Wholly cow
Monday December 11th 2017, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

It’s all Costco’s fault that we didn’t wait.

Richard actually went there on a Saturday in December, grocery list in hand. Brave man.

Boy did he come home with a grin. They’d goofed and forgotten to change the “fresh fryer legs” on the ticker thingy to the type of thick slab of beef that they slapped the next label on as they weighed it–nearly four pounds, yes, but under five dollars?

He asked at checkout to be sure because, um, hey guys, and the clerk called the manager over because that was the protocol but she already knew what the answer was: this was their mistake and his good luck.

Then she admitted that one had come through like that yesterday–and it was prime rib.

The mind, it boggles.

So. Back on Black Friday, we were at Sam’s house, of course, and she happened to have an Instant Pot, which has been the big fad of a kitchen gadget of the last year or two; I asked her what she thought of hers.

She LOVED her 6 quart. Uses it all the time.

Amazon was selling the 8 qt cheap for the day…

I looked at hers and we debated, bigger than that? No. Too big, too much counter space, there’s just the two of us at our house; it was a shame the one her size was at full price–but even that might be a bit much for us. I had no experience with them and I just didn’t know.

So she and Michelle drove me to Target so I could check out the 3 quart mini version in person (which they happened to have on sale, even if I didn’t want to schlep it through airports.) That I can definitely do, sure, I told them, looks good. It would be great for throwing dinner into while I drive off to get Richard from work in the evenings. I could time things and then have them kept warm if we ran late.

I fished through my purse on the very off chance that…

I did! I had them!

I’m in a lupus study at UCSF that once every year has me on the phone answering questions for about 75 minutes, and in response they’ve sent me small gift cards to Target the last two years. I’d never used them.

The upshot is that we ordered that Mini Instant Pot from them and it cost a grand total of $11 including shipping and taxes.

Sooo… Then the question was, when do we open it? What label do we put to this thing? Birthday? Christmas? And there it sat.

Till Richard came home with that roast today that would in no way fit into our suddenly-tiny toy. Well, alright then, and he whacked it in half and we can try two different recipes with it.

We read through the instructions. We prewashed the tub. We ran a steam cycle to test it like they say, and then we started that first pot roast.

Did I remember the part about putting the carrots and potatoes in at the last ten minutes? I did not. In with the seared meat they went.

Ten minutes later, the kitchen was already started to smell like the Sunday afternoons of my childhood.

Twenty-six minutes left. Not that I’m counting or anything. (I hopped up to check just now and Richard instantly wanted to know, too.)

Proofread post. Edit. Get up and check. Twelve minutes.

Oh wait–that should have been ten more minutes on that recipe oops I read it wrong, but we didn’t figure out how to add more time till after we’d already pronounced it good enough and dug in. And it was already tender enough, although next time it will be more so.

Yeah. I think we’re going to like this gadget. Band, meet wagon.



Fellow travelers
Monday December 11th 2017, 12:00 am
Filed under: Life

A plea was sent to our church from another one for help filling the requests of some recent refugees. There is a local drop-off point.

Reading through the items, so many of them so basic, reminded me of one of the Sonoma fire survivors describing being at the store in a daze: he needed nothing. He needed everything.

It is sobering how a list like that makes one realize just how much we have.

Usually one sees requests for money as the most effective way of getting people what they want (not to mention the autonomy of being allowed to make choices despite their poverty), but in this case they’d put out into the world what specifics they felt would be most helpful in their personal circumstances. The age and gender of each recipient was listed.

That pea coat that never quite was right on me color-wise and simply sat there unworn–it could warm someone who’s actually cold, and it was in the size requested. Those cotton sheets on closeout we never opened because they turned out not to be deep enough for the mattress–they’re brand new and could offer someone else a good night’s sleep. That boiled-wool sweater, unworn but too good for Goodwilling it and risking its going into a landfill. Someone could love it just as much as I’d once hoped I would. Stuff that was just stuff to us was actually needed just as much as we needed someone who would actually want it and here was a rare chance to know where to bring it.

