No come planes this morning
Thursday May 31st 2012, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Family

It wasn’t about the chocolate… (Although over a quarter of that hazelnut torte is already gone. Coconut oil does work for a dairy-free version says I, here, let me make sure again, you want another piece too?)

Good thing I said something to Richard after I posted last night as we headed to bed. About how I’d mentally arranged my morning for picking Michelle up at the airport.

Wait, says he: she’s coming in at night.

What?! (Running and doublechecking the flight.)

Saved me twelve hours of circling. I guess I just really really wanted to see her as soon as I could.

(Ed.  Friday to add: we got home about 12:30 am. She’s home! She’s home!)

Hurry up, kiddo
Wednesday May 30th 2012, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The box sits there. Unopened. I haven’t even looked at the bars inside because if I did it might all be over. They need to be pristine.

Michelle comes home tomorrow and there are two critically acclaimed bars of Potomac Chocolate sitting inside their Priority mailer, having come from near where we grew up; Richard ordered them for me with Mother’s Day as an excuse after the fact and they arrived a few days ago.

Isn’t it everybody’s dream to set up a tiny chocolate factory in their basement? Buy directly from the farmers, claim the quality because you made it come to be and you did it right? Paying for the best cocoa beans, then grinding them down, tempering, a little sugar going in. Nothing more. Picking up where Scharffenberger sold out and left off. Getting growing praise for a great product.

One. More. Day.

Meantime, I baked a second chocolate hazelnut torte tonight, substituting coconut oil for the butter so Michelle could eat it. It’s only fair; she’s the one that got me hooked on working with hazelnuts. I went researching a bit, and oil swaps out for butter best where there are a lot of nut oils present.


Looks perfect. And now it has to refrigerate overnight before unmolding and slicing.

One. More. Day.


Falcon hospital director’s memoir
Tuesday May 29th 2012, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

A cast off finished, the knitting put aside, a book picked up while my piano was being tuned. “Footprints on the Toilet Seat: Memoirs of a Falcon Doctor” by J. David Remple. My copy came signed via Glenn Stewart of UCSC, who was helping his friend get some publicity for it.

And what a book! It is self published and it is at times achingly in need of a copy editor for the punctuation goofs. Forgive it that: the story flows well of itself, and it is by the man who, with his wife, established the first hospital specifically for falcons in the land where falconry goes so far back it is mentioned in the Quran.

His wife the year had before decided to study Arabic, just on a whim, having no idea that they would soon get talked into leaving Wyoming and taking this job in the United Arab Emirates where they would stay for eighteen years.

Falcons are migratory birds in the Middle East, passing through there between summer and winter grounds. By tradition there, then, the big ones they capture must be males–well, obviously!–except as anyone who reads this blog knows, actually, the females are the ones who are a third larger.

You can imagine the conversations that start right off the plane.

Wildlife and wildly different peoples’ lives. Read this book.

Pecking order
Monday May 28th 2012, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Our hero in this story is a study in grays who has claimed a particular spot on a particular branch where he likes to perch in the afternoons; he doesn’t come to the patio but rather occasionally dives down to stab an insect in the yard.

And then back up to that spot to spend a great deal of time, tail gently seesawing, looking me in the eye if I take the time to notice.

Glancing in a mirror this afternoon as I went by, a raven reflected via the skylight caught my eye.

Our neighbor has an Australian tree called a Silk Oak, oak being generic for tree there.  The raven (2.6 lbs, 53″ wingspan) was lazily flopping through the branches and then hefted itself up to where the orange blossoms were. Clearly it had found food: its head disappeared into the orange again and again while it tried to steady itself against the flimsiness of the wildly swaying limb.

There was a mockingbird, 1.7 oz, 14″, at the top of our Chinese elm. Studying that raven. It flew to the other tree above and behind while I thought, careful, little one.

Then suddenly it zoomed straight down at the raven, hoping to startle it away.

Who ignored it.

Back up, dove again, harder, again carefully from behind, veering off at the last. This time the hassled raven tried to hop flap a little out of its way.

Dive! And now it went all out and it clearly connected–I wondered: do little birds grab a clawful of feathers when they’re vehemently defending their territory or perhaps nest?

I don’t know, but enough already, now the raven was clearly trying to escape. It disappeared. The mockingbird did a little “And STAY out!” dance in the air.

Sunday May 27th 2012, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Life,Music

Today I got to meet the man whose family built the big pipe organ at our church: some anonymous benefactor decades ago had wanted the new building to have a fine one, no electronic pretender but a real honest-t0-goodness fine instrument to be proud of for generations. And so we have been.

The man’s company also built the organ in the new conference center in Salt Lake City, designed (we were told a few years ago by one of its organists) to be just shy of the grandeur of the one in the Mormon Tabernacle, not wanting to upstage the grand old lady of them all.

“You built a beautiful organ,” I told him.

“It all depends on who’s playing it,” he answered, motioning towards the one who was; “not everybody’s Jim.” (Jim looked over at us, smiling.)

