Saturday November 30th 2013, 12:21 am
Filed under: Food,Friends

My friend Phyllis and I went off to the Harvest Festival arts and crafts fair today, as close to Black Friday-ing as I ever care to get. We got to see Mel and Kris! Our potter friends!

I figured I could justify buying a few food items (and a Mel-and-Kris mug. Hey.)

Yesterday, the turkey was carved in Aunt Mary Lynn’s kitchen and the bones went straight into the fridge, to be sent home with us. No way was I staying up till 2 am to cook them down, so, I did it when I got home from the fair.

I tried a little in a spoonful this evening, curious.

Then a fair bit more in a quarter cup.

And another.

And a few more times, and had to stop and put both in the fridge so there’d be some for anybody else.

For the record: fresh turkey broth mixed with grenadine syrup from the owners of the pomegranite trees? Watch out, cranberries, this totally beats you. skylakeranch.com and the shipping is free this weekend only. The syrup does not have and does not need added sugar.  Wow. Recommended. Go have fun.

(Edited to add: the label on mine says pomegranite juice, water, lemon juice. The description online says pomegranite juice, water, sugar, lemon juice. Curious. If it’s an issue for you, ask them.)

Up near the top of the fog
Friday November 29th 2013, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Just before we left I saw a big swoop of striped tail and I scooted down on the floor so I could see high up into the olive tree. I get to see him! On Thanksgiving! thought I. How cool is that! I made sure to blink big blinks so I wouldn’t look like I was challenging him nor a predator, y’know, basic social graces from a raptor’s point of view.

The hawk was totally cool with that. Coopernicus relaxed, preened, wagged his tail a bit as he settled in comfortably, raised a foot to rest a moment, and basically said hello. Blessings of the day to you.

A few minutes later he was on his way and then so were we, to where towering redwood trunks surround all.

The little up and down and up again dip in the road where the Loma Prieta quake broke it all those years ago. Incoming, it seems like we always reminisce a moment about back then before we continue beyond.

Aunt and uncle, our niece and nephew, us, four grown cousins who grew up in that house with three spouses now and five little kids–seven when the last showed up after spending dinner with their other set of grandparents: helping, laughing, stirring, cooking, laughing, wiping, scrubbing, laughing, serving, eating, laughing, washing, playing, the little fireball of a toddler in pigtails happily demanding “Chase me!” and her ten-days-older much more reserved cousin who looked at me with big eyes when I said his name: how did *I* know what it was? They were both a month younger than our Parker, and I hugged the bright red stuffed toy we knew well and then gave it back to the chasee, not quite three, who was delighted that her beloved Elmo got attention too.

The eight-year-old, big sister to the reserved little boy, was herself a fairly quiet one, but she smiled and looked in my eyes and quietly took in the measure of me and found me good when she found there was a chocolate cake made in her name and safely within the range of her allergies: the shared blessing of perfectly normal treats. Her aunt made dairy- and egg-free rolls, too, and the blessing of not being singled out, just, pass the rolls please? Would you like some homemade nutella on that? (Nobody did, I don’t think–not spread on anything, just simple spoonfuls sampled serenely, that they definitely did.)

And a good time was had by all.

We know how lucky we are.

And we are very grateful.

Thanksgiving Eve
Wednesday November 27th 2013, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

We do the chocolate.

Homemade nutella recipe here, the best one I’ve found so far: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2013/02/21/homemade-nutella-recipe/print/

Chocolate torte recipe, my own, as always, here: https://spindyeknit.com/2010/03/may-the-fourth-be-with-you/

Cranberry sauce recipe: one cup sugar one cup water one 12 oz cranberries (or a whole pound if your bag is that size–hey, who’s counting), bring all to a boil and then simmer for a minute. The more skins that pop, the smoother the sauce it’ll make. Thickens as it cools.

Annnd… I checked with Aunt Mary Lynn while the tortes were in the oven, just to, y’know, verify she wanted one this year like every year.

