Wholly cow
Monday December 11th 2017, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

It’s all Costco’s fault that we didn’t wait.

Richard actually went there on a Saturday in December, grocery list in hand. Brave man.

Boy did he come home with a grin. They’d goofed and forgotten to change the “fresh fryer legs” on the ticker thingy to the type of thick slab of beef that they slapped the next label on as they weighed it–nearly four pounds, yes, but under five dollars?

He asked at checkout to be sure because, um, hey guys, and the clerk called the manager over because that was the protocol but she already knew what the answer was: this was their mistake and his good luck.

Then she admitted that one had come through like that yesterday–and it was prime rib.

The mind, it boggles.

So. Back on Black Friday, we were at Sam’s house, of course, and she happened to have an Instant Pot, which has been the big fad of a kitchen gadget of the last year or two; I asked her what she thought of hers.

She LOVED her 6 quart. Uses it all the time.

Amazon was selling the 8 qt cheap for the day…

I looked at hers and we debated, bigger than that? No. Too big, too much counter space, there’s just the two of us at our house; it was a shame the one her size was at full price–but even that might be a bit much for us. I had no experience with them and I just didn’t know.

So she and Michelle drove me to Target so I could check out the 3 quart mini version in person (which they happened to have on sale, even if I didn’t want to schlep it through airports.) That I can definitely do, sure, I told them, looks good. It would be great for throwing dinner into while I drive off to get Richard from work in the evenings. I could time things and then have them kept warm if we ran late.

I fished through my purse on the very off chance that…

I did! I had them!

I’m in a lupus study at UCSF that once every year has me on the phone answering questions for about 75 minutes, and in response they’ve sent me small gift cards to Target the last two years. I’d never used them.

The upshot is that we ordered that Mini Instant Pot from them and it cost a grand total of $11 including shipping and taxes.

Sooo… Then the question was, when do we open it? What label do we put to this thing? Birthday? Christmas? And there it sat.

Till Richard came home with that roast today that would in no way fit into our suddenly-tiny toy. Well, alright then, and he whacked it in half and we can try two different recipes with it.

We read through the instructions. We prewashed the tub. We ran a steam cycle to test it like they say, and then we started that first pot roast.

Did I remember the part about putting the carrots and potatoes in at the last ten minutes? I did not. In with the seared meat they went.

Ten minutes later, the kitchen was already started to smell like the Sunday afternoons of my childhood.

Twenty-six minutes left. Not that I’m counting or anything. (I hopped up to check just now and Richard instantly wanted to know, too.)

Proofread post. Edit. Get up and check. Twelve minutes.

Oh wait–that should have been ten more minutes on that recipe oops I read it wrong, but we didn’t figure out how to add more time till after we’d already pronounced it good enough and dug in. And it was already tender enough, although next time it will be more so.

Yeah. I think we’re going to like this gadget. Band, meet wagon.



The fallout
Saturday December 09th 2017, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

What I didn’t mention yesterday was that at one point as I helped hold the washing machine tilted back while Mike worked, my foot started to slip out from under me while his hand and the edge of his head were or at least had been underneath that thing. I gasped, “Watch out!” as I grabbed hard at it in horror.

At the time, I caught it, he caught it with his other hand, nothing happened and phew, that was close. So glad he was okay! Next time let’s prop it up with something, okay? That was too close.

It took me awhile to put that together with the consequences.

Now, I have a very mild case of scoliosis, I’ve been rear-ended four times, I know the exercises one does for one’s back and that sometimes it’s just going to hurt  for awhile.

But this was something altogether new. I tried to carefully get up this morning and found myself on the floor unable to move whatsoever.  Pain I could push through, but the muscles on the right utterly refused to support my weight and I was frozen on the floor just as I’d landed, immobile. Uncross the feet? Can’t. Crawl to where I could pull myself up, Mathias-style? Not possible. They were on strike.

Y’know, this could make for a very long day down here. Bathroom. Ileostomy dressing change morning. I don’t ask for much but those were non-negotiable no matter what I thought about it.

Richard heard me, woke up, and came immediately to the rescue.