When, really, one wants to simply throw the doors open and say take whatever you need and then let’s sit down to dinner together (teach me how to cook like you!) to celebrate our good fortune that we’ve found each other.

To life!



The fallout
Saturday December 09th 2017, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

What I didn’t mention yesterday was that at one point as I helped hold the washing machine tilted back while Mike worked, my foot started to slip out from under me while his hand and the edge of his head were or at least had been underneath that thing. I gasped, “Watch out!” as I grabbed hard at it in horror.

At the time, I caught it, he caught it with his other hand, nothing happened and phew, that was close. So glad he was okay! Next time let’s prop it up with something, okay? That was too close.

It took me awhile to put that together with the consequences.

Now, I have a very mild case of scoliosis, I’ve been rear-ended four times, I know the exercises one does for one’s back and that sometimes it’s just going to hurt  for awhile.

But this was something altogether new. I tried to carefully get up this morning and found myself on the floor unable to move whatsoever.  Pain I could push through, but the muscles on the right utterly refused to support my weight and I was frozen on the floor just as I’d landed, immobile. Uncross the feet? Can’t. Crawl to where I could pull myself up, Mathias-style? Not possible. They were on strike.

Y’know, this could make for a very long day down here. Bathroom. Ileostomy dressing change morning. I don’t ask for much but those were non-negotiable no matter what I thought about it.

Richard heard me, woke up, and came immediately to the rescue.

Eight years ago, I took one single Tylenol and remember it. The big Crohn’s flare that January left lesions on my liver, so on general principles I don’t touch the stuff even though it’s the only painkiller I can take.

He offered me two, from a new bottle he’d recently bought just in case–he’d just had a feeling I might need them sometime after all–and I was very glad to have them. I’d had no idea we had any. He got me an icepack. He talked me into taking the nap that I needed after last night.

The day improved, definitely. But normal looks a long way off.

I figured I was allowed one good whine about it and this is it. Meantime, my husband’s a peach.



Let me get back to you on that
Friday December 08th 2017, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Mike-the-repairman came. First thing he did was he tried turning on the washing machine.

Dang if the thing didn’t turn right on. I was gobsmacked. I had tried… and I’d come back later and had tried again, and …!

He asked a few questions and since I was the one who’d been using it and the space in there was tight, Richard, who’s on vacation, went back across the house to what he was doing.

Mike got down and looked at it from underneath while he and I both held it up out of his way a bit. (I had emptied the water out earlier as best I could, cupful by cupful into about ten small-dyepot loads in case he had to pull the thing out. It was a surprisingly lot.)

The motor was not dead but it was on its way out. Do small loads, he said, don’t do them back to back like when it died, let the thing cool down. A new motor would cost a couple hundred–he was going to see if he could find us a used one.

And with that he left us with a machine working for now and refused to let us pay him anything yet.

Quite to my surprise my back went on full-on strike the next time I tried to bend over. I had a doctor’s appointment to get to. Richard offered to drive me, good man that he is, and he dropped me off and then went off to check on Betty. That had not been in today’s plans but it suddenly made sense, and that was worth a day’s muscle twinges for sure and it made it feel okay.

Meaning, as Rachel Remen writes (in one of my all-time favorite books), is the language of the soul.

And it has an alphabet all its own.



Betty
Thursday December 07th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

The repairman will be here in the morning.

Meantime, a friend who’s turning 93 this month had a small stroke this week along with some cardiac funkiness and just returned to her assisted-living facility today from the hospital. She’s been blind from birth, her hearing’s going, and although she remembers Richard–he once worked for a company that developed the software that read her her longtime computer, and for years she would call him as a friend for help about it, which he was glad to do–but she no longer remembers me. So when we found there were no parking spaces for blocks around and that the long walk in the sun was going to be a hazard to my own health, Richard hopped out to go visit her while I drove over to the chocolate shop. It seemed the best thing to do at that point; in her disorientation, I wasn’t sure my presence would be a comfort anyway.

