Monday, October 27, 2014

A Much-Needed Getaway


My birthday was Monday, and to celebrate Robb booked us a tiny vacation cottage near near Point Reyes National Seashore.  The building we stayed was once the village butcher shop, however the original facade and interior fittings are now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. (You can click here for news articles about the exhibition that the facade was used in, here.)

We visited tiny rural towns, and marveled at the landscape. We had lunch on the beach.  We kayaked in a bay that was formed when the San Andreas Fault ripped the land to pieces.  We saw more predatory birds than you could imagine.  We bought locally produced cheeses.  We listened to the mournful conversations of local owls.  We read out loud to one another. Some of us knitted.  We saw elk, and deer, and a particularly well-camouflaged coyote.  It was lovely.

This is entirely unrelated to gardening, but as I said, we were on vacation.  Click here to read what people who actually write about gardening on Mondays have to say.

Wedding Dresses and Ebola?


Wedding gown creator Jill Andrews is an old pal of mine. We both worked in Baltimore theater back in the day, and often found ourselves at the thrilling and terrifying intersection of Creativity and Insanity.

When it comes to clothes, Jill has seen it all.

So it did not entirely surprise me when I heard that Jill was part of a team assembled by Johns Hopkins University, seeking ways to improve the functionality of medical workers' protective clothing, particularly in the context of the current ebola crisis.

One of the great challenges facing medical staff working in proximity to the ebola virus is that of avoiding contaminating one's self when one removes one's protective gear.  Protective suits may work perfectly, only to fail when they are taken off.  Imagine wearing a coverall or jumpsuit in your kitchen.  Imagine putting on a face mask, rubber gloves, and shoe covers. Now imagine covering the entire outside of your clothing with peanut butter.  The peanut butter represents the ebola virus.  How would you remove your soiled clothing, without getting any trace of peanut butter on yourself?  How would you avoid getting peanut butter on the floor,  or the counters, or on anyone other person. Do you see the problem?

Jill's experience in creating garments -- and particularly her background in theater where elaborate costumes have to be donned and removed in the blink of an eye -- must have been a boon to those studying the issues around making safety-clothing more workable.

Public Radio International's program The World did a segment on Jill's participation in this project.  Click here to hear the interview.

And click here for an article on this collaboration at Johns Hopkins University.

And just for some context into why theater artists know a lot about getting people in and out of clothes, here's a video about what it takes to manage costume quick-changes.  The image goes black near the end, but by the time it does, I'll think you'll have seen more than enough.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Vegetable Bed? Sounds Perfect for a Nap!


My poor garden.  I was swamped with work all summer, and of course we're still in the midst of a drought. I should have pulled out all my summer plants and put in their autumn replacements. But I'm running horribly behind.

This weekend, Robb and ran out to Pollinate Farm and Garden, our favorite urban farm store.  We picked up a few plants (Victoria rhubarb!!!) and seeds, snuggled the shop cat, and chatted with Birgitt, one of the owners.  It's always a delight to stop in to Pollinate, those ladies know their stuff and the store is cozy and neighborly.

I dug up the vegetable bed, or at least I dug up part of it.  I really need to be ruthless, and just clear the place out.  But I'm a weirdo and tend to leave out-of-place plants in place, which only leads to garden chaos later on. 

Robb and I also went to the native plant sale that benefits Friends of Sausal Creek, a local organization that works to protect that watershed of one of Oakland's creeks.

While there, I got to chatting with some folks from Native Bird Connections, a nearby group that works with non-releasable wild raptors to further awareness of the importance of wild animals in our world.  I'd love to get to know more about this group.

It was a very garden-themed weekend, because in addition to all this, Robb and I went to the Autumn Lights Festival which was a massive art installation that benefited the various gardens around Lake Merritt.  Our friend Sarah Lowe had a particularly lovely piece -- illuminated paper lanterns that resembled gigantic ground-cherries.  Very nice!

Smog, it would seem, finds all this garden activity exhausting.  He would like me to quit mucking around in his dirt, so that he can get back to the serious work of napping.

How about you? Did you do any garden work this weekend?  Or would you like to read about what other gardeners are up to?  (If so, click here.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back Again, By Request.


The blog has been quiet, because there hasn't been a whole lot of happy news to report.

Sad news notwithstanding, at some point, one just has to get on with one's life.  At least, a little bit at a time.  In my case, I've resumed work on this knitting project, a re-creation of a vintage cardigan.

I had asked the legions of knitters on Ravelry if they had any insight into the origins of this garment.  Experts on vintage knitwear agreed that it was almost surely a bed-jacket, a garment that has been supplanted by the ubiquitous hoodie. 

Or perhaps the bed-jacket has been rendered obsolete by the use of central heating. 

Our little 1925 bungalow lacks central heating, which is not as dire as it sounds.  We bundle up with wool, and are saving our pennies for an eventual upgrade.  No central heat in Northern California is not the same as no central heat in most of the rest of the country.

I'm amused by the photos on this booklet of knitting patterns.  I imagine the model on the left is sniffing eau-de-cologne, but it does rather looks like she's about to take a swig out of her flask bottle of gin.

The picture on the right is quite similar to what I'm knitting. The lace pattern seems to be the same, and the yoke shares characteristics with my garment.

