Welcome home!
Sunday January 16th 2022, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The blueberry teacake update: we needed a dairy-free version now, so I used Mayoki cultured cashew-blend butter substitute. I doubled the blueberries (not to mention Ottolenghi’s 1/8th tsp salt recommendation.) It totally worked, because you put them on top and leave them whole and they don’t mess up the texture. Definitely an improvement on a great thing.

Meantime, up in the Pacific Northwest, Lillian, age two, insisted on putting at least a napkin at Michelle’s place at the dinner table to try to get her to still be there.

At first, it was just the earth popping a pimple
Saturday January 15th 2022, 10:08 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Here’s a video, via satellite, of the volcano that exploded near Tonga, and it’s actually pretty cool.

There’s a sign near where some of my family lives: “Tsunami Evacuation Route” with an arrow straight up a hill. (Here’s video taken from someone’s front door in Pacifica. Here’s Santa Cruz.)

We figured they’d be okay, and they were, but I kept an eye on the news.

Which ended up meaning praying hard all day for the people in Texas who were simply going to synagogue for a normal Sabbath’s services and ended up being taken hostage by a gunman with bombs. For the people trying to help them. For their families, their community, for them to know we are all their community as this was happening.

Those prayers were answered in the safe rescue of the hostages.

Are we willing to answer the prayers of those who ask that we help this to stop happening?

To start, can we make Red Flag laws universal?

Fourteen times 239 times two
Friday January 14th 2022, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Two days in a row of 3,346 little white boxes with a dot, an x, a slant / or a slant \ or a V or the like as my eyes move across the chart and my hands around the needles, count one two three, or seven, or seventeen. Starting in the morning, taking rest breaks, continuing on till the brain rebels: any other color! Any other thing to look at! Read words not symbols! You’ve already iced your hands once today, stop!

And so with those 6,692 stitches done I have 21,510 left to go, along with 2,390 of the final edging.

My brain is a busload right now of middle school kids taking a long ride to a field trip destination that the chaperones knew they’d signed up for for the good of the kids and so now they just have to put up with their singing, 23,900 bottles of beer on the wall, 23,900 bottles of beer! Take a stitch down, wrap wool around, 22,899 bottles of beer on the wall!

Yeah when it gets to that point you know it’s time to park the bus and call it a day.

How to beet the pandemic
Thursday January 13th 2022, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Food,History,Life

A local small farm was supplying a restaurant, and you know how that goes these days. And so they got three other farms together and put a notice on Nextdoor.com, as one does when one has no advertising budget, about their new CSA.

I was surprised there were any farms left at all two towns over, but apparently there are, so you can’t get much more local than that. Straight up the road. I signed up. Plus I’m pretty sure one of the names is someone I know.

Yesterday was supposed to be the first delivery day. They said 7-9 pm was the goal but it might take a little longer as they found their way around on these new routes.

I figured they were being optimistic but I also didn’t want my veggies sitting outside attracting critters, so last night I was opening the front door every half hour or less to make sure my box hadn’t been put in that one spot you just can’t quite see from inside.

Ten-thirty. No go. Maybe they should just wait till the morning.

There was a mass email offering apologies for how long it was taking.

Eleven p.m., ready to crash, and there it was! They did it! I opened the door–

–and got the full impact of what delivering it that late had meant for the driver. I don’t know if they took the direct hit or not. I’m really hoping not, and given the intensity I’d say either the skunk was still recharging its batteries from the last time it told the neighbor’s dog to get lost or it was in the dog’s back yard again and took it up on that barking dare. But whatever, it was close enough to give a good dose to open those lungs right up, breathe deep now, best asthma treatment on the planet, there you go.

Right, right, I’m sure the driver was sooo happy for the treatment.

I sent the farm a note today hoping they were okay and that it wouldn’t dissuade them from keeping me on their list and that if helped any, skunks are wanderers. They only stay put when they’re raising young.

Which, of course, they will be doing soon, but hey, I’ve got the rabbits over here, that’s my fair share. (Don’t. Tempt. Karma, Alison.)

Cupcakes, muffins, teacakes
Wednesday January 12th 2022, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Food

My daughter once gave me a raspberry cupcake with icing that was mascarpone mixed with lemon curd and I so needed that recipe. She said it was in the book, “Sweet” by Ottolenghi and Goh. I put it on my wishlist for Christmas. And so I’ve now made them myself, and they are very very good, though for us old farts I’d probably halve the icing amount.

