Throw a tomato at the stage
Monday July 16th 2012, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I never transplanted my three tomato plants from their six inch pots. I just couldn’t make myself do it. Fourteen tomatoes, I had fourteen actual tomatoes, and I could have scads more if I’d just give their roots a little room to spread out in the sun.


I had them right outside the window. Nothing was going to sneak by me this year. Day after day, as the first of the Early Girls gradually turned red, I checked first thing in the morning: still there! Yay! After the last few years’ grief I could hardly believe it and I examined the stem edge of the first repeatedly. Is it ripe enough yet? How about now? Now? Are we almost there? I got a cone of yarn (actually, a merino/cashmere that sold out quickly) from Colourmart that looked like it had been run over by a truck somewhere in transit; it reeked of diesel oil.

Great! Squirrel repellant. I wound the yarn off and the stink washed right out of the wool. I parked the icky cardboard cone where it was standing guard by the first fruit.

I went off to the post office today. No problem. Came home and knit awhile. No problem. Ran off to Whole Foods with Michelle for the dairy-free items she needs. Walked in the door, across the house, straight to the sliding door to check on my plants–

–which is how my first-picked red tomato of the season went straight into the trash. What was left of it. The squirrel had bitten a tiny green one in half and spat it out, then stepped around the cone and the one it was guarding to get to the one in the middle that had been coloring up rapidly as it hung off the other side of the box. It wasn’t the ripest but it would do.

The plants and their now-twelve little fruits are safe inside at last, climbing over an old stereo speaker  instead of the tomato cage supports they really do deserve. But they did get some heat last week so hopefully these will sweeten up nicely. And even if not. Those are MINE.

I walked out of the room. I walked back in two minutes later to find the same obnoxious black squirrel who, when I woke up early this morning found himself suddenly scrambling for cover after reaching the hanging suet cake (have you ever seen a squirrel run hanging upside down clinging eight feet high along a beam? It’s actually quite funny*), the one that breaks all the rules and entices the others to copy him, the one who ran for the hills after I found him standing in my amaryllises this afternoon because yo, that’s squirtgun time and he knew it.

He was at the edge of my amaryllises, perched in their pots, straining forward to see. Right there. Staring about seven feet across the patio at the spot where the tomatoes had been. Not seeing them just inside and moved slightly to the right on the other side of the glass, not distracted away by anything, staring so intently, so fervently, willing them to return, that he didn’t even notice my approach.

His tomatoes! The empty box top! How could his new treat be so, so, just, GONE?!

*ed. to add: I finally figured out why. The herky-jerky motions of the panicky race, when you know the squirrel will always be just fine in the end, reminded me somehow of–I haven’t thought of this in decades!–Penelope Pitstop tied to the train tracks by Snidely Whiplash, with whatsisname riding in that same frantic rhythm to the always-successful rescue.

Can you Ball-leave it?
Sunday July 15th 2012, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

My friend Karen gave me some plums from her tree this past week, not quite enough for a batch of jam, so out of sheer curiosity I threw in some ripe mango–and the juice of a lime. Since we like fruit sauce more than jam, I went easy on the sugar, enough to keep it from spoiling, not enough to make it gel.

After tasting the result, I would do that again in a heartbeat.

I was pretty much out of jars at that point, though, and not done experimenting. Gail offered me her old canning jars; she hadn’t done any of that in lo these many years and she wasn’t about to start again now. (Boy did that sound familiar. She’s old enough to be my mom, though, so she might have a point.)

And so Saturday evening I went over to pick them up.

They were in two boxes in her garage.  To her surprise, they were also filled–with what, or when she’d done it, she had no idea. Clearly (squinting at the liquid black with a topsoil of green) whatever it was was in no way fit for consumption anymore.

But those jars… (To my relief, I couldn’t get them open. Nobody’s volunteered yet. But it will have to be done. Disposals are a wonderful invention, and, come to think of it, so are face masks.)

Curiosity got to me and I googled the brand. Atlas Mason home canning jars stopped being produced in–are you ready for this?


Yup, they’ve got that wide-shouldered look mentioned on another site, yup, them’s the ones, looks like.

Umm… Not to sound in any way ungrateful…

Karen asked me at church today if I was going to need any more plums. Yes, I con-Kerr-ed, and thank you, just as soon as I get some over to her of what I’ve already created (in a new jar) from her first batch.