I’m glad he got there so soon after she was discharged: he was able to find out what bothered her. The AL staff had moved her bed while she’d been away, not enough that a seeing person would be bothered but she could no longer find her computer nor her things nor was she capable of walking to go search for them. He got the staff to let the bed be moved back. A few feet–and having time to listen–made all the difference to her.

The doctor came by, and quietly told him that everything he could say that could help her reconnect to her memories would help. Betty had lived in Alaska decades ago, so, Richard told her about our Thanksgiving in Anchorage with our baby grandson and got her reliving the days.

She worried whether her seeing-eye dog, naming one of the ones she’d had over the years, had been fed well enough while she’d been away.

He’s been gone for several years.

I, meantime, got to go see Timothy and Adams, both. It had been awhile and I had missed them and it was a comfort to see them. The 65% hot chocolate? Well, yeah, I’d missed that, too, sure.

Richard texted that he hoped I’d ordered him one, too.

I grinned at my phone. 85% dark, just how you like it, coming right up.

We waved to each other as he spotted the car across the street from the nursing home again and we discussed as we drove off how we could best help her next. From his description, I wasn’t sure how many more nexts there would be, and he wasn’t sure, either.

And yet.

“Betty’s a tough old bird,” I pronounced, and he agreed strongly. He told me then that she had wondered herself if things were coming to an end now.

He’d told her, “You’re here as long as you want to be, Betty. And we’re with you.”



No repairman yet
Thursday December 07th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,LYS

Putting it off meant there were now 18 of them. That’s a lot of wool socks. I washed and rinsed them in the sink but there was no spinning them out–there was nothing for it but to squeeze each one long and hard away from the waiting ones. This after pushing myself to finish knitting that cabled hat whether my hands liked it or not (but I did it! No spoiler pictures for now.)

I asked him, Remember that conversation my mom said she had with her mom where Mom said she wished she had a live-in maid like Gram had had before the War, and Gram answered she’d have given her up in a second for a modern washing machine?

Someone young and strong to work that earlier contraption.

I told him, I want to upgrade to a ringer.

He chuckled. Then he asked about the hat: will it be warm enough?

It’s densely knit with overlapping cabled stitches knit on as small needles as as I could manage and it ate through a ton of yarn.

But Alaska. Will it be warm enough for him?

It would be if I lined it, and there’s room, I could, and that was the original intent, but even though I thought I bought extra I don’t have enough yarn left and the store in Anchorage is a bit too far to go back to. I don’t know if they ship. I do know I’m running out of time.

A contrasting color? he offered helpfully.

So what we had here was my husband working himself up to declaring that I must go to, most likely, Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco. (Whose site seems hacked at the moment so I’m not linking it.) They carry Juniper Moon Farms.

So maybe the other Christmas presents and the still-waiting afghan just got pushed further back and that hat isn’t quite so done after all.

Hopefully, having to hand wash and squeeze out every piece of clothing in the house soon will be.



Fried, and green tomatoes
Tuesday December 05th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Early this morning I went outside with a paper bag and scissors in hand and snipped off all the clusters of larger and near-ripe tomatoes from the Sungold to ripen them inside. Just in case. There are easily this many more still out there, but they were small and best left to chance.

It’s 9:40 pm and forget the forecast of 41, it’s 35 already out there. I think I got these just in time.

Oh and. You know how we replaced the double oven recently because it sparked and arced and tried to burn the house down and the dishwasher because it got caught in the act of scorching the floor? We got a recall notice Saturday on the new Bosch: its cord catches on fire.

California doesn’t need any more fires, thankyouverymuch. All of you in SoCal–stay safe.

Today the washing machine died. Again. We’ve had its transmission replaced twice already; I’m guessing it just really doesn’t like my repeatedly putting individual hand-washed items in on spin-only. Tough beans. I’m going to do it anyway.

Just not tonight, clearly.



The mango perseveres
Monday December 04th 2017, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Well, so far I’ve only knocked one of these flowering tips off while covering/uncovering the mango tree against the nighttime temps (it hit 33F last night.) The whole thing, with all its buds. It was awful.