Eight years ago, I took one single Tylenol and remember it. The big Crohn’s flare that January left lesions on my liver, so on general principles I don’t touch the stuff even though it’s the only painkiller I can take.

He offered me two, from a new bottle he’d recently bought just in case–he’d just had a feeling I might need them sometime after all–and I was very glad to have them. I’d had no idea we had any. He got me an icepack. He talked me into taking the nap that I needed after last night.

The day improved, definitely. But normal looks a long way off.

I figured I was allowed one good whine about it and this is it. Meantime, my husband’s a peach.



Let me get back to you on that
Friday December 08th 2017, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Mike-the-repairman came. First thing he did was he tried turning on the washing machine.

Dang if the thing didn’t turn right on. I was gobsmacked. I had tried… and I’d come back later and had tried again, and …!

He asked a few questions and since I was the one who’d been using it and the space in there was tight, Richard, who’s on vacation, went back across the house to what he was doing.

Mike got down and looked at it from underneath while he and I both held it up out of his way a bit. (I had emptied the water out earlier as best I could, cupful by cupful into about ten small-dyepot loads in case he had to pull the thing out. It was a surprisingly lot.)

The motor was not dead but it was on its way out. Do small loads, he said, don’t do them back to back like when it died, let the thing cool down. A new motor would cost a couple hundred–he was going to see if he could find us a used one.

And with that he left us with a machine working for now and refused to let us pay him anything yet.

Quite to my surprise my back went on full-on strike the next time I tried to bend over. I had a doctor’s appointment to get to. Richard offered to drive me, good man that he is, and he dropped me off and then went off to check on Betty. That had not been in today’s plans but it suddenly made sense, and that was worth a day’s muscle twinges for sure and it made it feel okay.

Meaning, as Rachel Remen writes (in one of my all-time favorite books), is the language of the soul.

And it has an alphabet all its own.



Betty
Thursday December 07th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

The repairman will be here in the morning.

Meantime, a friend who’s turning 93 this month had a small stroke this week along with some cardiac funkiness and just returned to her assisted-living facility today from the hospital. She’s been blind from birth, her hearing’s going, and although she remembers Richard–he once worked for a company that developed the software that read her her longtime computer, and for years she would call him as a friend for help about it, which he was glad to do–but she no longer remembers me. So when we found there were no parking spaces for blocks around and that the long walk in the sun was going to be a hazard to my own health, Richard hopped out to go visit her while I drove over to the chocolate shop. It seemed the best thing to do at that point; in her disorientation, I wasn’t sure my presence would be a comfort anyway.

I’m glad he got there so soon after she was discharged: he was able to find out what bothered her. The AL staff had moved her bed while she’d been away, not enough that a seeing person would be bothered but she could no longer find her computer nor her things nor was she capable of walking to go search for them. He got the staff to let the bed be moved back. A few feet–and having time to listen–made all the difference to her.

The doctor came by, and quietly told him that everything he could say that could help her reconnect to her memories would help. Betty had lived in Alaska decades ago, so, Richard told her about our Thanksgiving in Anchorage with our baby grandson and got her reliving the days.

She worried whether her seeing-eye dog, naming one of the ones she’d had over the years, had been fed well enough while she’d been away.

He’s been gone for several years.

I, meantime, got to go see Timothy and Adams, both. It had been awhile and I had missed them and it was a comfort to see them. The 65% hot chocolate? Well, yeah, I’d missed that, too, sure.

Richard texted that he hoped I’d ordered him one, too.

I grinned at my phone. 85% dark, just how you like it, coming right up.

We waved to each other as he spotted the car across the street from the nursing home again and we discussed as we drove off how we could best help her next. From his description, I wasn’t sure how many more nexts there would be, and he wasn’t sure, either.

And yet.

“Betty’s a tough old bird,” I pronounced, and he agreed strongly. He told me then that she had wondered herself if things were coming to an end now.

He’d told her, “You’re here as long as you want to be, Betty. And we’re with you.”