Shortly after seeing Gail, I learned that the local Target has pints and halfpints in stock again now, that their store season isn’t over yet. They come to about a buck a jar.

Not as expected
Saturday July 14th 2012, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

As mentioned earlier, I was made head of our ward’s part in an interfaith blood drive. Which was held today.

The woman who is the liaison between the Red Cross and all the local wards got me set up weeks ago with the materials and showed me what I needed to be doing.

The last time I was actually in a blood drive was when I was in high school and got excused from Mr. Ball’s science class to go to the library for it. Organized by class period. Assembly lined, efficient.

I can’t donate now, of course, even without the mouse cells from the Remicade in ’03, but I’ve wished for years for a way to show those who do how much I appreciate it. And so I asked if perhaps I might come and, say, entertain the kids of those donating? I’m not a morning person, but I could do some of the afternoon or something.

Great idea, she said, how about you do 11-2. I’ll see if I can find someone to do the 8-11. Bring some toys and books for them and maybe you could help with the refreshments.

I got to the Catholic church where it was being held, doing too long of a walk in too bright of a sun trying to find the place.  With some mild cardiac effects of too much exposure yesterday, I was feeling a little fragile.

The place was jammed. I was looking for whom to check in with but the signup table wasn’t it, and a woman noticed and came up to me. She gave no recognition at my name.

I said I was one of the ward blood drive coordinators. She identified herself as being with the Red Cross.

I had my bag full of kid stuff, but we saw one, count’em one child in the crowd, with both parents, “And they’ve decided not to donate.”

Huh? Why go all the way out there and then not? I didn’t get it, but I didn’t say anything. Whatever.

And then here’s the thing: I told her my husband was sick. I was fine, but just so they knew.

“So you’re a carrier?” she asked.

And with that I was dismissed. Seemed wiser to both of us, honestly, but having said I was going to show up, I showed up and let it be their decision. She did not want me there. I debated saying something to the friend I’d been w0rking with (yes I should have) but from what I’d seen there was no need for babysitters and at two and half hours left, how would you find one? Why would it even be an issue? Anybody coming with small kids would already have thought through that IV-no move-no-chase-kids thing.

Hours later I got a note forwarded to me I did not expect. From the woman who had indeed come for the 8-11 shift, frazzled, exhausted, worried, trying not to be indignant, wondering if something had happened and I didn’t know how to reach anybody? Why hadn’t I shown up??


As far as I’d known, it was an assignment manufactured entirely in my own head. Yow. One of the Red Cross people had called in sick and people were piling up. They could only process four at a time when all hands were on board, which they weren’t, the calendar was full, but they were still taking walk-ins and she had stayed till an hour after it was supposed to have been over–and someone told her they weren’t going to do this again, not with that kind of a wait. Not the message she’d hoped for. It was intense.

I still don’t know exactly what she did or why I was so needed. I wish I’d been able to help–but I’m sure that a whole lot of people, had they known, would have been very glad to help and very glad I wasn’t there. Just in case.

But the good part of it is, we had a really, really successful blood drive. The turnout was fantastic.

Friday July 13th 2012, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Re the sick person at Purlescence yesterday: I totally understand. Her young daughter was sick the week before, then she caught it; it got so isolating and so old and she was keenly in need of adult facetime mixed with the positive vibes of creativity. So she came.

I get that. Believe me. When my oldest was five, she caught chicken pox, the last day of kindergarten after it had gone around and around the classroom, missing her–till it didn’t.

She’d had it at three months, so I thought she was immune, but no, if you’re under six months old the first time, you can get it again, often much harder the second time. (Yeah, and the youngest later did the same thing.)

At the very end of her being contagious…her brother caught it. At the very end of his, the next kid caught it. And likewise the next, stretching out our period of isolation from the last day of class to a few days before school started up again in September. The entire summer with four kids six and under at home only. No park time. No friends over. No vacations. No day trips. Not even so much as a stop at the grocery store together.

Then the vaccine came out–young families now are so lucky.

An entire summer of at least one kid sick nonstop and our not being allowed in public to spread the contagion. I was about ready to go out of my screaming mind.

So I knew.

But at the same time, the young mom who was there last night has not lived through and could never have known (see Jan 09 posts especially) what I’d gone through since those days, I mean, how many people have immune systems that attack their own organs at the slightest germ?

She came out for a moment to her car for something and saw Anne and me off by my car talking and called over to us, glad to see us. Oh there you are!

