No chocolate allowed
Tuesday September 14th 2021, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Me: Man, what a lousy night. Couldn’t get warm, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t find the wool blanket (the extra layer on my side.)

Him: That’s because you tripped and spilled hot cocoa all over it.

Me, slowly: Oh. Right.

So I am here to report that dabs of unscented laundry detergent on day-old cocoa on white wool, left to soak in for an hour or two and then rubbed a bit, did indeed get the whole thing to come completely clean. Gentle cycle or no, running it through the washing machine didn’t help its pilling whatsoever, and it did shrink slightly as one would expect, but the merino came out all the softer for it.

And we’re talking 1:1 ratio cocoa/sugar in the milk, not some half-fake commercial mix. But it came out.

Spending the day that tired, I sat down, propped my feet up, and knit. After 75 minutes, my hands demanded a break from the needles, which at 6.5mm were a lot bigger than I usually use but that the scoured and floofed-out chainette Piuma from Colourmart really needed. (The light beige.)

The closer I got to the end of the ball the more the stubborn side of me had to see it through. Intermittently as needed. I let the amount of yarn dictate to me when I was done, and after dinner, it was.

I gave it a bit of water for the lace to settle into place and it is now hanging to dry. Right next to that sweet soft Irish-made blanket.



Maxwell’s smart
Monday September 13th 2021, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Note to self: Saturday is when I planted the four Rainier cherry pits a friend’s kid had saved for me because they were so good, along with two of my five Anya kernels. Yes that’s out of season, but they had chilled long enough to stratify and I think I needed to make a declaration of hope towards the future against the twentieth anniversary of 9/11–and I so want to be able to give that twelve-year-old a cherry seedling of his own in thanks for his wishing I could have cherries that good all the time.

There’s also a possibility that his family will move away in the next year, so I knew I needed to hurry. They’re the ones who polished off my favorite apricots at my request because we were leaving town to see grandkids for the week, and they saved the kernels so I could plant some more.

But those cherries from Andy’s farm! He had to save their pits for me, too, even if his mom wasn’t so sure–and so it was just the four.

Coming winter light levels are why I only experimented with two apricots to see if I could get a jump in growth on next year, but the cherries? Every one.

I have this secret ingredient for after the Root Riot plugs help them sprout…

I mentioned to Michelle that the Anya apricot grown in lobster compost from Maine totally skunked the other seedlings in height and growth after I’d tried different soil types. Five and a half inches (oh but it tried), 24″, and then 43″ for the Maine event. Such a stunning result.

My child for whom evolutionary biology was her favorite undergrad class cocked her head a bit, looked me in the eye, and cracked, I *assure* you they did not evolve in the same environment! (Wikipedia link to the Fergana Valley along the Silk Road.)

Well, no. But it just goes to prove that everything goes better when you’re serving lobster. The stone fruits are just the cherries on top.



Old and soft
Thursday September 09th 2021, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Trying to get the house ready before our daughter gets here.)

Huh! Those are still around. Who knew? But then, with all the history to it, of course it is.

It’s this yarn. That I rescued from the moths and dyed to boil any remaining eggs or larvae and knit up into seven small scarves, three of which got put into the header on my blog years ago. Yellow is the easiest color to overdye (red is the hardest) and, well, you can see what I got out of it. The yarn is from a post-War trip my folks made to France: hand-brushed pure angora.

There was still just a bit left. And still just a bit chewed up. Same as it ever was.

I put it away so that I could stumble across it again in another ten or twelve years or so and again get to remember that moment when I found that box with all those little balls of bunnytudinousness tucked away in a black cardboard box in my folks’ basement eons ago, in great delight that the great angora yarn story of yore–it still existed!

Probably should have added another layer of ziplock.



Bark patterns
Wednesday September 08th 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Tonight: 9:36. He’s early. The small dog that barks every night around ten. And only a quick few arfs tonight; maybe he’s done for the night. Or, I thought, maybe we’ll be smelling the skunk in a minute. They only have so many times they can defend themselves though before they have to recharge for about a week, which of course would teach a dog that it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay to keep barking–Whoa! Hey you can’t do that to me!