She has an eight-year-old granddaughter coming who’s allergic to dairy and eggs. Did I have a no-eggs version?

Can she eat coconut? I asked; I can look, and I could make a ganache with coconut cream for hers.

Yes! That sounds wonderful!

And so, chocolate Depression Cake, and I remember the name and history from my 1952 Betty Crocker cookbook, created when butter and eggs were hard to come by when my parents were kids. Vinegar and soda to make it rise. Recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe-Tools/Print/Recipe.aspx?recipeID=18061&origin=detail&servings=8&metric=false  I skipped the chocolate chips for fear of milk contamination but I’ll make up for it with that glorious topping.

The tortes are cool, the cake close to it, the nutella’s in the fridge and the cranberry sauce on the stove just got turned off. Ganache batches next.

I think I’ll sit down a moment.

But I can just picture a little girl, old enough to really enjoy chocolate and to have already been excluded from participating in a whole lot of food-related events, with a glorious chocolate cake made just for her and just as good as anybody else’s. I’m really looking forward to that.

Wishing everybody a very happy Thanksgiving.

They’ll start at the same point
Wednesday November 27th 2013, 12:19 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Got a few left still…

I got a note from an old friend Saturday. Her twins wanted to learn how to knit. They had an adopted-grandma of a favorite neighbor who had offered to teach them, but my friend’s husband had recently been laid off and they were not spending an extra dime just now (I could relate); might I have any unloved, unwanted yarn? Or even needles?

I just might. Actually, not a whole lot of worsted weight, but some, definitely, and I went looking for it. While remembering the two big boxes I had sent off to a girls’ camp a few summers ago where quite a few young women learned how to knit, loving the wool and the mohair they got to play with. (One way to happily clear out that ’80’s not-kid mohair. They couldn’t believe I sent the real stuff. Everybody won.)

I used to knit only with straight needles.

There was the time I accidentally dropped one of those on a plane as it was ascending: it immediately rolled far, far behind my seat, somehow dodging feet and floor luggage and was never seen again. Oops.

I have this old ceramic spaghetti canister, a Costco freebie from about 15 years ago, its lid broken* and so repurposed as a container for old mostly-aluminum straights that have long gone unused–except for that big aqua one. It’s good for slicing open the wrapping on the suet birdfood from a distance without touching the eyeball-burner chili oil waiting to pounce from within.

Circular needles are good for putting the weight of the work in your lap as you progress rather than having to hold up everything with your arm and hand muscles. Straights are good for learning on.

And so I found three pairs of 5 to 5.5mm (US 8 and 9) in the canister.

And all of them insisted on coming out. And all refused to go back in.

Well huh. Well, maybe one of the twins will like the plastic ones better than the feel of the aluminums.

It wasn’t till I went to deliver two big ziploc bags of yarn, mostly worsted wool, all natural fibers, that I saw the reaction of not just the twins but their older sister. The younger girls are turning eight very soon and the older is in her early teens, the age where you can’t show enthusiasm, especially if it’s something your mom or baby sisters are interested in.

But I knew in that moment, looking at those older eyes fixed on those goodies, that clearly what we had here were three wanna-be knitters in front of me. Even if one of them hadn’t thought she would be.

And there were three pairs of needles. I had not even thought of her in terms of the knitting lessons. Well there you go.

I’ll let them work it out from here.


*When it sailed through the air and then shattered into lots of little pieces, was it being the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The knit before Christmas
Monday November 25th 2013, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I’ll blog when I get to the end of this row…

No, this one…

Well, maybe this one…

Whizzed right on by that one, too…

When you’re knitting in the round, marked or no, there’s never really quite an end to the row.

(And: The Batkid story from the Penguin’s point of view. Wholly secret-good-guy, Batman!)

Sunday November 24th 2013, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

I gained a greater appreciation for the phrase “it dawned on me,” after I woke up with the light this morning with the clarity of the thought.

