Don’t let the phase faze
Monday May 17th 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life,Lupus

Last night changing out of my long sleeves into my pj’s I noticed the veins in my hands and arms were very swollen, deep blue, and you could see them going from my hands wrapping around my arms on up to near the elbows. Puffy. I checked around. It seemed to be mostly there.

“That’s inflamed,” said Richard, with both of us aware that my lupus did this all over early on in the disease and the doctor guessed afterwards that I’d had cerebral vasculitis. That’s where my face blindness and short term memory damage originated from. I was 31.

Urgent Care was closed by then and he asked whether we should go to the ER. Insurance punishes you heavily if you go straight there ($13k bill last time), even when the doctor tells you to. We knew we would spend a very long night awake and go home near dawn beyond exhausted, which would greatly exacerbate the whole autoimmune flare thing, and chances are they would probably just dismiss it anyway; at an hour when all we wanted to do was fall into bed it seemed like the best way to treat it was to get a decent night’s sleep.

I was antsy and didn’t sleep well at all. But it was gone in the morning. Breathe.

My GI doctor said I could see her next Monday or come in and see someone else if I needed to on those Crohn’s symptoms; again, my call.

Today was not perfect but it was improved on that one, too, and I was able to eat normal meals, so for the moment Monday it is. But I will change that in a heartbeat if I need to.

So today there were more birds in the yard than I’ve seen in awhile. House finches in breeding season: you never saw such a brilliant red. A western tanager flew up close to  the house, the jasmine’s white buds promise their exquisite scent on the way, the pomegranate sent out more bright red buds, and we shared a few blueberries straight off the bush after dinner. The newest apricot seedling began a new set of leaves and after its faltering start seems to really be taking off.

It felt a good day to drink every bit of that in.

I’m going to go top the day off with a few rows of a bright blue soft wool hat and then call it a night.

And then there were falcons
Sunday May 16th 2021, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Wildlife

The problem with chronic diseases (yeah, just try to scare me, after 31 years I’m onto them) is their ability to randomly yank one’s attention when you don’t have time for that nonsense.

As if we ever do.

I tried to figure out what I might have eaten that neither of them had. Hmm. Nope.

The day after my second shot I had a flareup of lupus and Crohn’s symptoms both but didn’t tell my doctors because what could they do, tamp down my immune system? After demanding it get to work?

It gradually tapered down and was almost gone, so today was a surprise (did I do that yard work too early, did I get a UV dose?), but at least breathing doesn’t hurt. And that is huge.

Today’s Crohnsishness is a lot better now than it was this morning; I got some good food down and am hoping it was just a passing bug.

Meantime, the San Francisco peregrines, other than the female who hatched four days late, have flapped their wings at the edge of 33 stories up but so far have quickly turned around to be facing home sweet home in case doing so carries them off anywhere. Here, about seven minutes in.

The one with all the white fluff still at the beginning of that video is Echo, the female who hatched four days after her siblings. She’s behind, but she’s catching up. Even jumped up there once and got her first view of the whole wide world laid out all the way down to where the winds can’t carry a tune.

Just coasting
Saturday May 15th 2021, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

Well, will you look at that. Photos at last! Lemons! And sour cherries!

We know from experience that if you go to Santa Cruz on a Saturday you’d better go early because there are only a few routes over the mountains for the millions of people in the Bay Area who might want a bit of ocean in their weekend. I did a bit of knitting in the car and in the parking lot as we waited for the place to open and it felt great to have good wool in my hands.

Mutari‘s chocolate bars are expensive but are the best there are–and the vegan offerings in their shop are many. It’s our daughter’s favorite spot.

The kicker is that our melanger had been going since yesterday afternoon but that was just going to be bars. She wanted hot chocolate and truffles, specifically, theirs.

I chuckled over their Wild Bolivian–and we bought one to compare, because that was the label of the nibs in our machine. Their chocolate is always tempered right and roasted to perfection because they’re pros who know what they’re doing. It would tell us what we could aspire to.

Us, we just play with our food.

And it’s all good.