Suddenly I saw why it was a wonderful thing that there had been an unusually large number of cars and I’d had to park several shopfronts away: let’s see, a cough goes 20 feet–yeah. I’m safe here.

Anne called over, She doesn’t have an immune system (which was as good a shorthand as any.) The woman was contrite.

Which was all I needed. Anne told her, Let Purlescence know next time so they can call Alison.

Which I thought an uncommonly gracious thing to say. No blaming, no pouting, just a learning experience with no harm done (I fervently hope as I type that that everybody else that was there stays healthy). We all get to be young once. This is how we grow in our understanding of one another.

Meantime, after months and months of searching and I know how lucky we are to be able to say this and how many others so much wish for the day themselves. I want to shout it from the rooftops after all the angst and all the hoops and the crucial reference who flaked and didn’t answer their messages for the longest time: MICHELLE GOT THE JOB TODAY!!!

I’m wearing it as I type
Thursday July 12th 2012, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,LYS

Parker in the hotel crib last weekend after he let me snuggle him to sleep…

We took the freezer apart again. The resident small person who could squeeze into it got, well, drafted. This time, we knew that hairdryering the coils wasn’t going to keep the job done past a week even after all the vacuuming at the back last time, and after some fussing with a meter–after I got a connection apart and then put tips to tips while Richard behind me read the readoff–he was able to narrow down the cause to one, and a $70 part is on its way.

The two-day-56F milk has been tossed and replaced; things are cold again for now. I wonder if the mailman will deliver the defroster control box over next door.

The doorbell rang just after we finished up. Oh hello, come on in!

And then it rang again, only this time I was expecting it and helped Jocelyn puzzle out her sweater pattern.

Got to Purlescence, and… Got headed off at the pass. Just inside the door, Kaye and the visiting Anne warned me: someone was sick.

So I signed a book for Monica and then Anne and I walked back outside to catch up a bit. It had been too long.

What I didn’t know is that she had stopped by to drop something off for me: “You’re always making things for other people, so I wanted to make something for you!”

I was speechless. She loved it. I loved it. Thank you, Anne, and I hope you get your crabapple tree (from the comments there).

I wore it proudly to Trader Joe’s to get that new gallon of milk. I showed it off when I got home.  And when Anne, while we were chatting, shivered a bit in the foggy air outside the shop, I told her I had this really pretty shawlette I could loan her for a moment… She laughed.

Three thousand miles
Wednesday July 11th 2012, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

(Four for four on the sideways-Iphone goof–sorry about that.)

The doorbell rang and I put the project down mid-double decrease, the tip of the needle still in the stitch, hoping briefly the silk wouldn’t jump. Michelle and I got to the door together and opened it, *so* not expecting what we saw that it took us a moment to realize it really was who it was.

He used to be married into our family. He lives on the other coast, where he teaches at a small college.

We have a longtime mutual friend who lives here. She and he were both there, holding out large plastic tubs to us.

We had put some large tubs out for the recycler to pick up today, doubling our doubletake: wait, what?

The mutual friend’s husband left her, emotionally, a long time ago, recently, officially. And so she, too, is divorced.

He had flown out to help her in her move. Her house should get a good price, but still it’s so much work at such a difficult time. There were some reminders of her ex she wanted out and Goodwill seemed just too meager; she wanted them to go to someone who would use them and appreciate what they were, but who?

Then, ALISON! Surely, she thought, my network of fiber artists could…

Handwoven. Handspun. Handknit. From her and her ex’s big trip to Nepal, much of it still in the packaging. More than pictured here. Pretty, thin wrap skirts that would make a great beach half-coverup. Woven vests. More sweaters. The wools are scratchy, as I expect from that part of the world, but hey.

Wow. And yes, I could definitely find appreciative homes for these, starting right here–there were two of those  cotton sun jackets and the small one fits me.

I had not seen him since his own divorce.  Richard and I had asked no questions, just tried our best to be supportive. Caring is not a matter of legal decrees–we love him, period. We had not known if he had known that.

So when it finally got through my thick skull who that somehow actually was on my front porch, I threw my arms around him and he, me.  (I hugged her, too.) And did again when they were leaving. We held each other in our eyes and knew: the caring was still there, would always be there. I was so glad they’d taken the chance I would be home.

I do not know how or when or if I might ever see him again. But the message was received and the message was mutual.  It was such a comfort.

