Beaded, (sing it), beaded…
Friday November 21st 2014, 12:06 am
Filed under: Friends

I got to see Janice tonight at Purlescence. She was doing a trunk show of her Beadlemania work.

We joked about the tomato seedlings she’d given me back in April and I surprised her by saying I’d picked tomatoes just yesterday–she’d pulled her spent plants already but some of mine from her starts are still blooming, even.

The raccoons had at long last clawed their way in past the birdnetting two nights ago but it hadn’t been worth the effort and they’d left the tomatoes behind. Too green.

So I’d brought them in to ripen in here, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to get the summer sweet from the heat the week before Thanksgiving anyway.

Meantime, Krista had just finished a lace shawl Janice had designed so that Janice could get to see it done and appreciated. And there was a matching teal-green kumihimo necklace and bracelet made by Janice! Krista beat me to them, as she well deserved. And wow did she look great in those.

Now, I’m someone who usually admires jewelry on other people and that’s all I need. But I not only loved Janice’s work, I loved who made them. And let me tell you–Krista made a great model.

That red strand? My Iphone insists on auto-correcting all the sparkle out. I wish I could show it to you in person.

Necklace by Janice. Handknit dishcloth by RobinM. Hot cocoa addition by me. (Oops, and that’s why it comes in handy.) A Second Treasury of Knitting Stitches treasury by Barbara Walker below their work.



Rats!
Wednesday November 19th 2014, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

A plea: please don’t put out rat poisons where the rodents will get eaten by raptors, who are still  coming off near-extinction from the DDT era. Thanks.

Hope this one was organic. As I typed this afternoon…

Wow! I was on the phone with my dad, watching squirrels ambling in no particular hurry down the fencelines, one near in, two off to the right and out of sight past the cherry tree. (The side of the house cuts off my view from there.)

Then suddenly a rat–a big, fat, round-looking (pregnant or winter-fluffed?) roof rat, endemic around here and they do like to be in high places–appeared on the neighbor’s higher fence to the left, jumped down to mine, and was starting off in the direction yonder bushytails had just declared as safe.

In the daytime? Man those things are brazen.

BAM there was the Cooper’s hawk right on it! Instantly from right where the oblivious squirrels had gone. Must have been in my camphor. The rat jumped back up to the neighbor’s fence as big wings flapped right over it or maybe it was simply Coopernicus pulling up at that intersection but then he wheeled and there he was on the ground in front of my baby Page tree as if to show me, Here, lady, I got it for you. Holding it tight and standing upright to keep away from any teeth or claws, wings mantling fully out to the sides to hide his success from any potential mobbing crows overhead.

I said to Dad again, WOW! as the hawk kept direct eye contact with me his whole time on the ground, his prey succumbing between his talons, watching me tell my father what I’d just seen. I was mentally thanking my parents yet again for teaching their children to appreciate and watch the birds.

Roof rats, though, are prolific non-native pests that decimate bird species here on top of the damage they do to houses and gardens.

“Glad to help you out there, lady, anytime, just, one meal at a time is all,” I laughed telling my neighbor later as she invited him to take them all, help yourself, don’t hold back!

Having shown me he got that one, he was off and away to where the cover from the still-leafy trees would help him keep his meal to himself.



Persimmonious
Tuesday November 18th 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Instead of a fruit picker and paper bags in hand, for today it was a chocolate torte with the ringing of their doorbell. Food for food.

She and I both had way too much fun.



It’s what I can do
Monday November 17th 2014, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

There was this sudden moment today when I knew I needed to knit for a particular person–like, yesterday. Now. Never mind the queue, never mind anything–this had to be done as immediately as I could possibly manage it.

I finished off the hat on the needles that had already been at the decrease-at-the-top stage, found the softest yarn, hoped the color was right and cast on immediately and have been off like the wind.

Knitting to the rescue.



Fuyu once, fame on him
Sunday November 16th 2014, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I followed Jean’s lead and brought persimmons to church and Richard set them over by that same table for me, two grocery bags’ worth. The table itself was covered with a basket from Deanne with a note saying Free Lemons (we weren’t the only ones copying Jean) and a beautiful flower arrangement Wendy had made that included small Fuyu persimmons as accents.