Not phoning it in
Friday May 14th 2021, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Life

I want to show you the thick Meyer lemon flowers, white on the inside, purple on the outside, quite pretty, blooming in front of a rather large lemon that was waiting for us to hurry up and finally pick it. Citrus takes about a year from early bud to ripe fruit.

But my phone is now on strike entirely and not sending any photos, even after two days. (Michelle took the orange juicing photos.)

The audiologist told me Tuesday that the new hearing aids would bluetooth directly from an iPhone. Which is a huge improvement over having to wear a gray electronic pendant from your neck that freaked out the TSA and was heavy enough to hurt with a connective tissue disease, and it flipped the phone signals from ear to ear with a rubber-ball-bouncey twang instead of going straight to both ears, so I rarely rarely used it. They had not filtered out electronic interference on the first model, as far as I could tell.

Does that depend on how old the iPhone is? I asked her, because mine’s a 6s.

She winced and said she wasn’t sure.

Like the hearing aids, it’s failing anyway and I guess I really should replace it.

Except–we now have a termite guy coming, and if anyone has any experience with such, please tell me because I have no experience and no idea.

I’d show you why I called him, but…

Thursday May 13th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family

I so love this picture: the exploring, the playing and staying close by each other, the fun of getting their hands squishing through the sand and learning about all the tiny things mixed into it.

Pulp friction
Wednesday May 12th 2021, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I’d been wondering for awhile if the very overloaded branches hanging straight down on the Gold Nugget mandarin would bounce back up once the weight of all those oranges came off them, or whether after growing that way for so long they were stuck like that.

Turns out they did rebound nicely.

My back suggested I stop picking at seventeen pounds, with about three more to go; not bad at all for a young tree.

Michelle cut, I pushed down on the juicer. After we all drank some, there’s nearly a gallon in the fridge and we haven’t even done all the picked ones yet.

I’ve decided it’s a kid-friendly variety: not tart, really, just sweet (but not too much.) A bit bland. Maybe I should have picked them in April? This is the first time we ever got enough to juice, we’re newbies at this.

But it is the one type of orange that gets sweet even if it doesn’t get the amount of heat that other varieties need to do so, and if we want tart, hey, there’s a Meyer lemon tree right across the yard.

I found that fingertips dangling down in our little 1980s machine did a good job of collecting the pulp into one spot as the juice continued to spin out of it. Grab it out and go for the next one.

All ears
Tuesday May 11th 2021, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Lupus

I’m trying out that lobster shell compost. It was black and velvety rich and finely crumbly in the hands and you could just hear the plants swooning. I mixed it in to about 60% organic bedding soil and pretended I knew what I was doing. (I only buy organic after getting soil from Costco a few years ago that was full of little green plastic beads.)

The youngest Anya seedling is the guinea pig. It’s pretty dwarfed in that 15 gallon fabric pot but given the vigor of its roots I didn’t want it to grow through my 5 gallon in a month, seeing as how it is, in fact, a tree.

On the other hand, it’s too heavy now to move it much. So it’s in a good spot because it had to be.

The fabric pots dry out fast, but the other apricot that’s in one is looking really healthy and happy. They do not like soggy roots so those are a good counterbalance to my tendency to overwater based on the fear that I can’t go out in the bright summer sun to rescue them before evening’s safer UV levels.

The bigger thing is: I finally went to the new audiologist today. It felt so strange to just go do a normal errand out in the wild like that.

She was a peach. And she was thorough. I’ve been dealing with hearing aids since I was 27 and never before has someone tested to see how well I lipread.

There was the standard man’s voice speaking words into one ear, then the other, where you try to repeat each word back. She chuckled at one guess: “Well, that’s creative.”

But then, taking her mask off from the other side of the thick glass, with the lighting not super good for it from my view, she went through what was clearly the same list of words as I sat in the anechoic chamber–and I zipped right through those with confidence. Only had two I didn’t quite get. It was absolutely revelatory to me. I had NO idea I was that good at it. I knew how much I need to see people’s faces, but…!

She examined my hearing aids and said they were eight iterations ago, and now they can do all these other things.