I was wondering out loud yesterday how best to pull together almond flour and blueberries in a cake. I’ve done it, but four cups of blueberries like my regular-flour cake left it a bit soggy at the bottom. Hey, I bet…yup they did, page 88. With lemon juice and zest and an excuse to stroll out to the Meyer tree. Four eggs, 2 cups almond flour, fruit, not too much sugar. Health food!

Well, yeah, and butter, but we’re pretending not to notice that. A half tablespoon apiece is okay, right?

And though the proportion of fruit was somewhat less, they too were worth the whole book and easy to make. I thought I would freeze some towards future breakfasts but they’re disappearing too fast.

Should you ever want a good desserts cookbook that is fantastic but doesn’t go way overboard on the sugar (so far, at least), I highly recommend that one.

Already a warm blanket on a chilly day
Tuesday January 11th 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I love the texture of this, even if the cabling slows it down somewhat. It also makes the blanket denser and warmer: it takes, on average, about a third more yarn to make, say, a cabled Irish-type sweater than a plain, flat one–and that is why cheaper versions tend to leave the back boring straight-up stockinette stitch.


Seven repeats across plus the edging; the fifth 40-row vertical repeat is nearly done.

I had planned to do seven but may have enough yarn for eight.

And I wonder: why is it always easier to put more hours of a day into a project as it gets further along than at the beginning? Four and a half rows make an inch no matter where that inch is.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: as you add more wool and more weight, it seems to take more like four rows to get that inch to appear.

Better yet, take Mom with me
Monday January 10th 2022, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Knit,LYS

Early on in this whole pandemic thing, when everything had been on lockdown and particularly so in our area, the county north of us decided that a customer could buy something online and the shopkeeper could hand it to them outside now. You could have that close a contact, briefly. Youcouldn’t browse, you couldn’t go in, you couldn’t touch their credit card machine, but you could do that.

This is when they were still trying to figure out the details of how covid-19 is spread.

I talked to one of my local shops, saying that what I wanted was two bags of a particular blue Malabrigo Rios that matched so that I would have enough for an afghan. I knew that officially it’s ten skeins per bag equals one dye lot; rumor, though, is that they’re matched up in groups of ten but that the mill produces more than that in each lot. But that’s a rumor.


I wanted twenty skeins. I’ve found matching bags in the past, but I wasn’t going to be able to go in and eyeball anything.

Turns out the whole supply-chain mess meant the shop didn’t have and couldn’t get them in from Malabrigo for months.

But maybe her yarn rep had them on hand, she wondered.

Turns out she did.

Once those were delivered, I swung by the shop, they handed me the bags out on the sidewalk rather than frisbeeing them from, y’know, six social feet away through the car windows and all that and it was so good to see actual human faces again, not to mention old friends.

(Unspoken: Still here. Still here. And you too! Stay that way. Thank you for wearing those masks. Pray those vaccine researchers get their studies finished fast.)

I waited till I got home to see if my initial quick impression was correct. It was.

She’d been so relieved that the two bags matched like her rep had been sure of.

Now, here I interject a quick story about my folks visiting the dye works for a tapestry weaver in France at a time when they decided they needed just a bit more of this one color for their project, so the dyer was asked to create more.

He asked Mom if this and this matched.

She said no, not quite, and why. But no, sorry.

He hadn’t thought it was discernible but since clearly it was, he added just a touch more to the pot. There you go.

So blame it on the genetics. Here I was, staring at those blues, going, but they’re just not quite the same. This one’s more vibrant. This one’s darker. You can put them in all kinds of different lights and it doesn’t change the fact. It’s certainly not a huge difference, but…

So instead of becoming the next big project they’ve sat there for all this time because I can’t use them together unless I separate them by enough other colors and space that the difference might not matter, in which case I would no longer need twenty skeins of Matisse blue because half of the afghan would be something else altogether. Which has had me wondering if I should ask my friends who do diving and photography if they have a particular reef photo I could use, to riff on last year’s fish theme.

I’ve been musing about trying to match the one or the other, but I don’t know if inventories are back up yet.

Here, let me finish this other project first before I worry about it too much.

I just like to know what’s ahead.

Brake for the cone
Sunday January 09th 2022, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I was in a knitting group meeting by Zoom today where they asked everybody, What is the yarn that you’ve been hoarding and not knitting that you most love?

I told them that Colourmart had some heavy laceweight 150g 98/2 extra fine merino/vicuna yarn that was really nice stuff, but that every now and then–twice that I know of–they’d popped up a few cones of some with 7% vicuna content. It’s cobweb weight but it sells out fast.