That there is even more to the story of the bank teller.

In September I had together in front of me three checks as I filled out the deposit slip to take to that credit union. Two small, one big, this amount, this amount, and this amount, all nicely tallied and ready to just hand over, done. I delivered these in person.

I didn’t notice for days that my deposit receipt had not included just over a thousand dollars in the expected total–and in disbelief, I went looking everywhere, checking various places and accounts, and found that somehow I had dropped that one big check on the desk and it had been left home; there it was. All innocent-like. I was mystified as to how that could have happened and just kicked myself for not noticing that the one at the bottom of the pile had been left behind.

But I was coming down with the flu by that point and a second trip over there wasn’t happening. I could tell you stories on our mail service, but that alone tells you all you need to hear about that.

Family came from out of town, airline tickets already paid for, staying at our aunt’s because I was still sick. (And surely the added carbon monoxide from turning up the heat while I was didn’t help–this was before the space heaters. I’m so glad the in-laws didn’t stay here, now that we know.)

During those weeks, at some point the thing got moved to a safe place so I could get to it when I got better and of course it became instantly lost.

It plainly needed to be here–the big check, specifically–till that new teller got that job so that I would have sufficient incentive to drive over there again for just the one and so would go have that conversation. And perhaps so that she herself would by that point have the information she needed on her friend to do what she needed to do with what she learned from me.

It was never all about the money.  But there was no way to know that till later. And with my visual memory damage that I know that I have and know that I have to work around, I almost missed seeing the hugeness of the blessing and how it came to be, in my ordinary frustration with my own shortcomings.

There she is!
Saturday November 23rd 2013, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Friends

It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving at Costco, oh joy; we didn’t head out till late afternoon (and got what seemed to be the last gallon of orange juice.)

Wheeling the cart together halfway across the parking lot, lucky to have gotten that close in, I noted a car way ahead waiting for a spot and another, a few car lengths behind us, slowly inching forward, hoping the people loading up just past us were going to get done quickly. Getting late, still crowded.

I did a doubletake and called out the driver’s name. She startled and then exclaimed in delight from the other side of her window. Our kids had gone to school together back in the day.

I’d tried to connect with her this past May and found she was in the hospital, having major surgery not far from what mine had been like. I didn’t want to take her my germs and didn’t get to visit her and I’ve quite regretted that it was so; she, after all, had visited me when I was going through that, to my great surprise.

And here she was, in person, right here, braving that Costco parking lot, living the wonderfully ordinary again. SO good to see her!

In a red van. Like Don’s. Hey, Don, your turn next.

Thank goodness for computer crashes
Friday November 22nd 2013, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Life

All along, I felt like there had to be someone else out there this was happening to, if only I could get the word out to them or had any idea of who they were, and so I find I’ve been fairly eager to talk about it to try to warn others.

I found the check today. Three months it had been waiting to be found and put in the bank, and given our expenses of late, how terrible our mail service is, and the fact that the place is only three stoplights away, I drove over to our local branch after Joe finished up.

The teller who wasn’t busy was new; the others were familiar faces but I’d never seen her before.

Her computer crashed trying to enter the amount.

And so, while it sorted itself out, turns out we had a moment to chat, and I told her a little of what had been going on around here and why I wanted that sum in that account.

She got very interested. She started asking questions. She had an older friend she was worried about. And their heater wasn’t working very well…

“Are the headaches worst in the mornings?” I asked.

“YES!” she exclaimed in a moment of recognition. The friend’s furnace was from 1986.  Oh, she couldn’t wait. That thing needed to be inspected.  Suddenly everything made sense.

And I went home really really glad I’d lost that check and finally gotten it delivered. In person. On the right day. And the familiar faces were all busy because other people had come in too at just the right time just ahead of me.

Joe, you probably won’t get the call because the teller commutes in all the way from Modesto (yow!) but I think you just saved another life.

