A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose…

A rose is a rose is a rose… but even though they come back every spring, I’m amazed all over again when the first ones of the season appear. These are Joseph’s Coat, a colorful climber that will finally make its way, I fervently hope, onto the fence that protects the front rose garden from our hungry local deer population.

Amazing, too, are the delicate pink blooms of our only dogwood tree. Dogwoods always remind me of growing up back east, where one sees them everywhere. The pink ones are not as common and I didn’t have great hope that this one would fare well in my garden, but every year it surprises me by making its comeback.

And these little bluebell flowers are volunteers. Their bulbs were turned under when we relandscaped a couple of years ago, and I thought we had lost them. But no, they made their way back up to the surface to delight us every spring.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad


My parents are celebrating their fifty-third wedding anniversary today, and although the last few years have presented them with more than a few health challenges, I think they’d say that the good still outweighs the bad.

They are still living in the house they moved into more than 25 years ago, are close to their grown kids and grandkids, still have friends with whom they socialize regularly, and still feel a strong attachment to their community. They still read and travel and take walks, and nudge each other to take their meds at the right times. They still enjoy the kind of symbiotic relationship that only a long marriage can produce.

This was taken at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, and they still look pretty damned spry. Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Very Bad

Yes, I’ve been bad. Very, very bad. Not a single post in more than a week bad. And it’s not as if there’s nothing to report. There’s the usual garden activity – even more than usual now that the latest week of rain has ended and sunshine is bringing all the blooms out.

The last of the daffodils and narcissi are hanging out in clusters as if there’s safety in numbers. I haven’t picked any to put in vases around the house this year; their fragrance indoors sets off my allergies. Better to enjoy them outside.

And the old rhododendron that I pruned back drastically two years ago has finally decided to embrace its re-shaping. Its blooms are spectacular this year.
California poppies have sprung up all around the front garden, but are nowhere are they as glorious as they are beside these deep indigo carpet flowers that spill over the moss rock wall. This is what I think of whenever someone talks to me about colors “popping.”
But more than that, there’s a nearly-FO to share. I say nearly because it lacks only snaps down the inside of the front before I can sew on the buttons and wear it out in public.
And this one is a perfect fit. My measuring and calculating and misting and blocking paid off, and the Guinevere Evening Cardigan is a winner. From the elbow-length sleeves to the vibrant yarn itself, Sundara’s Aran Silky Merino “Green Tea” color, I can’t wait to wear it.

I love everything about it, from the inset waist shaping that adds a design element to the stockinette body in both front and back:

I am obsessed with the spot stitch employed for the upper bodice, which looks like a variation of seed stitch but is, to my eye, so much prettier. And I love the delicate finishing touch of the picot edge around the neckline.

Now all that remains is to sew on the buttons and take some modelled shots: this week’s task.

Beantown and Back

In the last five days, I have visited six states on the east coast while researching a big secret project. First I flew from San Francisco to Washington, DC, where I was supposed to make a connection to New York to visit my parents. Instead, my connecting flight was cancelled due to terrible weather in the New York area, so I wound up spending the night on the sofa of a dear old friend; the same friend I visited back in January after she underwent major surgery. While I was sorry to miss the extra time with my folks, it was an unexpected treat to catch up with my friend Diane, whose recovery from her ordeal has been absolutely remarkable. Two months ago she could barely hobble across her apartment, but on Sunday night we walked (and briskly, I might add) at least a half mile to the supermarket nearest her apartment, where we picked up some salads for an impromptu late dinner, and then walked – again, at a good pace – the half-mile back to her home. It was amazing. No, she is amazing!

When I did fly early – oh goooood, soooo early she whined – on Monday morning up to New York, my parents and I first stopped off at the supermarket (literally, on the way to their home from the airport), to pick up ingredients for split pea soup. Once back at their house, Mom and I got busy peeling the carrots and celery (and how did I get stuck dicing the onions, I’d like to know… it’s my least favorite cooking job!) and before long a big pot of soup was simmering away on the stove. This time, Dad wasn’t kibbitzing about how I’d used way too many onions, or why was I putting in that chopped up ham steak? After all, he’d eaten the same split pea soup when I visited them in February, and suffered no ill effects. Even though I had to leave Tuesday morning, it felt good knowing they had four quarts of homemade soup in their freezer.

My drive to Boston that morning was interrupted by a detour to Uxbridge, Massachusetts. I can’t say just yet why Uxbridge was a not-to-be-missed destination, but soon all shall be revealed. The 200-mile road trip was a blast, however, and not something I get to do very often. The only problem with doing all the driving over a distance of two HUNDRED miles is that I kept thinking of all the knitting I could have been doing had I only been sitting in the passenger seat.