So, having knit two 7% cowls, one for me and one for a friend and swooning at every stitch–nice stuff!–I’d been stalking the site to see if any more showed up, y’know, like during an inventory check or something. For months. (This is after I’d plied it on my wheel and sworn I’d never do that part again–I should have paid the five bucks for them to do that on their machinery. Cobweb weight is super fiddly to get right when you can’t see what you’re doing because it’s black and my spinning was wonky, although in the finished cowls, who could tell. Or care. So soft!)

Suddenly one day there was this one single cone of not seven but 10%, and not only 10% but it was blended with extrafine cashmere. No sheep.

I ticked the ply box and picked a number: twelve strands, the maximum, for a thicker yarn to work with. $55 total for 5.29 mill-end ounces, when pure vicuna retails for $300/ounce.

As one of my friends described it later, I bought it so fast I showed speed streaks.

It’s black, of course, which my eyes would rather knit later rather than now, but the thing that’s actually holding me back is that there’s only the one cone. When it’s gone there may never be another. How would I risk letting anyone feel left out of receiving the one best thing, and how on earth would I choose who should get it?

Saturday January 08th 2022, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Life

One pandemic side effect is that I ordered glasses online, something I thought I’d never do. Two pairs. One as much like my old glasses as I could find, the other the same frameless idea that I’ve been wearing forever but with deeper, rounder lenses.

I wore the former until they got caught on a mask I was taking off and the nose pad went flying off somewhere. Was there no glue to it? Okay, you’re done. The other pair looked great on, so, backup pair to the rescue.

Then I got a new prescription.

I still really wanted to keep unnecessary exposure to a minimum, so I went back to that website and ordered a single pair: that bigger rounder type. Same company same glasses same size.

They fell off my face if I looked down. What?

I kept wearing the old ones a couple of months.

I decided this was getting ridiculous and put the new ones on this morning, determined to get used to the new prescription and get that adjustment over with.

Oh. Right. The falling thing.

I took them off and put them end to end with their earlier twin for the first time.

They angle off to nearly 4″ wider by the ends of the temples. They were mediums, not extra larges.

So I tried to very gently bend them towards sanity, and succeeded enough to keep them from being an overt hazard, but after a few hours one of the nose pads hurt.

They need adjustment. Badly. They need someone who knows what they’re doing.

My dilemma is, that’s part of what you pay for when you buy them in a store and I didn’t and nobody owes me anything, except the online place, and who knows how long they’d sit in transit going back and forth or how they’d fare–after all, they came in a case but there was no padding inside that case in the first place and maybe that’s how we got here.

So a shout-out to the local opticians and a thank you for what they do and I won’t do online again.

Just pretty please bring frameless types back for those of us looking for them?

Flatter, though
Friday January 07th 2022, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

If your grandmother was like my maternal grandmother, she had small, mostly round, decoratively molded soaps in her guest bathroom in soft pastel colors, heavily perfumed and slippery as heck in your hands, bouncing off and around the sink when you were trying to actually use them.

She would know if you had indeed washed your hands for dinner as she’d asked you to or if you’d tried to get away with skipping out on that step (not that I ever did.) While the scent interfered with your tasting your food.

And that is why I think of Gram every time I take one of my new heart med pills. It smells strongly, and tastes strongly, of good old-fashioned lavender soap. Why, for the life of me, I do not know. And you try to swallow it fast so it doesn’t leave that lingering soapy taste on your tongue.

Chocolate is the antidote.

Come on by, they can squeeze you in now
Thursday January 06th 2022, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

My longtime arborist stopped by today because I wanted a quote on some pruning that was higher up than I’m willing to go. He was surprised when I asked him at the end if he liked dark chocolate–why, yes, he does, very much–and then opened the front door and grabbed him one of those plisse’ things and told him what it was. That was fun.

The somewhat less fun but worthwhile thing was going in for a mammogram yesterday.

It created one of those weird moments where the pandemic makes invisible people real, and necessary, where you never knew they even ever were: there was a little window on the arm into the innards of the machine, just a few inches across and with a light inside so you could see how the thing flexed as they moved it in place next to the squish table thingamagummy.

And it was dusty. Quite. Inside an enclosed space with no opening as far as I could see, with that little light at the back showing just how the tiny, uneven, fuzzy bits cascaded down the little diagonal whatever in there. Dust bunny-foot, mid-hop.

I marveled out loud, the tech being an amiable sort, and she knew exactly what I was talking about.

“Oh we’re not allowed to touch those.”