Friday November 22nd 2013, 12:10 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

I talked to him on the phone a couple days ago for maybe three minutes, which was probably too long; he’d sounded so much like his old cheerful self when he’d answered, but he seemed to be fading fast. “Don, am I wearing you out?”

“Yes,” he answered honestly.

I understood–I’ve been there, where holding onto a phone in your hospital bed is just…too…it’s so heavy…

And so, if you have a moment, and if it’s something you feel like doing, his blog is at http://chippep.blogspot.com/ if you want to leave a message.

Wednesday November 20th 2013, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

There was warmth everywhere (except outside, where it was raining buckets).  It was beautiful.

Joe called.

It is quite safe to say they liked the cowl.

He has our undying gratitude forever, and his wife, too, for his descriptions of how she brings out the best in him; I have no doubt she thus played a part in how it all turned out.

I had knitted it in a motif and colors of the flames of small candles. May their light always so shine.

Hot topic
Tuesday November 19th 2013, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

…And we have heat. For the first time all Fall, real heat. The fan kicked gently on, warmth wafting down, lovely, lovely.

And then the smoke alarm screamed bloody murder. DANGER! DANGER!

Okay, that’s pretty funny, actually. I hit the timer on the thing to quiet it while one of the helpers apologized that new furnaces often do set them off like that just right at first.

The alarm kept going, adamant. Huh. Oh–it only turns off for the kitchen sensor, not the others, Richard reminded me later. Oh okay.

I told the guy, reaching up to my ears, “Well, *I* can turn it off but I don’t know that that helps you any.” (Actually, I’m not sure he had any idea I wear hearing aids.) I opened the windows  and it went quickly silent. They had it on high to test it and between the competing air flows that furnace showed it was definitely up to anything going on outside.

One skein Finito superfine merino in Cereza paired with a few grams of black sparkly cashmere. One soft little cowl for Joe’s wife, worked on while he worked. If ever someone had earned a bit of warmth…

I’m remembering a reason to be glad the furnace is on the roof: when we were building our first house, I don’t know if it got encouragement from the crew that was perturbed that I’d pushed on them on their overdue project? “Will the house be done by Thanksgiving?”

They slowly turned in unison and stared me down.

Finally, “WHICH Thanksgiving, lady?”

I never smelled it before then, but somehow it got in there before we closed on the house the Tuesday before the Day of the Turkey.

For our first year, every time the blower kicked on, five or ten seconds later and there came our natural asthma treatment: skunked.


(Conversation just now: Me–Did you turn up the heat?


Me, disbelieving–Weren’t you warm enough?

Him–Yes, but I wanted to experience the heat.)

A warm hug
Monday November 18th 2013, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

(Second picture does the color better. Richard went, Oh, that’s soft.)

Richard at 8:40 this morning: “They’re here.”

And so we rushed outside to capture video of the green crane for Parker; he would have been in heaven if he’d been able to watch it in person.

But it was brisk. The temperature dipped today, and inside, four layers and wooly knee socks and the space heater just weren’t quite enough; I debated pulling the other one into the room. I wrapped a warm scarf around, felt like a kid in a poofy snowsuit in New Hampshire, and tried not to let it get in the way of what I was knitting. Brrr.

Joe and crew kept going till close to sunset and I listened to them hammering away up there, hoping to finish the work tomorrow before it starts to rain. Now *that* would be cold. Our rain always comes packaged in northern ocean.

Just before they left, the mailman brought a completely unexpected padded envelope. I looked at it, puzzled, and it seemed to be something soft in there. Huh. I hadn’t ordered anything…

I looked at the return address and exclaimed softly, very pleased, Oh, Heather! Having no idea why it was there or what it was, but I did definitely have some idea of who she is. Yarn?