Wednesday brought two Cambridge-based work-related meetings, also to be explained at a later date. An unexpected treat was meeting an old friend for dinner that night. Elizabeth and I worked together a dozen years ago when we both lived in Washington, D.C. She is an architect, one of the most elegant and talented women I know, and in the twelve years since we last saw one another, she has also produced three children (including a set of twins), earned a masters degree in the history of architecture at Harvard, and has maintained an impressive career as director of interior design for a Boston architecture firm. In fact, a home she recently completed on the North Shore will be featured in Architectural Digest later this year.

Today I made – and thoroughly enjoyed – another 200-mile round trip car ride up to Portland, Maine where I met two more amazing women whose professional interests are dear to my heart. Back in Cambridge late this afternoon, I met with one more person before calling it a day. Whether it’s jet lag or all the driving or a combination of the two, I am absolutely exhausted! In fact, here’s how it went with my plans to go to the hotel’s fitness center tonight upon my return:

Me, looking at watch: OK, it’s six o’clock. I’ll go to the gym and then head out to pick up some dinner at the Star Market next door.

Me, gazing at work-out clothes laid out on the enticing chaise in my room: But I’m hungry now. I know! I should go pick up dinner first, then come back to the room and change. It will be easier to go to the gym if I know there’s a yummy dinner waiting for me when I get back.

Me, sitting down on the edge of the chaise, patting the pillow and fingering the TV remote: If I go pick up dinner right this minute, hustle to the gym and put in even just a half-hour, by the time I get back the news will still be on and I can eat dinner while I watch it.

(I go to the Star Market and return to my room twenty minutes later lugging not one, but two grocery bags containing salad greens, dressing, small containers of hummus and tabbouleh salad, a tiny bag of potato chips, two apples and two bananas, and a box of cookies.)

Me, gazing at the food laid out on the handy little side table by the really very comfortable chaise, where I have once again sat down and leaned back into the pillows: Who am I kidding? I’m starving. I haven’t eaten since lunchtime and here it is – dinnertime! I can’t work out now. I’m too hungry to concentrate. I’m too weak to subject myself to the treadmill on an empty stomach. The smart thing to do is eat now, watch the news, do some work on the computer – AND GO TO THE GYM IN THE MORNING!!!

And that’s exactly what happened.

One more big meeting tomorrow morning (after the gym, of course…) and then I’ll have a couple of hours free before heading to the airport for the trip home. Despite the bleak bare trees lining the interstate and the patches of dirty snow on roadside hills in New Hampshire and Maine, the weather was surprisingly mild, holding enough of a hint of spring that I found myself missing the east coast more than ever.


When I planted ranunculus in the back garden bed, it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Those frilly petals! The glorious colors! Those feathery leaves! It never occurred that they would die off rather quickly and thus put an end to my adoration.
Until this spring, that is. Suddenly whorls of those feathered leaves appeared out of the mulch. Tightly gathered buds emerged in all the colors I remembered so well. And slowly, slowly, they are unwinding, turning their crenellated faces up to the sun.

There are other surprises as well. I bought a bag of tiny bulbs at Costco last fall, then forgot all about them. At the tail end of the planting season, seized by gardener’s remorse, I flung them into the ground by the handful. They looked a bit shrivelled up after sitting out on the back stoop for several weeks, and I had little hope that they’d actually survive the winter. Oh, me of little faith. For there they are, and I can’t even remember their name – only that they are native to Africa but perform well in our semi-arid climate as well.

But the piece de resistance is the bleeding heart that comes back year after year. It reminds me of spring on the east coast, where they were often among the first plants to surface at winter’s end. Their delicacy and charm never fails to arouse in me a bittersweet feeling; I still miss the seasonal changes back east even after nearly nine years in the Bay area. I’m grateful that they bloom here, too.

The Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well

So the other morning I trotted outside to collect the daily newspapers when something nestled deep in the shadows near the back gate caught my eye. Something tiny, with just a hinted spark of color that stood out from the cool shade. Something I had not planted there, but that had taken the initiative to set its seed anyway, and to persevere through the chill of winter until the earth warmed enough for it to announce its arrival.

Here I am!

All my relatives live under the pear tree around the corner,

but I’ve got that pioneer spirit.