I explained, “Jim taught my son to play on that organ and he ended up minoring in organ performance; for his final, his professor took him to Salt Lake to play the tabernacle organ.”

The man was smiling broadly now: someone who understood. He had centered his whole life around making the most beautiful music in the world possible–if…

And here it was, valued and worked towards and its possibilities being earned by yet another generation.

Blocking now
Saturday May 26th 2012, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Today… We’ll see how things develop. But I think I know now why I had to make two.

On the second go-round on my aunt’s shawl, I carefully wrote down, checked, double-checked and cross-examined every word going onto that page: do you promise to knit the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you shawl?

Yes. (But I’ll knit it again and again. Trust but verify.)

I am close to giddy at how gorgeous it came out–and, for all the pain that it was in the writing of it, the fact that it’s reproducible now.

And I am grateful to all those across the ages in whose honor I shall wait till Tuesday to mail it.

As chocolate hazelnut wafts from the kitchen
Friday May 25th 2012, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I went off to buy some birdseed today, and while I was in Los Gatos, out of curiosity I decided to swing by their Trader Joe’s on my way back to the freeway. Never been there.

As the clerk was checking me out I mentioned to him that after you toast those raw hazelnuts you want to rub the skins off–they’re bitter.

Oh! Thank you, good to know! He was very pleased and I thought, now, there’s a foodie.

I have always loved to bake. With Ryan here, we have someone in the household again whom I can go to town around without feeling quite so guilty–it’s a problem when one person needs to lose weight and the other could sure stand to gain some.

Well, nuts. And so I went looking for recipes.

Which is how I came across this flourless chocolate hazelnut cake on a site that won a clearly well-deserved culinary award.

Caution, though: definitely read through before starting.

I told Richard in the middle of it that next time I would know what I was doing and it would go a whole lot faster. It took me something like an hour and a half to get it into the oven, checking and doublechecking that I wasn’t forgetting anything, figuring out why you do this and then that on the two sets of hazelnuts in definitely the order she said. And I’m glad she said a half pound here to let me know that the four ounce measure of them there was to be in weight, not volume–it made a cup, not a half cup.

Six eggs, two extra egg whites, dark chocolate, and 3/4 lb of nuts. We can live with that.

I didn’t add the liqueor nor the espresso powder, good little Mormon that I am, but I will say that only bourbon vanilla will do for chocolate. I scooped the last of the batter from the spatula and bowl and cuisinart and onto a plate and nuked it. Wow was it good!

She suggests topping it with ganache.

I think my old chocolate torte recipe just got totally upstaged.

The paws that refreshes
Thursday May 24th 2012, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

My back patio is made up of long concrete rectangles separated by narrow wooden boards to decorate the space that gives the concrete room to expand and contract with the weather.

I have my squirrels trained: they are free to graze on their half under the birdfeeder, but they may not step past that lengthwise wooden barrier (augmented by a few amaryllis pots); the peanut-suet crumbles are for the ground birds only.

It’s been months since I’ve seen one cross that line. They’ve been remarkably well behaved.

Which made today all the funnier. There was the small black female with the quirky tail standing up, front paws tucked in, looking occasionally between those pots towards the forbidden land but then turning away as expected.

And then I looked up again. She paced to the right and then splayed herself flat under the shade of the picnic table–and, staring at me, placed one paw deliberately on the concrete just barely on the other side of that wood. She knew I don’t ever climb under that table: this was hers.

Stayed staring. Waited for me to react. For something like a full minute, which is a very long time when you are eye to eye with a wild thing.

It was so human and so utterly like the two-year-olds I used to have that finally I could only burst out laughing.

Wednesday May 23rd 2012, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I wanted to make a blueberry cake (best recipe ever is here) and started to set up for it. (Thank you again for the pans, Don!)

Only, that bag in the freezer wasn’t blueberries after all. Huh. Mixed berries I could experiment around, but with strawberries? Too wet. I decided to run to Costco, hoping to get that done early in the evening so I could put my feet up and knit afterwards.

And then I checked some messages.

My friend Laurel was in the hospital. She moved a few years ago, still in the general area but far enough away to be a trek; we simply hadn’t seen each other in awhile.

That was going to be a goodly hike across bad traffic.

But I remembered all the people who had come to visit me in the hospital when I’d needed it–and how my laptop would go home with Richard at night so it wouldn’t walk away while I was asleep, meaning that once he left, I felt really truly alone. Every single person who had made the effort to visit had lifted some of that burden long beyond their time in that room.

And so I drove up to Redwood City and wandered around till I found her.

It was so good to catch up. She has a baby girl now to go with her two little boys? Cool! She showed me pictures. Such beautiful children! (Well, yeah, look at their parents.) She laughed and loved as she scrolled through my Parker photos on my Iphone.