There was a young dad whose mom was visiting the grandkids from out of state. I offered her some from my bags to make sure she wouldn’t miss out, thinking, I mean, how often does she get to have these?

“I’ve never tasted one,” in a tone of wonderment.

Wendy’s husband overheard that and he pulled a Fuyu out of that arrangement and a pocket knife out from nowhere for a little instant gratification. “God’s candy,” as he cut her off a slice and explained that this was the crunchy-like-an-apple type of persimmon.

She quite liked it. She took one or two of my Hachiyas, with him and me both warning her not to eat it until it was very soft. Gushy, even.

Do you eat it like an apple?

Pre-made puree, I told her, as he nodded. Sweeter than that one, nodding at the rest of what was still held out to her in his hand.

Sweeter?!

We three talked around the subject a bit more, such matters as Hachiyas ripen faster with a banana near them giving off ethylene gas, you can’t really pick them ripe because then they’re just fruit splat, and finally she said, So–I eat it with a spoon?

Yes, that’s perfect! says he as I nod vigorously.

And I said a silent prayer: please don’t let hers split and go bad. Please let her have a good one. And I’m so glad she loved her first bite of the other type.

All the more reason to visit her grandkids come this time of year.



Sold!
Saturday November 15th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Mugs! (Re yesterday’s post.)

Tonight: the annual fundraiser for the Scouts, with a silent slideshow going  of their week-long stint at Camp Oljato high in the Sierras this past summer.

The boys made and served a spaghetti dinner and ice cream and cookies and, mercifully, there was no program to have to sit through–they went straight to the dessert auction. TwentytwentyfivedoIhearthirty!thirty!thirty!doIhearFORTYFIVEanyoneFIFTY!FIFTY!

And so it went.

Dave was keeping them back a bit and I thought, C’mon, Dave, there are two there.

Now, you don’t want uncooked cream sitting around at room temperature a long time so we had decided to wrap up and freeze the chocolate tortes after I’d made them–but we didn’t have the freezer space. We arranged with one of the scout leaders to store them in his for two days, and the guy’s wife had written the 4×6″ note covering each describing what the item was.

Not my handwriting. Not my description. Dave hadn’t been sure.

Finally he picked one up, lifted its card off and looked across at me, questioning; yes, that’s my chocolate torte, yes, I made those.

YES!!!

And so the bidding began.

Clyde, a former scout leader himself, had told me last Sunday that he was coming to that dinner IF he would get a chance to bid on one of my tortes. He refused again and again and again and again to be outbid. SOLD, to Clyde, for $75!

Wait, there are two? We get a second crack at it? And so, SOLD!, for $85.

That’s half a scholarship to that camp right there. Man, that felt good. I may not be the biggest Boy Scout booster in the world but I know my sons got a lot out of going to that camp and it’s good to pass the experience on to the next.

The super-heavy pure cream I use to make those comes in half gallon amounts only. And so I had just baked and glazed two new tortes this afternoon and gotten them in the fridge when it was time to go.

There’s a family here on a visiting-professor sabbatical that will end next month. You know how some people just instantly make it into your heart? They couldn’t leave without sampling my torte.

And so I pulled them aside when the bidding was over, invited them to drop by our house on their way home, and when they arrived I handed them their own dose of high-octane chocolate, telling them that it had been my signature dessert at church dinners for about twenty-five years and they couldn’t leave without having some.

It was also my way of saying, y’all come back now, y’hear?



Table to table
Friday November 14th 2014, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

There’s a Harvest Festival in San Mateo this weekend and Mel and Kris are there. (See Mel in action here.) It’s indoors? Cool! So I drove up there today to see them.

But before I did, I put the two biggest and best looking persimmons in a small bag to take them–wondering, because you never know, people love’em or they hate’em.

And then I put a third one in.

One of their sons was with them–well, that worked!

I handed the bag to Mel, who handed it to Kris, who looked in and right back up in a surprised, thrilled grin. She said something about how having moved from California to Oregon, persimmons and pomegranates growing were things they never see anymore.