Down the Primrose Path

No new knitting content today. Instead, I had a deep tissue massage to try and soften up some of the knitting-related knots in my neck, shoulders, and back. But this was no spa treatment, lemme tell you, despite the ambient background nature sounds of birds twittering and waves breaking on the shore. This was hard-core, not-that-dissimilar-from-childbirth massage. It sort of worked. I feel a little better. Not much, but a little. And even a little is an improvement.

Primroses are in full bloom along every path around the garden, turning their faces to the sun. They emerge annually, asking nothing from me but a little water and pinching back from time to time, filling the patio pots by the front door and on the back landing. Over the years, I’ve added a new plant here and there, wherever there’s a spot in the garden that could use a little brightening. And here they are, for your viewing pleasure:

I feel so much better now. Hope you do, too.

Iris’t My Case

No new knitting pron today, I’m afraid. I’ve had to take the last few days off as my hands badly need a rest… the trigger finger locking and cramping activity on my left hand has been so bad that I’ve scheduled a masochistic pre-emptive visit to the hand surgeon in hope of persuading him to administer one of those walloping and excruciatingly painful cortisone injections. It’s reached the point that only cortisone will relieve the pain.

So with no new knitting content to share, I thought instead I’d show you a couple of photos of the first iris of spring, that has sprung up along the front walk in the last few days. Slowly unfurling…

And here it is, in all its apricot-shaded glory:

In other news, it looks like we will have peaches this summer. After last year’s homicidal pruning by the gardener (OK, yes, I know – I should have done it myself), we didn’t have a single peach… not even one. So sad. And the year prior, peach leaf curl decimated all the new growth (hence the radical pruning last year), resulting in spindly little twigs that were too fragile to produce any fruit. But this year, finally, a full recovery appears to have been made. The tree is covered with rosy pink blossoms, and I am already dreaming of fresh and frosty peach sherbet.

And jars of glistening peach jam. And savory, spicy peach chutney. And peaches roasted on the grill. Mmmm…

After Midnight…

This arum, splendid in its isolation as if quarantined by a magic circle into a corner of the front garden, continues to astonish me with a velvety beauty that borders on mysterious oddity.

I’m ready for my close-up… mwah-ha-ha-hah!

And you might suspect it had taken its color cues from this hellebore that I call “Queen of the Night,” although I have no idea if that’s its official name or just my own particular brand of whimsy (and who cares? It suits, don’t you think?)

My daughter will soon be hearing from the colleges to which she applied – yes or no. Needless to say, the stress levels in my household are sufficiently high to power the rooftop solar panels on a cloudy day. She strives for calm, for patience, for perspective, for Ommmmm… but really, who am I kidding? We are all on tenterhooks (just what is a tenterhook, anyway?).

She continues to beat me to the mailbox every afternoon. Yet in a mere two weeks, all the waiting and agonizing will be over. One of the dozen universities that received her application will have the pleasure of her company (and my money) for the next four years – after which, we can only hope, the job market will have improved or – god help us – she’ll want to continue straight into graduate school.

A riot… of violet.

Guinevere Says Hello

Advancement on this WIP goes slowly but steadily, with few photos that are post-worthy. The back is complete, as is the right front side. I love this waist-shaping technique for its front and center, in-your-face quality… no demure K2togs and SSKs hugging the side seams. Oh, no, not this time.

And I love the spot stitch for its resemblance to seed stitch without actually being seed stitch, which – if you ask me – can get a bit tiresome to produce.

The color is totally off in the photo below; earlier photos show the full glory of this silk/merino Sundara yarn much more accurately. That Sundara, I tell you – a total color maestra, and such a lovely person as well! This Aran Silky Merino is a pleasure to work with, sliding softly through the fingers. Already, however, I detect a slight halo on the knitted surface that will eventually dull that lovely sheen… but never enough to dull my pleasure in wearing Guinevere.

I worried initially that I might run out of yarn for this project, but by now it has become clear that I’ll have plenty. Though my intention has always been for this project to have elbow-length sleeves, I could even make them full-length. Now that’s a nice surprise!


Lavender post-shower, not yet in flower.

The centers of the tiny narcissus (narcissi?) below are literally the size of my thumbnail – absolutely adorable, and popping up all over the front garden where I scattered their teeny-weeny bulbs in a moment of daffodilly and narcissculous abandon a couple of years ago.

Their reappearance every spring gives me a lift no matter what else is happening.

Had to share.


Poppy #1 in full bloom

Despite predictions of more rain, we’ve got the sun all to ourselves at the moment.

And the garden likes that.

Very much, from all the evidence around the grounds.


I promised a sneak peek at the vintage buttons that will finally find a home on the Guinevere Evening Cardigan, my March NaKniSweMoDo work in progress.