Yesterday I was out working in the yard a bit near sundown and heard him–and was surprised, and not just because it was way early. I came inside and told Richard, Y’know how X’s dog barks every night? (X’s dog being known to try to chase me out of my own driveway at the top of his lungs, frustrated that I just chuckle and ignore him or, worse, bend down to his level to let him decide if he wants to come on over to sniff my hand. The nerve of me. Sometimes he even does it, too, wagging his tail and then barking again because that’s his job in his mind.)

Yeah?

It’s not X’s dog after all. Turns out there’s one over the fence from next door. That’s where it’s coming from.

He was as surprised as I was. There are two?

Their voices are very similar.

It’s always quiet by bedtime, for us, at least.

Skunk spray is more effective than inhalers for compromised lungs and it would actually help amid all this smoke, but nope, no such luck tonight.

I’m sure the neighbors don’t mind.

(Update: and of course just because I wrote about them, it is now 11:09 p.m. and it sounds like the two of them are having a bark-off out there. Perfect comedic timing, guys. 11:12–And… they stopped.)



A ride home
Tuesday August 31st 2021, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I walked in the door and told my very tall husband, That was bizarre. And if you had come with me I don’t think it would have happened.

I’d gone to do a quick run to Trader Joe’s, and while I was loading up my car, there was a woman I’d say in her early 20s standing nearby, looking around, with a backpack that I registered as being full of groceries she’d just bought. She was wearing the sweatshirt of one of the local universities.

She stepped forward and asked me a question. Since one wears masks in public here, I couldn’t lipread: it took her three if not four tries.

Turns out she needed a ride home. Near the high school my kids went to? Sure, that wasn’t very far, I’d be glad to. (It would have been a very long walk, but in a car, no big deal.) But I made it clear that I’m quite deaf and I was really going to need help getting her to the right place and she would have to be loud to help me navigate it right.

She asked me where I lived and I waved offhandedly in the opposite direction and said it didn’t matter.

She was from a demographic that has not been treated well the last few years in particular, and she was young and female–I have no doubt I looked safe and it was probably a relief to her to find me, and indeed, I was feeling protective of her, given that it was going to get dark soon.

We made conversation as best we could as I drove.

She asked me how many grandchildren I had, then couldn’t help but exclaim, Six?!

She asked me what I did before I retired. I smiled at that. I told her I had always planned to go back to work after my kids were in school and the first day my youngest was, I was rear-ended and it took me several years to recover from that accident. (I didn’t say, or the worse one half a dozen years later.) And I was hit with a major autoimmune disease. (Two, but one only inflicts so much information on acquaintances.) I had plans, I told her, but life kept happening to me–and it’s okay that it did.

I told her my one claim to fame was that I wrote a knitting book that was #1 on Amazon in its category for awhile.

She thought that was so cool and immediately looked it up.

I told her, You don’t have to do that, no worries!

She wanted to. As I pulled over, she wanted to pay me for the ride, and I said, You needed help and I could do it, so, that’s what you do when you can. You’ll find someone who will need your help later.

And then.

She tried to open up and tell me a little more of her own history.

While I sat there wholly inadequate because I couldn’t hear, when this time she clearly really needed me to. She tried, she got frustrated, I immediately sympathized with her and said I was so sorry. She was immediately sympathetic back and glad I wanted to hear her out even if I couldn’t–she was a good soul, whoever she was, and I hope life turns out really well for her. But I got enough to know that it’s been rough of late and she didn’t know where to turn.

I tried to think fast of the best way to tell her where to find whatever kind of help it was that she needed, but in the end all I knew for sure was how to be the deaf grandmother who went out of her way and wished her the best and was glad to offer a stranger a ride home. To show her that other people cared.

She had me move forward a bit more and stop in front of a different house, and I said I always wait to see women get safely inside their homes–but then I figured out pretty fast she wasn’t sure she wanted a stranger to know where she lives. And that’s okay. And so I let her be and drove on.