They had the cutest toddler-sized mugs, and oh goodness, a sweet little light lavender baby one, all of them as perfect as I could possibly have hoped for. They’d had the toddler size before but I’d resisted, thinking I didn’t want to worry about the little ones breaking them; then, seeing my grandsons at my table a few months ago I so wished I had something that rose to the moment. Such a rare and fine thing to have our grandchildren here, we should be celebrating with the best, and now we can. (And lavender, and our granddaughter due in six weeks, and then one to match her brothers’ as she gets older…  I’ll get that mugshot when I’m not quite so tired.)

We chatted awhile, and then I got out of the way.

Oh that totally does it: I found myself stumbling into the Skylake Ranch booth (I didn’t know you guys were here too?) and stocked up on some of their syrup and fruit spread and the like.

“It’s a special, three for twenty.”

“I still want four.”

She grinned.

And then I went back to Mel and Kris with that fourth jar of fruit spread made from the pomegranate trees of the woman I’d just been talking to.

And there you go. Take a little bit of California home with you while I feed my family in Mel and Kris style.



Branching out
Friday November 14th 2014, 12:19 am
Filed under: Garden

I love love love my new toy. Persimmons way up high, perfectly in reach, 5’5″ of me and 12′ of it: put the prongs over the fruit, pull gently, un-extend the thing back down and roll the persimmon gently into the waiting bag.

Actually, it took me a few stabs on some of them to get the prongs on that thing just so around those leaves as I teetered around with that unwieldiness. Still. I love love love that I can reach things and it got easy fast.

And I now know that, unlike down below, there are some way up there where they get more sun that are already tree-ripened and perfect and one of those was the single best persimmon I have ever tasted. (As I wiped my hands on the grass, wished for a towel for my face, and laughed at how undignified Hachiyas are.)

And I also found out that those are an impromptu way to out-redhead Lucille Ball.



Have some more
Wednesday November 12th 2014, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

So there was a bag, not a big one but it had persimmons of course for offering around at my lupus group today. The number of people who might come is always random so I tried to make sure nobody would be left out. And so there were enough.

It was fun to see every single face light up.

And then everybody was being too polite and the things just sat there.

Our allotted time in the hospital conference room was ending so I declared flat-out, I am not taking these home. Meaning, I know you like them but I will hand them out to random passers-by in the hallways and that is a threat.

And just like that they were all spoken for and everybody who wanted some got some. (One person would have loved but could not eat them.)

A young man whose Mom’s baby shower I got invited to when we first moved here (I knew nobody–it was very kind of her friend at church to welcome me in that way) making it real easy for me to remember how old he is knocked on my door this afternoon, and so we helped the neighbors get rid of some more persimmons. He’ll be sharing too.

But it’s not fair to take all the low-hanging ones, and so this evening Richard and I went off to the hardware store and bought an extending-arm fruit picker, one of those useful things that you only have to buy once, and I sent them off a note offering to use that to pick some for them to give away, too. It’s not fair for me to have all the fun.

As I was typing this the oven timer beeped.

I will glaze the chocolate tortes tomorrow and you know where one of them is going.



Persimmoning
Tuesday November 11th 2014, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Wildlife

First, a side note to Peter and Terry if you should read this: my father would like to offer you written memories of Marcelline, if only he knew where to send them. If you leave a short hey I’m here in the comments section, your email address will come to me and I will pass it along but it will not show on this site. Thank you so much.

Meantime, hawk sightings nearly every day of late and quite the territorial displays. Glorious. The male flew in next to the window this afternoon and–well, he was saying something right at me, but you’d have to ask him. He seemed to wait for an answer but all I could offer was that I loved having him there.

The crows are staying well clear.

Speaking of which. There are neighbors with a tall old persimmon tree that bears heavily this time of year.

The last year or two, whoever had been helping them harvest didn’t and once the fruit was overripe and grossly sweet, every crow and raven in miles was going at it for several weeks, the whole tree one loud heaving mass of flapping black wings, and when that source was spent they went looking for more to claim in the near vicinity–and they drove out my Cooper’s hawks for a goodly while. Hunting doves is enough work without being constantly mobbed and stolen from.