Which means I’ve been mentally inventing all kinds of ways of keeping the frost covers lifted slightly off the tree. Cut a hula-hoop and impale the halves on pairs of stakes?

I like that during the day we can just look out on an exceptionally pretty tree without the visual barrier of an expensive greenhouse (which would be wobbling on uncertain ground anyway.)

Twenty-one sets of buds with more likely to come later.

And then we can start talking about something like this to keep the squirrels out of the fruit.



Well that socks
Sunday December 03rd 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

I knit the ribbing for the cuff of my son-in-law’s hat, then doubled every other stitch and hoped that would be enough. Cabling overlaps stitches and draws them in tight and you need a lot more of them to be able to get the thing on your head when you’re done. It sat there for days while I debated whether I needed to rip out and redo those first three rows above the ribbing or not, till I finally decided I had to move forward before I knew enough to decide to go backward. Or not. Try those first cables and see where it got me, but you can’t just sit there.

After all that angst it’s coming out just exactly right and I am very pleased with it. It’s slow going, given that I’m used to knitting lace with its holes and stretch and airspace, whereas this has (at least to some extent) wind-blocking density and a good solid warmth.

As I’ve been working it, the short straight cable needle with its points at each end bemuses me: for years and years, given that I’ve been doing cabled knitting since my teens, I wondered why on earth they sold them in sets of four or five when you only ever needed one.

Right?



Snow worthy
Saturday December 02nd 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

The lightbulb flickered briefly as we were driving I forget where and before I could forget again I told him, “Remind me to block that cowl before Sunday that I knitted on the plane.” Not because he would remember but because I’d be more likely to by asking.

It hit me tonight, oh wait–the cowl! It’s Saturday night!

And so, after rinsing it to relax the lace and spinning it out in the washer, it is hanging close to the heating vents to dry; it’s aran weight yarn (nope–that particular color’s sold out) so unless I take the hairdryer to it, having it ready in the morning is a definite maybe. But I gave it a test run for a day in Alaska (I needed to) and it is definitely warm and cozy.

Mathias-approved, too. Can’t beat that.



Tomatoes, still
Saturday December 02nd 2017, 12:08 am
Filed under: Food,Garden

December first. Thirty-eight degrees last night. I went out this morning and around to the side of the house to the Sungold tomato hedge that is a single monster plant, and it was happily carrying on as usual.

There was a deep orange cherry tomato tucked halfway down that I’d missed earlier. I was curious. I know that any fruit or vegetable you pick will be sweetest earliest in the morning; I also know that tomatoes have a gene that turns the sweetness off if the fruit gets too chilled, which is why you don’t put them in the fridge.

It wasn’t a summertime Sungold but it was still definitely a good tomato. I didn’t know you could still get that this time of year.

Still. It’s probably time to pick all the big green ones and bring them inside.



Got warmth?
Thursday November 30th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I instantly recognized the logo and stopped in my tracks and guffawed at the sight: I tell you. Best. Product. Placement. EVER.

It was right at the edge of the walkway between the airline gates going off to the left, while, to the right, a long wall of plate glass windows let arriving passengers boggle at the immensity of the heights of the mountains that Anchorage backs up to, a world of deep, white snow and ice coolly indifferent to the needs of mere humanity.

Here, let them help you with that part.

Gloves.

Hats.

Socks.

All in a vending machine ready for you to choose your size from. (Just don’t think about those $numbers up there too long.) Whatever you packed or forgot to, you could walk out of that warm building knowing that now you could handle what you were about to face.

The little white plaque down there says, “YES. It really is made from bison fiber.”

Warm warm warm, soft, machine washable stuff, and if I hadn’t been on my way out of Alaska I might even have been tempted (heck, confess it: I was.) I know the owners of the company from many years at Stitches West and they are good folks. I bought my son-in-law some of their socks on sale last year. I surprised them with a copy of my book and they surprised me right back with a skein of bison/silk and when I protested at the difference and that that wasn’t fair to them they laughed and enjoyed doing so all the more. I like Ron and Theresa.