My sweetie considered all this and had some concerns; I told him, I did, too–and yet: I’d do it again. Someone needed help, I could help, so you do.



Because who doesn’t want a free band-aid? Right?
Monday August 30th 2021, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I gave him a quick heads-up when he had a moment’s break in his work day with, “I’m off to go get my flu shot.”

He did a double take. “A flu shot,” he answered, with recognition dawning in his voice in slow motion: like, Oh yeah. That type. I remember those. (We’d discussed covid boosters at length but we can’t do anything about them yet.)

To be fair, I’d interrupted his train of thought.

I wonder: how on earth did they decide what strains would be running rampant this winter, traveling east to west as they track them, when everybody stayed inside and most people in the world wore masks like they should and just about nobody was getting the flu?

Just covid. So much covid here.

Okay, well, whatever, I did it, which means he’ll get around to it soon, too. September 9 one year I was sent to the ER with serious flu complications and I’m never waiting that long again.



Left high and dry
Wednesday August 25th 2021, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

It is amazing how good kids so young can be at a sport. Sink it sink it sink it with all those arms flailing away at them (but somehow almost never fouling.) Score 23-54, with Parker, zooming in from the right, scoring the final basket for that winning number from a goodly distance away.

Meantime, back to normal life if a bit wistfully, the Indian Free peach is going to town to a degree it never has before and I’ve noticed since we got home that the critters have, for the first time, been abandoning the ripe figs to go after those peaches that aren’t yet.

And the thing I learned today: it’s not just a pandemic chip shortage. It’s not just a new car shortage and resulting inflated used-car prices, nor of furniture held up in shipping backlogs.

It’s hitting the washers and dryers made right here in the good old USA. Did they have one in stock? The man laughed ruefully. Three to four weeks for a new Speed Queen to arrive, and I could almost hear an implied ‘if you’re lucky’ in his tone. The next store said the same thing.

It was so bad that I could smell our 15-year-old dryer trying to burn the house down (he couldn’t. That could be dangerous) and came running across the house to stop it.

Check the outtake, Richard said between meetings. I did–it was clear, and it wasn’t a burning lint smell anyway. At all.

That makes three major appliances that have thrown a fiery temper tantrum in the last few years, even if only the Maytag dishwasher actually succeeded in scorching the floor. Are we just that lucky or does everybody eventually go through this?

The top of the neighbor’s clothesline partly shows across the top of the fence and I’ve been wishing all day I had one. It could be a long month.

So: anyone have anything they particularly like or dislike about their dryer? Have you had one that’s lasted a long time? One that flamed out fast? Would you recommend what you have?



A little camp out
Tuesday August 24th 2021, 9:07 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

The kids had a small fire pit set on the patio, well away from anything that you wouldn’t want it near and as it was getting going I was pulling out the very few weeds I found at the edge of the lawn–no need to let those go to seed.

I was offered the fire as a way to get rid of that handful quickly. The kids got into the spirit of this way of being helpful and I found myself with Hudson holding something long that had fallen off I think the neighbor’s tree into the yard and was going to do the same after me. If he’d stood it upright I think it would have reached about to his nose. Even trying to balance that in that little fire pit was going to be…problematical.

One of the reasons kids do dumb things, according to a lecture we went to by a neuropsychologist years ago, is because the nerves in their brains haven’t fully developed the myelin sheath around them–not till between 18 and 21. What that means, he said, is that they physically cannot intuit that if they do this then that will happen.

To which I would say, though, they can be taught it specific instance by specific instance.

Now, my handful of weeds wasn’t going to be a problem but what he’d come up with quite likely was so I said, I don’t want to put anything in that could shoot flames up my arm.

He kind of went, Oh, with his eyebrows as he considered that and learned something new.

And so, his young cousin having shown me where it was, we went past the garage to the compostables bin and he threw mine in there for me, too.