So I confessed to the one neighbor that I’d had an ulterior motive in asking his wife if they needed help with the picking: I love Hachiya persimmons, and I wanted to thwart those corvids.

Boy were they with me on that one.

And so it was that near dusk today, with their strong encouragement (Please! All you want! Take it! Give lots to your friends!) I went in their back yard and picked a big bag’s worth and then walked from house to house, offering it out.

One took the whole bag. Cool, that works.  I started over.

I was amazed at how tiring picking and carrying the stuff around could be.

They will ripen (they’re almost there), I will puree, and I shall have frozen persimmon for whenever I need a fix out of season. As long as I don’t inflict them on my husband, we’re good.



Staggered
Tuesday November 11th 2014, 12:16 am
Filed under: Politics

Maybe I shouldn’t write about Open Enrollment. In some ways it’s worse than doing taxes, isn’t it?

The system I’ve been trying to work through seems particularly opaque to spouses this year: it appears that only the employee is allowed to view the options. Hello, community property state? This does not seem to me the most productive use of his time; why wouldn’t they want the free labor I could give them?

Remember this guy? I did get to see one page that I believe was talking about continuing the employer’s plan we’ve been on.

We finally wouldn’t be making the deductible the first time we fill a prescription come January.

Twenty. Six. Thousand.  And since that’s not enough, and four hundred dollars.

Twenty.

Six.

Thousand.

(Editing the edited comment: finally found that page again. That number was the out-of-pocket maximum for out-of-network. Given that our insurer and Stanford Hospital were out of contract last I heard, we could actually hit that number.)



A tree to life
Sunday November 09th 2014, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The box was sitting there on a little table outside the women’s meeting room. Enticing–but there was by no means enough for everybody in the congregation and people were being polite and not taking any and the things were just sitting there.

No note on who they were from.

There was a visitor sitting next to me at church and she remarked on how good those pomegranates looked.

Please, go take one! I urged her. That’s what they’re for!

Now, I had never seen pomegranates like this: if you remember the game from when we were kids where you fold a piece of paper just so so that you can put index fingers and thumbs into the four quarters of it and move them up-and-down or across, tightly shut or open, this way, that way, this way, till the big reveal as you open the paper up?

The pomegranates looked like that. Most were split clear open into segments, there were some random quarters, and Jean (it was Jean who’d brought them) had also placed small paper bags at the ready for people to put them into.

All it takes is one person going ahead to offer a sense of permission to others to do likewise–I mean, you just can’t disappoint the giver by making them cart it all sadly home, rejected.

Jean later apologized to me for having waited maybe a week too long, for having let them split like that, but they were her first crop and she’d wanted them good and ripe after her three years’ wait.

And she wanted to share.

I got one that was cracked nearly around its globe but it wasn’t wide open like the others–I figured, with my deep sense of klutz, probably best that I get one that couldn’t spill seeds around should I drop the bag.

When that last meeting was over and it was time to go home, Jean was explaining to someone who hadn’t seen them why she was carrying away this now-empty box.

And I reached into my bag and, knowing my hands couldn’t do this, said to the guy, Here, if you can split this for me?

He did, and Jean got to see her sharing growing into more sharing.

And so Richard and I took home a half of the best pomegranate we have ever tasted.

It was a revelation all around: if all the varieties grow like that one, that would mean you can never buy a truly ripe pomegranate because shipping split ones would be a nightmare.

Because here was the other thing new to us: the seeds just poured out. There was no effort to it. They just came. Wow. Cool!

At church I said something to Jean about growing mangos too and she exclaimed, “I tried three times! My brother sent me a Hayden.” Having grown up in Hawaii, she added wistfully, “I love Haydens.”

Turns out she had never heard of the Christmas lights trick for keeping the trees from freezing. (LEDs need not apply.) She was intrigued. She might need help with the planting but it looked to me like she was ready to go try again.

Jean is a Pearl Harbor survivor, a young adult coming out of church that day in time to look down the hillside to see the bombs falling below.