(Ed. to add, I’ll be at Purlescence’s Knit Night tomorrow. Just sayin’.)

Needed a second Meyer lemon
Tuesday July 10th 2012, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

We need homemade bread if you’re going to make all this jam, Michelle told me.

She’s right. So we can say we’re on a roll.

Meantime, at an Iphone angle, a better shot of the doodle that is Parker’s sweater.

Seen at the Sheraton
Monday July 09th 2012, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Parker didn’t want to try on his new vest and it was warm enough Saturday that I didn’t blame him.

So I did. Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the one it fits best of all?

Meantime, the fridge is back to needing a bowl of ice. And maybe two. Or ten. This time, we have to figure out which part needs replacing.

Let me work on this new silk project while I ignore it…

All a board!
Sunday July 08th 2012, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family

We bought a cardboard playhouse awhile ago and it stayed in the box, waiting for its day.

Like the refrigerator box my dad carved into a windowed playhouse eons ago, remembered forever, it was a total hit. Parker and his three cousins loved it. (Their moms and other grandmother were here for their cousin’s wedding.)

He called me Gramma. He scrolled through pictures of himself with various family members on his grampa’s lap, taking particular interest in his Great-Grampa Hyde, whom he’d last seen at Christmas around his birthday.

He let me snuggle him to sleep.

Then this morning, again, I got blown kisses goodbye from his carseat.

I cannot wait to see them all again. Oh, and, yes, they were checking luggage so I got to send them off with homemade jam.

Seed mash chop bubble
Saturday July 07th 2012, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

We got home about 10:30 pm. I had a choice between writing a post and making a batch of jam to give to Kim and her mom and sister and her family before they go on their way home; Kim said they hope to stop by in the morning.

Family wins.

Pluot raspberry peach. Upside down now, cooling. I had run the jars through the dishwasher before we’d left, just in case.

Parker pictures tomorrow.

Grammy Alison
Friday July 06th 2012, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

No time for a Costco run tomorrow…

A teenager with his parents there tonight pleaded with me to let him help me. I told him it would make my day so much easier if he got that box of milk (2 gallons, 15 pounds) off the bottom of the cart where the clerk had put it and back on up into the thing.

He was glad to be able to do something. His mom was glad I let him. Good people.

Then as I got to my car, having peeled off in a different direction from them, it hit me by surprise that I was tired–who knew. I wished it were easier with this whole funky balance/holding a cane/maneuvering the groceries thing. The moment of regret at the guy who smashed my car 12 years ago snuck up and pounced on me ever so briefly as I swatted the thought away: shut up. It is what it is.

A middle-aged man walking by just then took a step right back and asked, Can I help you get that in there for you?

I was so not expecting that. And so he did. I thanked him profusely and wished I could do something back–and then noticed he was walking with a definite spring in his step now as he waved goodbye. A good man.

And so a chocolate hazelnut torte is in the oven right now just because I wished I could offer them each a piece, whoever they all were.

Our daughter-in-law Kim and her Mom and Parker are in town for Kim’s cousin’s wedding. They stopped by late this afternoon between airport and rehearsal dinner and we got a short visit before they had to run, glad for what time we could have. I confess no pictures yet: I didn’t want a camera between us, I wanted simply to be us.

Parker is even cuter. Even very tired, he is a total charmer. Kim is a sweetheart. Her mother shows where they get their good-natured selves from. We are all so blessed.

And tomorrow we get to see more of them and I can’t wait. Chocolate hazelnut torte was, again, the best food celebration I could think of.  (I know, I know, they have a whole wedding, foodwise. I’ll take whatever excuse I can get. I just plain wanted to make one.)

Parker, 18 months+, blew me a kiss goodbye from his carseat on their way out as his mom and grandma exclaimed in delight with me. The Granny who lives close to him had called me a Granny too. Worked for him.

Can’t get away from it
Thursday July 05th 2012, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family

I was sorting through old papers and suddenly knew why I’d kept this sixth grade report card.


Yes, I grinned. ‘A true fibre artist,’ says so right there!

Not missing a chance at a good tease, her cousin told her at the dinner table, Well, you do have a fiber-artist mother, you do come by it naturally.

And her turtle had detailed turtliness. What knitter doesn’t love a good turtle?  Sorry, kiddo, it’s in your genes.

You don’t have to knit yet. I can wait.

Plum raspberry jam
Wednesday July 04th 2012, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Fire up the works! Happy Fourth of July!