Then the kids were offered a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and a Costco package of Hershey bars and the means to have at it from enough of a distance. The classic campfire dessert right there at home with their four cousins.

Turns out my daughter-in-law and her sister hadn’t heard our honeymoon story about the skunk and that’s always a fun one to share.

And then–ohmygoodness! After waiting his turn and cooking his marshmallow and making his s’more, there was Parker: offering it to me!

I don’t eat a lot of sweets anymore as my age catches up to my metabolism, but that one demanded to be enjoyed and praised and I tell you, it’s been a long time since a Hershey bar tasted that good. That s’more was perfect in every way.



And the sky! No smoke!
Monday August 23rd 2021, 10:20 am
Filed under: Family,History,Life

I’ve never been so glad we parked the car at the airport.

We spent the weekend visiting the San Diego grands, a trip planned before Delta was really a thing yet. Since it certainly is now, we had to decide, but being healthy and vaccinated there was just no way we were going to cancel.

Hudson and his cousin Hayes had turned eight and were being baptized, which the Mormon church does when children are old enough to start to discern and choose right from wrong for themselves and not just react to the world around them. It’s a joyful time, and there was a mini-reunion for our daughter-in-law’s family in the process. I adore her family.

I told them that between their late father’s book and one my mom had, I’d found out that their Swedish ancestor and mine had arrived on the same boat. It just took 150 years or so for them to arrange a marriage from up there. They laughed.

One uncle who’s a doctor asked me quietly if we drove or flew, and I knew what he was asking and explained that with my husband’s job he just couldn’t take off the extra two days, meaning, yes, we risked the plane. (Sorry!)

Twenty-three months since we’d seen any of them. The kids have grown and grown up so much. Hudson in particular seems so much more contemplative. Wise for his age. From age six to age eight is such a leap in development.

Maddy asked me why I can’t go out in the sun. I gave a very simplified explanation of lupus. She wanted to know, what does the disease do? I thought, let’s not freak the poor kid out, and put it in terms a six year old could understand: “It makes me hurt all over.” (Kidney failure, temporary blindness on one side, Crohn’s as a side effect, cardiac inflammation, central and autonomic nervous system–oh be quiet, brain.)

She considered that, and that’s the way it is and it didn’t bother me so she was okay with that. And then we ran to the other room and played some more.

The whole weekend had this inner songtrack on endless loop and I found myself humming it more than once with the kids. “I can sing this song, and you can sing this song… We’re gonna have a good time…” And we did, at long last we did.

It was over far too soon and our planned last-flight-home got delayed and delayed. Our son dropped us off at the airport with an emphatic, Call if they cancel, okay?

Thankfully they didn’t. We fell into bed at 1:11 a.m.



They’re good for your eyes
Friday August 13th 2021, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Family

Lillian would like you to know she would like you to have a very, very good day. With carrots.



Sugar splurge
Sunday August 08th 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

I needed to use up that cream so even though we definitely didn’t need to eat such a thing, a recipe for Instant Pot creme brûlée got the better of me.

I even found where the rack to the thing went back when I was moving everything out of the termite guys’ way. Separated the eggs, started whipping the yolks, reached for that cream and opened the carton.

Holy moly guys nope nope nope.

So I fudged it. 2% milk with melted butter? I wasn’t at all sure of this, so only a tablespoon’s worth of the fat we suddenly really didn’t have to eat but hey we’ll see what we get. Seven minutes on low pressure, half an hour on natural release, ta daaah…

Huh.

What we have, I told him, is hot egg nog. But it’s cooked!

Well? He asked. Where is it? I’d like some! (Have I mentioned I love that sweet man? He’s a trooper.)

He also got almond meringues from the egg whites because if you’re going to do Christmas in August in the kitchen you might as well go full-on weird.

Those turned out to be worth repeating.