And she planted that pomegranate tree towards the future three years ago and she got to pick and to share that fruit.

I tell you, order her Hayden and my Alphonso, we will have mango-growing stories to swap, there’s no stopping her now.



Loving memories
Sunday November 09th 2014, 12:20 am
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Lots of living crammed into a single day.

I went to the funeral mass of the woman who had been my dad’s last surviving high school classmate, a beautiful service for a woman who’d lived her 88 years loving every person who’d crossed her path. Every time my folks had flown into town Marcelline and Bill had invited us all up for lunch and Dad and she had swapped stories in that beautiful home overlooking the Bay far below and we’d had a grand old time. Many fond memories.

Bill passed earlier this year and now he has his sweet wife back.

The family invited me on up to her house afterwards and I was glad to go. I’m going to link to a blog post about Marcelline and Bill here so that they can find it.

It did mean that I ended up spending twenty minutes out in the late-afternoon sun.

I came home and checked in with Richard. He’d wanted to go but his job had done the two-ended candle thing of late, a lot harder to do when you’re not in your 20s anymore, and he was simply wiped–he was sound asleep when I walked in.

An old friend of ours from back in his doctoral days at Stanford was in town to give a lecture tonight, one of several, and again, we wanted to go.

And again, Richard had to pass, and at the last second I called a friend nearby and asked if she were going? I’d done sun time so I wasn’t sure driving home after ten was going to be wise; could I bum a ride?

Sure! (She knows my lupus re the sun.)

And so I went, again offering Richard’s regrets but glad he was finally getting some rest.

I came home to find the phone had rung after he’d woken up: our niece was stranded and could we pick her up?

Because I’d caught that ride he had the car now and he could. He could always rest again afterwards, and did.

I can just see Marcelline, who so adored her nieces and nephews, making sure ours got taken care of too when she needed it. Looking out for others was the way she’d lived. Go call Phyllis. (I thought of it and didn’t do it and then I felt it more persistently.) Go call Phyllis. I called Phyllis.

Good friends make for, as Chan likes to say, no coincidences.



Anyone, anytime, anywhere
Friday November 07th 2014, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I love getting a bunch of these for Christmas but my supply was getting low a little early so I ordered a few. Not from my usual source, where I know pretty much what to expect–they were temporarily out.

Now, much as I love to knit, I’ll let someone else make the toys on the super-tiny needles. Let’s see, we got some funky ones in this batch–someone started with a penguin and finished with a horse’s face and what kind of bird can we pretend that is? Toucan play at this game. Up top, a fox’s face with a cat’s whiskers and a horse’s tail. Maybe someone had knit so many of these things that they decided to, y’know, mix it up a little bit. After all, it’s all about kids and their imaginations.

But one must never run out of handknit finger puppets for waiting rooms, lines at Costco, and once so far, the go-stick on an elderly man’s scooter. The women in Peru who have the patience to knit them must never run out of the means to put food on the table. And tired, hungry toddlers who need a hug most of all need the distraction of a cute little animal surprise (with their parents’ okay) hugging a finger and dancing with them and changing the world right there in that moment. Happy Birthday! Oh, today’s not yours? Well it’s someone’s–let’s celebrate! No, no, (as the parents try to get them to return them) that’s for you.

I was the mom of four kids with the oldest just shy of six. I know what it’s like.

Okay, world, ready when you are.

(p.s. Courtesy of Lynn in Texas: don’t miss the cabled-skull sweater picture.)



Betsy’s Spencers
Thursday November 06th 2014, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

An old classmate from long ago now lives near where we used to in New Hampshire. I was reminiscing over a fruit stand on Old Route 3 back in the ’80′s and their Spencer apples–the best apples ever, and a variety I’d never found since we’d moved to California.

A box showed up on our doorstep today. …Betsy! Thank you!

Just look at those fingers barely showing around that Spencer.

There are a couple other types for us to taste test to see if the real thing matched the memories and how they compared to, say, Honeycrisps. Dunno–because I waited till Richard got home so that that first taste would be a shared experience and then we polished off a Spencer each.

Managed to get a little dinner in, too.