Cool. That’s what I was there for. My old ones sometimes turn themselves off randomly and are clearly at the end of their lifespans.

When she said Oticon would take two weeks at their end, I asked if I could pay for overnight shipping? I want to be able to hear grandkids sooner rather than later. She checked into that and, yes, they could do a rush job on the whole thing, sure.

A week from Monday my cracked ear mold will be history, I will have much better background noise cancellation, and we’ll see how it goes.

And even with that rush she charged me about $1500 less than the last time/last guy. Nice.

As she was writing things up, there was a computer screen next to me with two audiogram charts (no name visible) with five slightly wobbly lines that curved up a bit and then down again with Xs and Os marked along the way for right vs left ear, but these other lines too were marked for–tympannometry? I don’t know, and five seems odd when you’re talking ears but that’s what was there.

When she got done, I motioned towards the screen and said, “It looks like middle school band members trying to read the music.”

She glanced at it and guffawed. “You ARE creative!”

Have all you want
Monday May 10th 2021, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

A chocolate torte went to my friend Edie, the second (I always make two) was for Donna.

Donna’s husband Clyde stopped by to pick it up and was reveling at the idea of being able to actually see friends in person again at last. He was delighted when I offered him Meyer lemons from our tree; we walked around the back to pick some.

He looked at all the fruit trees and happened to say, Y’know, the one thing I really miss is good dried apricots. You can never find them anymore.

I had been munching on exactly those all winter long to try to fend off pandemic pounds.

He’d grown up here when there were still Blenheim apricot orchards in the hills.

I dashed inside a quick moment, knowing time was pressing for him, and grabbed the pound box of slab Blenheims from Andy’s Orchard that I’d opened a few days earlier, not quite full but close enough in the rush.

He tried one. I told him I had another box and Andy’s was about to open for the season so I could get more, take them, enjoy.

He’d wished for these for so long. He finally knows how to find them. And Andy gets a new customer.

Man, that felt good.

If Donna wants one, too–his eyes lit up at the thought–one of my apricot seedlings is going to have a great yard to grow up in. The newest and tiniest (shown alone and for comparison) got a slow start but in the heat these last few days has grown its roots to over four inches long. It’ll do great. But whichever, they’re all good.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Sunday May 09th 2021, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Family

From Richard and Kim.

The happy little dragon lady pointed at the screen and said, Grammy!

Then when Michelle came into view she stared and stared and tried to grok that no, she really wasn’t hiding upstairs like Mathias insisted as I explained, She’s at our house now. (She arrived last night.)

Finally, “Awn-tee!”

Yes it was. Her auntie is here for the next little bit. (Sorry, kiddos.)


Wishing everyone a great Mother’s Day.

House painting stuff to know
Saturday May 08th 2021, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Life

My apologies for using someone else’s picture, which will embiggen if you click on it, but I know when that house is sold the original will disappear. I’ll link below to be fair to the realtor and owner.

My great-grandfather founded a paint and glass company that in its day was the biggest one in the western states. It’s been gone forty years now, but a little bit of knowledge did make it down to me.

And that is that painted walls reflect off each other and darken each other.

Just like yarn spun from wool is just a bit darker than the raw fibers, and knitted things from that yarn are a little darker still. They reflect on and within themselves.

We once picked out some palest peach paint for a kid’s bedroom and by the time we finished the fourth wall it was all a deep dark anxious orange. Check the paint chip–yeah, that really was the one. So not what we wanted, and I knew I should have known better. I went back to the store, bought some very nearly white light blue and gave it a do-over that turned the room the color shown on the right side of the photo above–I mean, seriously, that’s exactly it. But at least this time I knew how much darker than the chip it was going to look.

All of that was over mid-century mahogany paneling that after decades of the wood and glue drying out was a fire hazard anyway, so we later replaced it entirely with wallboard. Color: eggshell. Our contractor said it was more restful on the eyes than glaring white. I figured, kid, you want color when we’re done, put up a picture or poster, it’s a lot easier to change than the walls.