Almond meringues:

Four egg whites, beaten till frothy with about a quarter teaspoon cream of tartar, then 3/4 c powdered sugar and a tbl or so of plain sugar, then when that gets to pretty stiff peaks, beat in 1/3 c almond flour and quickly start doling it out on parchment paper over a cookie sheet. 275F, and the original recipe I totally fudged from because I didn’t have slivered almonds said 35 minutes but I left them in longer, didn’t hear the beep, don’t know how long it was, but I still put them back in for another five.



Toss it back to the grizzlies
Monday July 19th 2021, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

(Lillian ducking into the sunbeam.)

Back when Sam and her family lived in Anchorage, she took us to an ice cream shop, Wild Scoops, that sold local flavors including from fruits I’d never heard of. Salmonberries? Birch syrup? What kind of flavor is Fireweed?

So I ended up buying a cute little 2 oz jar of salmonberry jam as a souvenir to go with my scoop so I could taste that, too, and a small jug of birch syrup by mail after we flew home.

The syrup was okay. I don’t need to buy it again. The jam was sugar+pectin+an orange color to it but no berry flavor I could discern and other than the fact that it was a local thing and a novelty to us, there didn’t seem to be much point to it; let the musk ox and moose keep the berries.

Fast forward a few years. We were at a kiddy park with Mathias and Sam in Washington State July 5th where there was play equipment and a bit of grass surrounded by deep, lush trees and a short trail along the fenced perimeter.

Cherry trees! That’s why all the happy robins bouncing around! Clearly a holdover from when that whole area had been prime cherry and berry farmland a hundred years ago; the now-feral trees dangled Rainier-esque solid yellow and who knows what dark red promises mostly well out of even my 6’8″ husband’s reach.

But we managed to bend some branches downwards enough and we got some and shared them around and they were delicious. Sam pronounced that moments like these were why she was glad they had moved there.

She had already told us that blackberry bushes were the devil, that they ran rampant all over everything with their thorns: the Pacific Northwest’s version of kudzu with an offering but an attitude.

And then I pointed out a berry bush. The leaves were a lot smaller than the blackberries her husband had cleared away from their side of the fence at home; I wondered what they were.

Oh those are salmonberries, she said, a park ranger told us that.

Very small. Half the usual thumbcap depth at best of a red raspberry. Tasteless. Seedy.

And the color. Suddenly I knew.

Some garden catalog three or four years ago had had a spiel about a woman who’d found an abandoned farm that had had red raspberries and blackberries and had found something else growing down by the creek that she thought must be a hybrid of them of some kind. The thorns were a lot shorter. She’d taken some cuttings home. She’d tried growing her new variety in good soil, bad soil, sandy soil, clay soil, and it grew in everything! And now here they were offering this rare find to their customers! In high demand!

I’m a long way from being a knowledgeable gardener yet, so foolproof sounded good to me and I ordered one. I grew it in a large pot, because I do know enough to know that thorny berry plants like to take over the world and I wanted it contained.

I got a few stubby shallow little berries with not much flavor–well, any, really. I figured the critters had eaten them before they’d gotten ripe or big yet. Right? I kept waiting for them to grow into, y’know, proper raspberry shapes. They didn’t.

I got maybe two whole berries to myself last year, but this year the plant grew a lot more and produced more. But the fruit didn’t change at all.

They’d sold me a salmonberry plant and didn’t even know enough to know that that’s what it was and I certainly didn’t. But there is no question. I recognized that plant and that fruit in that park because it was growing in my back yard and knew that it was only a matter of time, and a brief time at that, before I’d be ripping mine out.

All those pretty leaves it took so long to bother to produce.

I confess I’m still giving it (increasingly brief) sprays of precious California water to keep it alive. I guess it’s just plain hard to assassinate a plant you’ve nurtured, even one that would rather stab you than feed you.



Which color do you want?
Saturday July 17th 2021, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

I gave Phyl and Lee their choice of Andy’s red peaches or yellow as a thank you for driving us to the airport. (I’d waited a few weeks because the later in the season, the more flavor.) The reds were marked as cling; they opted for the yellow Santa Barbaras and I sent them off with not quite a whole case, since that seemed like a lot to them. (Then I tried one of the Sierra Rich reds and the pit came away like what was the big deal supposed to be.)