Turns out the manufacturer has people whose job it is to clean those inside parts, which the patients are never exposed to, so, given covid restrictions and workers out sick (or maybe they’d quit) and the fact that it would physically affect nobody to just leave it like that for the moment, there had been no one on hand to do that particular job that I would never even have known existed.

I’m still left with the question hanging of, why? Why did they make it that way?

So that this whole x-ray vision thing can be a two-way street between patients and our non-robot overlords?

Two years from now I’ll be looking to see if it still looks like that. Which is the weirdest way to get a patient to book the next routine appointment ever.

Those’ll keep us for awhile
Wednesday January 05th 2022, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Food

I was afraid I didn’t have enough bar molds, particularly because I like to pour the chocolate fairly thin. It seemed a good time to try my Silikomart Plisse’ mold.

Richard munched one of those and I think the verdict is, they’re big enough to feel guilty over but small enough not to feel too guilty over.

H*ly s***
Tuesday January 04th 2022, 10:54 pm
Filed under: History

Some years ago, San Jose’s Redevelopment Agency commissioned art for a park that was supposed to be of the god Quatzalcoatl of the indigenous Natives.

Jerry Brown on his second governorship later axed Redevelopment Agencies across the state, declaring them to be how the rich siphoned off taxpayer dollars to fund their private projects at the great expense of local police, libraries, and schools. Which is true, and that banning was long overdue.


The sculptor offered a serpent with wings outstretched. One city counsel member thought it gorgeous. The head of the agency, who basically answered to no one, was afraid its pedestal would invite the homeless to take shelter underneath and he totally nixed it.

Alright then you get the serpent god in its coiled form.

The artist gave that admiring city counsel member a smaller version of it, and hers, made in what looks like weathering copper, is beautiful.

The bigger one for the city?

Plaster of paris, according to that first link, although I would think that would apply to the model but not the finished version; stone, according to the second. But either way, painted black. Hides the facial details nicely.

And yes, the late artist’s mother will tell you the poop statue was an act of revenge.

Someone tried to sue it out of the park by saying it promoted religion, but they lost, and there it stays.

With no more RAs around, the public gets to have public input on public art now. But oh, we do on this older one. A little late, but, we do.

Don’t forget to add the sugar
Monday January 03rd 2022, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Food

Begin as you mean to go on in the year.

We were down to our last half a bar of homemade chocolate and only still have that because we didn’t want to finish off our supply entirely on our drive home from Salinas on Saturday. It was time.

You start off running the cacao nibs through the Cuisinart to make the pieces fine enough for the melanger. There are professional ones made to last that you wouldn’t need to do that for; ours, I think we’re safer babying the thing.

But it has been a good machine for us.

You put a half cup in, just a little, enough that the stones have something to work against but not so much that they seize up (ask us how we know) and then, a little at a time, gradually add more nibs. There’s about six cups in there now.

There’s a change, audible even to me, when the last of the hard bits suddenly begin to stop spitting upwards and bouncing around and free-for-all-ing in Brownian motion but start to join the slowly liquifying rest as the roughest edges are ground away by the friction and motion and weight of the stones against them. The growl from the machine gives way to humming its steady chocolate song as the cacao rides its rollercoaster up and around, over, down, over, up, around, and back the other way and again. The sharp acidity that hits your nose at the start (some varieties definitely more than others) mellows, even before the sugar arrives awhile later.

It’s meant to be like this, it’s how it makes those rocky little pebbles become what we were looking forward to all along and why we put up with the work and the lifting and the noise.

(I wrote this and then did the math and now .6 lb of sugar joined the 2.4 lbs in the melanger. 80%.)

Row’ll on with the years and never stand still
Sunday January 02nd 2022, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

To be on the safe side because we were exposed to other people yesterday, we didn’t expose more other people to us today: we did church by Zoom.

Which means that during Sunday School I turned my camera off and picked up my needles that had ribbing and a few plain rows and made surprisingly good headway on the next random hat (thinking, and this is why I have a Malabrigo Mecha stash.) I did a bit more afterwards.

Then at 5 p.m. I had a knitting group by Zoom, and brainless patterns are definitely what you want while conversations are going on and you’re trying to read the captions–even when your heart is on that complicated lace-and-cables over there.

And so yet another plain beanie arrives in the world, needing the ends run in but otherwise ready to go. To… I’ll have to find out. But we woke up to 29F and deep frost this morning and someone out there badly needs some soft warmth on their head.

This Sunday hat thing could get to be a pattern.