Heather is someone whom I’d emailed with for years before the day she, having finally made the trip north to Stitches, stood in front of me grinning and waiting for me to read the big name tag hanging at about her belly button. You know that moment when how you picture someone without even realizing you were doing so collides with the real-and-here and it’s really cool that they’re really here and you have to blink a moment to readjust the brain?


…Prefab yarn, hon. I cried in delight and took it out and wrapped it around my shoulders, marveling. At the gift. At the immediate difference it made. At the timing. Look at that! (Totally echoing our friend from Fiji yesterday.) I’m finally WARM!

It’s beautiful, beautiful, thank you, Heather B! I will try to live up to this wondrousness!

Fiji or not Fiji
Sunday November 17th 2013, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Non-Knitting

I’m debating typing this. I don’t want to sound like I’m patting myself on the back. But then, actually, it started with what seemed for a long time like a mistake on my part, and more of one as I held doggedly on to it.

I saw a jacket–on sale, a very good price, lined and good and warm. And it was a deep blue teal, just subdued enough, the short-shearling-type lining a slightly greener teal and lining the hood, too. Gorgeous. I seriously coveted it. It was too big for me, but my daughter needed a jacket and there you go, decorating a daughter is even better than decorating yourself and so I bought it.

She, however, was a teenager at the time and the kiss of death at that age is to have your mother go bonkers over an article of clothing she expects you to wear. (Hey, I did it to my mom, too, I get it.) She did humor me enough to try it on once and as far as I remember that was that.

Both girls are a lot taller than I am, and no matter how much I liked it, the sleeves especially were just ridiculous on me.

And yet over the years as various things have come and gone, that jacket has stayed right there in that closet, with me unwilling to let it go. I gave a coat to a shelter, knowing it was much needed. The jacket, though, for whatever unfathomable reason, stayed. Out of sheer stubbornness. Or something. Someone had to like it as much as I did, darnit.

For the last few weeks, I’ve thought, y’know, I really should take that to church (but kept simply forgetting it, good intentions or no good intentions)…

…Instead, finally, that part of church that I kept thinking about came here.

We got a phone call in the middle of all-the-everything that’s been the furnace stuff: making sure that we remembered that on the monthly calendar we had signed up to serve dinner to the Mormon sister missionaries tonight. We had utterly forgotten. Had it been just one more day, had we known when we signed up, we could have had the whole house nice and warm for them, but oh well.

One of them is from the States and one of them is from Fiji. I had some very good coconut-curry sauce (thank you Costco) unopened in the fridge and hey, cook some raw shrimp in that, a few minutes stirring on the stove, done. To make the beautiful young woman with the slightly English accent feel at home, and she was ecstatic. (That wasn’t the only dish, but it was the most successful one.)

Richard had pulled one of the space heaters into the dining area as we’d sat down to eat  and we’d explained about the no furnace. Between it and the cooking, though, we had it reasonably comfortable in there.

We visited awhile, and at the end, I asked her: I had this jacket. It’s been cold. She was from a warm climate. She was taller than I; would she be willing to try it on and see if she liked it?

Her face lit up in surprise and hope and I ran and got it.

It fit! She LOVED it. “It’s *warm*!” (And boy did I relate to that sense of endless cold right now with having had to open windows to air the carbon monoxide out and all that.) She loved everything about it as much as I had, and just kind of danced around a moment in it holding it tight to her for sheer joy, the other sister missionary as happy for her as anyone could ever have asked for.

Turns out my instincts had been right–our tropical friend had been shivering and I should have done this long since, way back at the start of the cold, but at least here we now finally were. She had been going to go take the hit on her funds at long last (and I can’t imagine what that would have been for her at American prices) and just go and buy a jacket tomorrow. Tomorrow.

And now she didn’t have to. This was everything she needed. It fit. And she loved it.

It had been waiting for her for a long time.

The white one
Saturday November 16th 2013, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

A good evening with friends, and at the end…Huh. I checked my purse.

I hadn’t put it in there.