A few hours later my doorbell rang: the friend who’d watered my garden while we were away, surprising me with a small box of plums and peaches after a trip to, you guessed it, Andy’s Orchard. The first white peaches we’d tasted this year. Loved it.

On the knitting front: when I booked the trip, I wasn’t sure of the kids’ work schedules so I scheduled our flight home to arrive in the late evening. Tuesday the holiday was over, their normal life took over and we were on our own, free to play tourist and wander around for the day.

So we did. I’ve mentioned the drawbridge in Seattle.

But the other thing is that we stumbled across a yarn store, parked the car, and went in.

(Side note: it’s a good thing us good little Mormons Googled when we saw this other place as we drove by because “Skep and Skein” was NOT a yarn store. It was a tavern and none of us would have had the faintest idea what to do with each other had we walked in.)

So we drove on (wait–we’ve already been on this road, hey, Waze!) and saw another sign.

There is always room in the luggage for a souvenir skein, I told Richard as we were getting out of the car, but it was going to be tight. We walked into a charming little brick Tudor and met just the nicest owner.

Hmm… I went to see if I could find something to show her shop to you and discovered that she has the same name as my sister’s best friend growing up. Here’s the article. Our Local Yarn Shop, OLYS for short. I’m not seeing a date on when it was written–but Laurie told me that a pandemic three months after she opened had not been in her business plan.

Wow. I absorbed that a moment. And you’re still here! I pronounced in triumph.

Yes, I am! she answered happily. But she allowed as how it had been a near thing for awhile there.

Meantime, she had a steady stream of customers, some of them clearly old friends, and each time someone wanted to ask something or stepped behind me in line to be rung up I stepped out of the way and waved them forward and let her chat with them and take care of them because they were going to be in a position to come back and I wasn’t and I wanted her to have every success. I really liked this lady.

She gave her store its name from the fact that she sells yarn from sheep from local farms with the name of each animal on the skein. Which is cool–but they were in natural and muted colors, and they were lovely, but right now I needed color color color to entice my fingers to get back into really knitting again.

I came away with this Manos and a Madeline Tosh that hit just the right notes and they just barely managed not to fall out of my overstuffed purse in the airport.

I told Laurie the story of visiting my in-laws in Texas and having one of my readers here ask if she could come pick me up and take me to her knitting group night while I was in town. Sure!

And how I was absolutely gobsmacked to find us pulling up to the doorstep of the original Madeline Tosh shop. I met the owner. I got to meet her! Turns out that wasn’t her name, she’d named it in honor of her favorite aunt. I tried not to be too embarrassing in my fandom.

Anyway. So here’s the Manos in a potato-chip-munching mindless-knitting stitch that works so well with multicolors by scattering each little shot of color hither and yarn.

(Edited to answer Anne’s question for everyone: it was this yarn. My skein was a little more saturated than the one they show.)



Cool cat
Thursday July 08th 2021, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family

There’s a warning out that the Pacific Northwest is about to have another extreme heat wave.

Eve the (formerly) super fluffy longhaired grandcat is ready for that one, too. Continuing chin scritches welcomed.

(p.s. That 5.9 quake on the CA/Nevada border today? Didn’t feel a thing. With the Californian in me wanting to add,  …Yet…)



From the trip
Wednesday July 07th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family

Mathias working on a puzzle with his mom.

Meantime, the toddler anthem of “Mine!” and the adult sized (that was a mistake) airplane-knit hat went on Lillian’s head because I’d just made one for her brother and had run out of time to finish the one she didn’t know was going to be hers so it only seemed fair.

She danced around with her new toy–what toddler doesn’t love a hat (unless you’re trying to make them wear one) and it went back on her head a number of times. Sometimes she could even see with it on, if someone helped her. And helped her again after she tugged on it. Or after she put Mathias’s hat on top of it.

The tree fairy ring out back, with a smaller one behind it and a smaller one behind that.

A chance to read a book with Grammy.