I told her my first had been in kindergarten when my fourth was born; I remembered the intensity but also the joy of those years. We traded stories, we had a grand time, and the best was when she pointed to her tray and said it was the first meal she’d kept down in days. She should be home tomorrow.

I got out of there with no time to get to the Costco near home–but there was one a few blocks away. If I hurried I would make it.

The blueberries were in stock. (Not a sure thing at our local one.) So were a few other things that very much surprised me, because ours had discontinued them. That organic sharp cheddar is a small thing, but to me in the moment I saw it it wasn’t. Small favors…

The blueberry cake just came out of the oven–wait, there it goes… Now we just have to get Laurel home.

Tuesday May 22nd 2012, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Ryan is dear to us and we are fortunate to be able to have him; this is going to be a great summer. (Note to my sister- and brother-in-law: you did a great job.)

Meantime, yesterday I frogged my latest project most of the way back to tweak the very first row and it is much better for it. Little details matter.

I’m glad too that I wasn’t satisfied with the darker, grayer blue silk I was knitting for my aunt, because that means the original shawl is still here to check against and improve on. This time I’m carefully writing down every stitch as I go–because this time I know how it comes out and that I like it and that I want to knit it again and again. (Always a good sign.)

By the way, just for fun: some books recycled into art here. Books of a cover, carved another.

California needs her more than Germany. Because I said so.
Monday May 21st 2012, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Hamilton? I didn’t hear the rest so I parked on that street and pulled out my phone; Holly appeared within maybe ten seconds and I waved.

It’s not often you get to share lunch with a knitter who lives on a different continent. (And then she surprised me and treated me at Coupa Cafe–thank you, Holly!)

We talked knitting, we talked kids, we both looked forward to the day she and her husband actually move here and stay put, but in the meantime, we grabbed what time together we could.

And then I very reluctantly drove her to the train station and went home to do exciting things like getting laundry done and put away.

Our nephew Ryan will be arriving tonight. I can’t wait!

An annular event
Sunday May 20th 2012, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

Strange, strange shadows this evening: sharp and long and very dark, slicing the brightly lit outside in zigzags.

The bigger birds and one squirrel didn’t care but the finches, titmice, and chickadees went home to bed, leaving the birdseed untouched from then on.

We drove through that weirdly semi-Decembery black and white light and went to Nina and Rod’s. Where old friends were gathering and looked at the eclipse with special goggles and chatted into the night.

And almost forgot to actually sing it. To a very good man: Happy Birthday, Rod!

An intense day
Saturday May 19th 2012, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Ten a.m.: a baby shower. A cabled-brim hat of superwash, soft Malabrigo Rios that looked absolutely adorable on the little newborn, who had arrived before the originally scheduled shower. I’ve always said the best way to get a baby to come is to commit to doing something else. Hey.

Had a lovely time, dashed, came home to a message that Kathy had called and ran right back out the door to Stanford hospital, where our friend Kelli (scroll halfway down) was recovering from surgery. Never rear-end someone on a bike.

The three of us laughed, we told stories, I stayed four hours till I really did have to go: we had shopping to do before Costco closed and we had to un-claim Sam’s old room. (She had yarn in her old dresser? Who knew?)

Our nephew Ryan is arriving Monday for the summer.  His room is ready. Our Michelle will arrive ten days later. It will be good to have young’uns around again.

Fledge watch day
Friday May 18th 2012, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

I drove to San Jose near sundown to see the peregrines in person; it’s that time of year. I didn’t get around to it last year and I wasn’t going to miss it again–it’s the birds but it’s also most definitely the people.

Old friends were there: Eric, the gifted photographer who gave me one of his photos two years ago; he let me see the babies on the ledge through his camera on a tripod. They would flap their wings mightily and then hop down and back into the nestbox with their siblings (via the streaming video Alicia had on her Iphone), not ready to take off like the one that oh oops fell over backwards yesterday while preening on the ledge and had to start flapping fast. That was Cobalt, and he has flown well since then–and he had the sense to stay put all night last night. He has gained some altitude in his flights, something they have to learn fast.

Meantime, the three surviving San Francisco fledglings are soaring happily.

Debbie and her sister Gerri (did I spell that right?) arrived. Debbie had come from Reno, and I was very honored that they both made a point of seeing me. Two hats, one knitted like feathers. I wish I’d had one for Eric and everybody else for that matter, but it was okay; he already had an official one, a baseball cap with a falcon embroidered on it. Hard to beat that.

And a good evening was had by all.

Three to fledge yet here. Tomorrow will be a big day for them.

To life!
Thursday May 17th 2012, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

What’s your favorite color, I asked her a few weeks ago.

Red, she answered, looking at me…

Went to the bridal shower for my friend Marguerite‘s daughter tonight. (Quietly rejoicing that Marguerite and her mom, too, for that matter, were there to see the day and in good health.)

A red mink/cashmere scarf may have appeared. A soon-to-be bride may have looked across the room in great thanks. A future husband, good man that he is, may have gained even more incentive to put his arm around his loving wife. Yes.