But I was going home to California (where the 39F on my thermometer right now is 43 degrees warmer than where we were a few nights ago), so I left it all for the incomings. They’re the ones who need it right now anyway. Winter is only just starting.



Shutter at the thought
Wednesday November 29th 2017, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A group of one would guess Native Alaskans was taking pictures after Thanksgiving was over and they were about to leave the hotel, taking turns as to who was out of the picture working the shutter at the moment we happened to walk through the double sets of doors (those are everywhere in Anchorage, stamp the snow off your feet and shut out the cold before you enter) and into the lobby.

I stopped and asked, Would you like a picture with everybody in it?

They did not respond at all nor glance my way. I couldn’t be talking to them. I was a complete stranger.

I repeated the offer. I meant it.

There was a two-heartbeat pause, then a, Wait–what did you say?

Would you like us to take a picture of all of you together?

A one-beat hesitancy and then the decision was made, YES! Yes, please! An iPhone was handed over and they all squeezed in together. They had decided to trust us with that expensive piece of equipment after all, and after we handed it back another one got passed to me so that that person could have pictures on their phone, too. The second phone did the small whoosh sound with each click of that shot being sent somewhere (and I’d love to know how they pre-set it like that because my ancient 4S can’t do that. As far as I know.)

Happy to help. And we handed it back. Actually, I had Richard take them all and in hindsight… Everybody looks better in photos where the photographer is looking across or slightly up rather than way down, but ah well, the deed is done now. Now they get to remember that really tall guy and his pointing of view.

In those moments they had become downright bubbly in their unexpected inclusive new last memory of the moment and we were all friends as we continued on our way with a smile and a wave.

With me remembering a hike in the redwood forest of Muir Woods with our family and my sister and her boys years ago, when complete strangers stopped us where a dead mossy limb hung suspended over the trail and asked if we could take pictures of them. They handed us all their cameras both expensive and not and climbed onto or next to that limb in a happy lineup. Ride’em cowboy! They had so much fun posing in those shots that they turned it into a memorable celebration for us all, and I never even asked them their names.

It felt great to be able to pass that happiness on.



Anchorage
Tuesday November 28th 2017, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

We went to the chocolate shop. Twice, actually, for Sam and me, the second time on our way home from the yarn store, where I looked for the softest wool and asked her which color her husband would pick out if he were there.

I took home skeins of something new to me but that I am definitely looking for again: Fourteen (referring to the micron count in the merino), by Juniper Moon Farm.

I did the ribbing that started a hat and then surprised him by saying I had a design question: beanie or cables?

Say what? Double take. I was knitting this for him? We confirmed that cables meant like on his wife’s sweater; “Cables would be nice!”

Alright then!

We played, we giggled, we wore ourselves out.

And we marveled at how gorgeous the landscape is. I remember the unending snow of New Hampshire as being dirty and gray at the roads’ edges as you go by, but everywhere in Anchorage was just enough, not too much yet, of the purest white everywhere, with the towering mountains the most perfect of all. I understood now how one could love this place in winter.

And why a few of the homes here and there are painted in cheerful tropical colors.

They took us to see the edge of the bay and our son-in-law pointed out the textures in what in summer were mud flats; now, though, the tide relentlessly brings in waves of crashing ice under the ice.

There was a stiff wind at the edge there, defining what cold could begin to really mean. We stayed just long enough for Michelle to snap pictures. We were well bundled but my hands were too cold to.



Home again
Tuesday November 28th 2017, 12:36 am
Filed under: Life

Left a little before dawn Anchorage time, got home 11:30 pm California time. Took a whole extra rollaboard suitcase stuffed mostly with that teals and white blister-stitch afghan that had been waiting so long to be delivered in person.

Bedtime for bonzo and more later. (Oh, and: it’s 40F out there. Normally I would find that quite chilly, but I made the friends who picked us up at the airport laugh when I exclaimed, No snow!)