to be filled with treasures upon further inspection. Such was the case with Summer 2007.

I’ve seen many fabulous completed projects from this issue posted on Ravelry, and none more fabulous than the Josephine Top. There are so many wonderful Josephine Tops, in fact, that I decided to make one of my very own. I just happen to have enough skeins in my stash of Karabella Yarns’ Breeze in a warm ivory color. The 40% cashmere and 60% silk blend fiber will make it a perfect top for our cool northern California summer evenings.

With other, more pressing projects also in the works, this will take a back seat for the next few weeks. I’m knitting it in the round up to the armholes, and it’s going quickly so far. The lace pattern looks intricate but is deceptively simple (my favorite kind of lace, I confess), and I expect to wear it at least a few times over this summer (she said optimistically).

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!

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.