Anyway, so I came across the photo and it stopped me in recognition: I have lived this. All those shades of blue: they’re all the same color, even the same can of paint, all of it, even that dark dark bathroom back there.  And you’re going to need strong light to get even the foreground to stay how it is once the sun goes down.

Just in case anyone was planning on painting any rooms any time soon.

Friday May 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

The Parfianka pomegranate at four years four months. It’s much denser than last year.

There’s a pomegranate tree in the neighborhood that is the first and for a long time was the only one I’d ever seen growing; it has a twisty scraggly trunk that is bare for five or six feet and then there’s this big poof on top that gets wispy looking at the edges as the season goes on. I don’t know how old it is, but we’ve been here 34 years and it was always there.

Mine, at four, is more a bush so far but it’s determined to turn into a much bigger tree than theirs if I don’t prune it a lot. So I have been, but I probably would have planted it a little farther from the house if I’d known. It’s fine, though.

I learned this year to my surprise that the wood doesn’t feel stabby during winter dormancy. You can really get in there. It does by now, though.

The fruiting all happens on new wood, and of course when you prune you get multiple branches growing where there had just been one.

Isn’t it nice that the tree makes the job a lot easier at the time when pruning it would make it much more productive for the coming year?

But are there bats in the belfry?
Thursday May 06th 2021, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Life

I’ve often thought I should ask you all, although, no, we’re not moving, so it’s a moot point anyway: the houses with rooms and racks and coolers for wine–if you don’t drink, what do you do with those? Leave them as is for future buyers? Rip them out? Store your balsamic vinegar sideways and hope it doesn’t leak? Try to freak your Mormon friends out with Martinelli’s in there? (Not to worry, we’re on to it.)

What other appliance fits in the space of a wine cooler in the kitchen? (Am I even calling it the right thing.) Can you take it out and put in, say, a second dishwasher? For parties? Since they’re both about parties (once you get past the first dishwasher any extras are definitely for parties and usually found only in bigger houses than we’d ever buy.) Right?

But this is taking it to a whole new level. My cousin found a house with a door that opens to a cave in the hillside, (note the fake window in picture 32) and her friend instantly said it would be great for her husband’s winemaking.

I’ve been in California too long–I looked at those pictures and thought, but egads, what would you do in an earthquake? Major heebie jeebies.

That’s a beautiful Tudor, even if it has an upskirt staircase, but really: isn’t that more Frodo’s natural hobbitat?

Best workaround ever
Wednesday May 05th 2021, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Life

As one who sometimes blanks on the word I’m trying to say, it made my day reading someone’s mention of their Chinese student trying to find chicken at the grocery store but unable to think of what they were called in English.

So the kid grabbed an egg and went for a clerk and asked: Where is its mother?

Old friends
Tuesday May 04th 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

Constance’s work brought her back in town. Twice in two months after not seeing each other for probably ten years!

The plan was to sit in the shed again, but walking a few steps from the front entryway out of the air conditioning and into the blast of heat, we turned around in unison, going, just, no. She was fully vaccinated; I will be Thursday. Less risk to it overall if we go inside than of me being out even in filtered sunlight, right?

We sat in the living room distanced with me masked and her not so I could hear and spent a couple of hours swapping stories and catching up.

Man did it feel good.

She worried just a little about her Anya apricot seedling being babytreesat by her house sitter for a few days.

I figured if anything happens to it then I’ll know where the next one of mine should go.

The Maine idea
Monday May 03rd 2021, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden

The things you stumble across on the internet.

A guy in New England who bought this stuff by the truckload for his farm raved about it and said it had become popular enough that it’s now sold by the bag to everybody.

Lobster compost? I thought hey why not. If nothing else I’ll have the swankiest dirt in town. And so for the sheer novelty of it all I bought a bag.

I confess my back’s been antsy and after I managed to get the box over the front step when it arrived–I thought it was coconut water, oops, wrong return address–I haven’t yet hefted it over to the back yard. And I’m not about to open it in the house. My nose wants to know what it smells like in there, but only out there.

I just hope the raccoons don’t tear the heck out of my trees trying to get to the seafood.