The whole thing took less than an hour.

Richard was being too busy.

You need to go in the kitchen and (I made a dramatic gesture) say Wow, those are gorgeous!

He looked at me the way long-married people do, okay, then, got up, walked in the kitchen, made an exaggeration of my drama moment and pronounced, Wow. Those are gorgeous!

And then we both cracked up. Because hey, we both knew they really are.

Note: DebbieR gave me her favorite recipe; I had never thought of putting plum and raspberries together before. Cool! I was hoping for a little less sugar, though, and found this. Skipped the spices. Debated adding pectin. Didn’t. Should have, maybe half a packet. (Nobody’s going to mind, though.)

Raspberry plum jam next
Tuesday July 03rd 2012, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Pectin? the woman at the grocery store asked me. What’s that? I explained that it helps the fruit gel when you’re making homemade jam; she said into her walkie-talkie as we searched, This lady needs this stuff for making jello.

Um no actually.

Thinking I just didn’t need that many, I had given dozens of canning jars away the day before all those plums arrived and now I didn’t have enough. The only part of making jam that was easy to find was the sugar–everybody’s summer fruit trees must be producing at once. Before this was Silicon Valley, it was Valley of Heart’s Delight, orchard after blooming orchard, and the idea of having at least one producing tree endures in the culture.

I got some raspberries to try raspberry plum jam with (thank you DebbieR!) and I found the pectin at the fourth store. A few strange squat jars at the third store. They’ll do for now.

And…I spent a little while thumbing through the online Stark Bros catalog. They know what will grow here, including–Seckels? Really!? Seckel pears, my absolute favorites, the ones I’d been told needed mega-cold hours? (The Moonglow pollinator looks good too.)

We shall see. Discussions have begun.

But the other thing that happened today.

Another neighbor showed up at our doorstep with misdelivered mail, shaking her head at the mailman who couldn’t read an address–but I was suddenly glad for the moment. Richard thanked her for bringing it over, while, me, I was running into the kitchen. Then I chased after her with a bottle.

Was she on a diabetic diet? Or could she eat–did she like–plum jam?

I *LOVE* plum jam! she exclaimed.

This is all A’s fault, I told her as I held out the jar; she gave me the plums from her tree.

I did not expect what happened next. For me? in a voice so…vulnerable, and she turned away a moment not to burst into tears. I pointed out the delightfully silly bottom of the jar, trying to help.

But I came home so very very glad.

A little jarred
Monday July 02nd 2012, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Many years ago–Richard thinks 20–our neighbor knocked on the door with a bag of plums from his tree, wondering if we and our children might like some?

The childhood memories that brought back! I made plum jam in great delight–did you know having the skins pureed in there gives a sour-cherries effect? I showed up on his and his wife’s doorstep with a bottle; he thought that was great and promptly gave us more when his wife wasn’t looking. She was embarrassed, but I assured her quite honestly that please, no, I was thrilled! And so they got a bottle from that batch, too.

But we’re certainly not the only ones around for them to share with.

I wanted a steady supply of my own. And so, my kids gave me a Santa Rosa plum tree for Mother’s Day a few years ago, to my intense delight. This year it was producing for the first time. The squirrels stripped my Fuji apple next to it, day by day, but the plums they left alone.

Until they didn’t. Several dozen newly purple were suddenly just three. I was disappointed but not terribly surprised.

And yet. That very afternoon, while I was off running errands, the phone rang and my daughter answered. I came home to a bag and a bowl full of plums and a message…that… They have some worries to worry about. The fruit became the way to share the message.

I needed to do something.

That was Friday. With the wedding Saturday, then a family barbecue thrown by my niece and all the other things going on this weekend, today I finally got down to business.

It’s been awhile. I realized I was a bit out of practice–I had to doublecheck the instructions rather than just breeze through, making sure I didn’t forget any steps.

My mom always taught me that after you fill and wipe and close up the jars, you twist the screw-on part all the way–and then back it up just a nudge. Turn the jar over and let the heat of the jam help make sure that top is truly sanitized, then when the jar is cool, flip it back over and tighten that thing good and tight now. Wait a few hours and then that reassuring pop pop from the kitchen as each seal becomes sure.

Did I overcook it? The jam must have compacted quite a bit in the settling, I filled those jars up a lot more than that. I don’t remember seeing quite this effect before.

The neighbor, pleased, declared her halfpint cute.