And because I’ve always been terrible at keeping secrets (except when it comes to surprise parties; ask my husband about that sometime…), here they are: These three are metal-backed, domed shank buttons with faceted iridescent rhinestones set in all around. They glint and sparkle with shades of green and turquoise that are set off by the green yarn.

I’ve been holding onto these buttons for years, waiting patiently for the right project to come along. And when I received this yarn (Green Tea Aran Silky Merino) from Sundara as the first installation of her 2009 Sweater Collection yarn subscription, I knew the right yarn had at last arrived. And since I’d been sketching an idea for a new design and waiting until the right yarn for THAT came into my life, it was pretty much a triple whammy of perfection: right yarn, right design, right buttons.

At the top of the button band will be one button that is different from the dome-shaped rhinestone trio; it is vibrant turquoise enamel on brass and equally gorgeous.

This one will be stitched onto the front of the button band, which will be closed underneath by way of a large single snap. This will help prevent the button’s metal edges from fraying the yarn, and the button can be secured in a way that will keep it flat against the body of the cardigan, preventing the dreaded button droop.

I am so excited! Now to finish the cardigan.


While outside weeding on this 65-degree, sunny day (Oh, so that’s what sunshine feels like… it has been raining so long, I’d forgotten how lovely the sun feels upon the pallid skin in early spring), I noticed all kinds of new growth around the garden.

Weeding efforts focused on the California poppies that, living up to their name, are doing their best to “pop” up all over the front garden, in and around the roses and deep inside the protective camouflage of the ground covers where they doubtless hope to proliferate unnoticed. Of course, one doesn’t want to eradicate them completely. They do add a certain wild, cheerful – even hedonistic – element to the sedate roses around them. And in recent years we have had large swaths of not only the classic brilliant orange poppies, but delicate pink and white ones as well. So we want to encourage those varieties.

While pulling the worst poppy offenders, I discovered another incipient arrival; this arum variety with its enormous flower spike. That flower, when it blooms, will be nearly black in color, and of a rich, velvety texture that is both unusually gorgeous and gorgeously unusual.

Sadly, the orchids in their gigantic pots on the back terrace did not fare well this winter. Several hard frosts in January and early February killed off most of the new growth, leaving me only one surviving specimen – and as you can see, even this one doesn’t look too healthy.

Too much frost, not enough sun… we droop in protest.

Finally, along the back fence is a clematis planted three years ago as a tiny rooting. It didn’t do much to impress me during either its first or its second year in the garden. This year, however, I see hopeful signs that it has finally settled in and will produce some of the spectacular white blooms it is known for.

Is Anybody Else Freaked Out By This (In a Good Way)?

Do you realize what is happening on Sunday? (Actually, Saturday night if your household is like mine.) Here’s what is happening… we will all – except for residents of Arizona, of course – move our clocks forward an hour as we launch into Daylight Savings Time. Which gets longer and longer every couple of years.

First, Ronald Reagan moved up the start of Daylight Savings Time from the end of April to early April, and in my opinion it was one of the precious few GOOD things he accomplished during his presidency. Then Dubya moved it up again, from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March. The return in the fall to Standard Time moves out concurrently, getting a few weeks later each time one of our pitiful Republican presidents (realizing belatedly that most of the country despises him and thinks less than favorably of his “accomplishments” while in office) feels the need to do something memorable – something that will jog people to think, “Well, at least he did THAT. At least I can drive home from work in October and it’s still light outside when I get there.” Like that. Woo-hoo!

I’m not complaining. I LIKE it when the days feel longer. It makes it seem that summer can’t be that far off. I like it even when I find myself outside weeding at 7 o’clock (instead of making dinner like I should be) because the persistent sunshine got me all disoriented. The only thing I don’t like about it is that for several weeks it is still totally dark outside when I get up in the morning. Seriously, at 6 am in northern California in late March, it is still pitch black outside. The moon is still hanging around in the sky, not even coming in off the night shift yet, as if to say, “What the heck are you doing out of bed already?”

But I digress. In fact, rereading this I realize I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney at the end of 60 Minutes, when he rambles on about something circuitous and pointless for the 60 seconds he now gets – before they fade to black and hustle him off the air. Will that guy ever retire? (Andy, just between us – time to call it a day, my friend. Your curmudgeonly schtick was cute – often even entertaining – for the first thirty or so years, but now, like you, it’s just old hat. Sorry about that. Accuse me of ageism if you must, but I think millions of Americans would agree with me on this.)