What's interesting to me is that the yarn companies that published these patterns would apparently recycle these patterns.  A pattern published in the 1930s or 1940s might re-surface in the 1950s or 1960s.   In fact, the name of the pattern that most resembles my project goes by the name "Back Again, By Request."

Back Again.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Revolution -- from Lisa's Point of View


Thanks to the support of all our friends and family, our BORP Revolution ride was a huge success.  Every year, I wish that every one of you could have joined us. And every year, I feel like I fail to adequately express the magic of this event.

Every year, I take some version of this photo, and every year it just looks like chaos.  I'm trying to convey the size of our part of the ride, the crazy variety of human-powered vehicles, and the rambunctious spirit.  All those things conspire to make a particularly crappy photo, so you'll have to take my word for it:  being part of this slightly crazed armada of adaptive cyclers and their friends is a blast!  The machines -- while incredible -- are nowhere near as impressive as their riders.  Talk about spirited!  These people ROCK.

And then there's the landscape. It's a huge part of what makes this ride so special.  Sonoma County is simply beautiful.

The vineyards are lovely.  I never tire of looking at the rows of vines, spread across the soft hills. Something about this kind of agriculture really speaks to me.

It is interesting to return year after year, and observe different stages of the harvest.  We've ridden past this particular vineyard many times, but I don't recall seeing the grape clusters hanging down like this before.  This particular field always makes me smile, because the variety of grape and the rootstock that it's grafted to are both neatly labeled. The rootstock -- Teleki -- is the family name of one of my father's best friends.  Seeing these grapes reminds me of my father's circle of buddies.  They had been childhood friends in Hungary, and each fled their homes as political refugees.  Decades later, they were still fast friends, getting together regularly to play cards and crack jokes.  I'm a bit wistful about all that, as I cannot begin to imagine having that kind of life-long friendship.

Robb and I cycle at different rates. He climbs up hills very slowly.  If I were to try to match his pace, my bike would fall over.  And because his trike is so stable, he descends like a freaking maniac.  I still remember opening the door to my sister after she had flown over her handlebars and cracked her jaw open on the street.  That sort of thing burn itself onto one's brain, and thus, I am not inclined to go flying down the hills.  I'm a bit too aware of how badly I could get hurt if I hit a patch of gravel or a pothole.

As a result of our uneven pacing, Robb and I spend quite a bit of our rides waiting for each other.  I try to find a shady spot, that's safe from traffic and potentially photogenic.  I ride with an SLR camera strapped across my chest.  About two thirds of the way through this ride, there's a long climb. I take my camera off and stash it in my bike basket.  And with all that weight off my chest, I ride a lot stronger.

Everyone finds their own pace on this ride.  So many riders.  So many different levels of ability.  It does tend to spread us all out.  And that's fine.  It's nice to ride on uncrowded country roads.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky today, so all of my photos are terribly contrasty.  That's Robb. Really it is.

And here's a rare photograph of the two of us together.  I have almost no photos of myself since Robb's accident.  Considering how long ago that was at this point, I find that fact very strange.

I should probably point out the hand-cyclist who is sprouting out of our heads. We sat with her for part of the post-ride festivities.  She's a total badass.

Did every single person who passed this barn make barnyard animal noises, as they read this sign aloud?  Do you have any doubt that Robb and I bleated the name of our president?

OHH BAA MAA.  (You said it, didn't you?)

It is entirely delightful to cycle through this beautiful agricultural region.  Vineyards, olive groves, orchards.  All beautiful.

Did we sample some of the wild grapes, growing in the ditches?  Of course we did.  Likewise the windfall fruit.  I won't steal fruit off anyone's plants, but I'm not ashamed to pick food up off the ground.

This was the part of the ride I was dreading the most. The long climb to the graveyard.  Nothing metaphoric about that, huh?

I've been sick for weeks with a lingering sinus thing, and before that I was working insane hours.  I thought I was in no shape to do this ride, and fully expected to find myself plodding up this hill, pushing my bike as I trudged along side it.

As it turned out, we surprised ourselves.  The hill was not as difficult as we had remembered it being.  We had a good laugh about how we expected to suck, and failed to live up to our own expectations.  And then Robb rode down that hill at thirty-six miles an hour.


The Revolution ride begins and ends at a winery.  There's food and drinks and glorious massages and speeches.  This may be the first year that I didn't shamelessly cry during the speeches.

And just as we were leaving we noticed this unexpected rainbow.

Oh, how I wish you all could have joined us for this wonderful day!  You would have loved it.

(And if you wanted to donate, but hadn't.  There's still time.  Click here!)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Today, We Ride!

Think good thoughts for us, y'all. Today is the day of the BORP Revolution ride!

I'm personally woefully unprepared, because I have been -- and still am -- sick with some kind of sinus ick. I haven't done nearly the amount of riding I'd like to have done, and I'm sure I'll suffer for that. Oh well… life is all about overcoming adversities, isn't it?

So, thank you everyone who has supported this great cause. Thank you especially Anonymous. We love you!  If you still want to give a little something in support of this wonderful organization, please click here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why We Ride


Here's a lovely video about our upcoming fundraising ride, and the great organization that it supports.

I want to thank all of our friends and family who have supported our fundraising efforts this year, and all the other years we've done this event.  If you haven't donated, and can possibly spare even a few bucks, it would make a real difference in the life of someone living with disabilities.

Click here for more info.

And look for Robb at 1:22 and throughout.


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