We got home and I sent off a note to the owner of the restaurant, describing the handknit hat in detail, the cable around the brim with a seam at the back, the stitches going up from there with no seam. Saying that if someone found it and treasures it and that’s where it is to be now, I will be glad they have it–and yet. It is a twinge.

I don’t normally knit cotton because it hurts my hands to work with, but I had this time as a chemo cap for my late mother-in-law. It was such a plain yarn but it had come out so pretty–I had been surprised, and pleased for her sake. In the end, it had come back to me now, and I had kept it as a memento of her.

….And now I put it to God. There is something very freeing about that. He knows better than I where it could do the most good.

The sparrow in its fall
Friday November 15th 2013, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Wildlife

It suddenly dawned on me: the stove. The fan for it is retractable, lowering down behind it, and for 20 years I’ve been closing it up on winter nights.  It staggers noisily downward and then the little flap flips over at the end to cover it to be one extra layer attempting insulation: crashing and bashing and then this graceful little, Blip! One of its charms.

This fall for whatever reason it wouldn’t budge. Broken or just unplugged? I kept thinking I ought to check it and fix it if it was something really simple like that and yet every time I went to do that–to cut out that source of cold fresh air so that that end of the house wouldn’t be quite so chilly in the morning–it just didn’t feel… some part of me, I recognize only now, was adamantly pushing back No No No don’t do that, loudly enough that I never did get around to checking that plug behind the pots and pans underneath.

Who knew.

Midnight last night. We were just settling in.


Thirty-three hours after we disconnect the furnace?! After we air the house out all day?! (Oh wait–I opened the windows in all the *other* rooms–talk about CO-stupid.) NOW it tells us.

“Maybe the unit’s telling us it’s going bad–that one *is* old,” opines the hubby. Adding that he’d tested them to know their sounds and the real alarm is a straight-on siren.

So I unplug the little monster, I open the windows in there, turn the space heater to full blast, get the CO monitor from the kitchen, and and plug it in instead.

It stays blissfully silent. (Um, and the bad one was quiet in the kitchen. Details.)

Meantime, Joe saw Richard coming out the door to leave for work this morning and stopped him where he was, standing gently guarding a moment. They shook hands–it was the first time they’d seen each other during this job–and Joe pointed out the tiny bird at his feet lying on its side.

It had hit the window, “But we saw it move, still,” and he didn’t want any further harm to come to it if possible. He was just making sure it got noticed and not stepped on. It had been fleeing crows, and as a matter of fact, they’d seen a big hawk with a meal and the flock of crows harassing it trying to steal it, and this little one had scrambled to get out of their sight. (Joe got to see my hawk!)

Richard explained that if you just left it alone a half hour or so, and if the crows didn’t notice it, then it might well recover and fly off. Sometimes they would be blinded by the impact, though; we all hoped not.

I had joined them as the conversation was going on. Went back inside a few minutes later, got the phone and got its picture, pleased to see it sitting up now. Tiny, tiny little thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a California gnatcatcher before, or certainly not up close. They come an inch and a quarter longer than a hummingbird–with gnats on the main menu, yeah.

About a half hour later I wondered if I could get a better photo–but it saw me coming and it flew over and into the tree, dodging quickly away from me. Safe! While I thought, it saw me! It’s not blind!

One of the last things Joe said on his way out the door at the end of the day, in a tone and shaking of the head of, but of course you didn’t, was, Did you see what happened to the little bird?

I told him, and in great relief he exhaled, OH good!

(Edited to add, if you didn’t see this story, don’t miss it. A Make A Wish wish went viral and 11,000 volunteers turned out to cheer on Batkid as he saved Gotham (San Francisco) from evildoers. The Batmobile. The damsel in distress tied to the cable car tracks. The kidnapped mascot, saved at the ballpark!  Even Lois Lane came out of retirement to write the story, Clark Kent leading. So cool.)