No repairman yet
Thursday December 07th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,LYS

Putting it off meant there were now 18 of them. That’s a lot of wool socks. I washed and rinsed them in the sink but there was no spinning them out–there was nothing for it but to squeeze each one long and hard away from the waiting ones. This after pushing myself to finish knitting that cabled hat whether my hands liked it or not (but I did it! No spoiler pictures for now.)

I asked him, Remember that conversation my mom said she had with her mom where Mom said she wished she had a live-in maid like Gram had had before the War, and Gram answered she’d have given her up in a second for a modern washing machine?

Someone young and strong to work that earlier contraption.

I told him, I want to upgrade to a ringer.

He chuckled. Then he asked about the hat: will it be warm enough?

It’s densely knit with overlapping cabled stitches knit on as small needles as as I could manage and it ate through a ton of yarn.

But Alaska. Will it be warm enough for him?

It would be if I lined it, and there’s room, I could, and that was the original intent, but even though I thought I bought extra I don’t have enough yarn left and the store in Anchorage is a bit too far to go back to. I don’t know if they ship. I do know I’m running out of time.

A contrasting color? he offered helpfully.

So what we had here was my husband working himself up to declaring that I must go to, most likely, Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco. (Whose site seems hacked at the moment so I’m not linking it.) They carry Juniper Moon Farms.

So maybe the other Christmas presents and the still-waiting afghan just got pushed further back and that hat isn’t quite so done after all.

Hopefully, having to hand wash and squeeze out every piece of clothing in the house soon will be.



Snow worthy
Saturday December 02nd 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

The lightbulb flickered briefly as we were driving I forget where and before I could forget again I told him, “Remind me to block that cowl before Sunday that I knitted on the plane.” Not because he would remember but because I’d be more likely to by asking.

It hit me tonight, oh wait–the cowl! It’s Saturday night!

And so, after rinsing it to relax the lace and spinning it out in the washer, it is hanging close to the heating vents to dry; it’s aran weight yarn (nope–that particular color’s sold out) so unless I take the hairdryer to it, having it ready in the morning is a definite maybe. But I gave it a test run for a day in Alaska (I needed to) and it is definitely warm and cozy.

Mathias-approved, too. Can’t beat that.



Shutter at the thought
Wednesday November 29th 2017, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A group of one would guess Native Alaskans was taking pictures after Thanksgiving was over and they were about to leave the hotel, taking turns as to who was out of the picture working the shutter at the moment we happened to walk through the double sets of doors (those are everywhere in Anchorage, stamp the snow off your feet and shut out the cold before you enter) and into the lobby.

I stopped and asked, Would you like a picture with everybody in it?

They did not respond at all nor glance my way. I couldn’t be talking to them. I was a complete stranger.

I repeated the offer. I meant it.

There was a two-heartbeat pause, then a, Wait–what did you say?

Would you like us to take a picture of all of you together?

A one-beat hesitancy and then the decision was made, YES! Yes, please! An iPhone was handed over and they all squeezed in together. They had decided to trust us with that expensive piece of equipment after all, and after we handed it back another one got passed to me so that that person could have pictures on their phone, too. The second phone did the small whoosh sound with each click of that shot being sent somewhere (and I’d love to know how they pre-set it like that because my ancient 4S can’t do that. As far as I know.)

Happy to help. And we handed it back. Actually, I had Richard take them all and in hindsight… Everybody looks better in photos where the photographer is looking across or slightly up rather than way down, but ah well, the deed is done now. Now they get to remember that really tall guy and his pointing of view.

In those moments they had become downright bubbly in their unexpected inclusive new last memory of the moment and we were all friends as we continued on our way with a smile and a wave.

With me remembering a hike in the redwood forest of Muir Woods with our family and my sister and her boys years ago, when complete strangers stopped us where a dead mossy limb hung suspended over the trail and asked if we could take pictures of them. They handed us all their cameras both expensive and not and climbed onto or next to that limb in a happy lineup. Ride’em cowboy! They had so much fun posing in those shots that they turned it into a memorable celebration for us all, and I never even asked them their names.

It felt great to be able to pass that happiness on.



Anchorage
Tuesday November 28th 2017, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

We went to the chocolate shop. Twice, actually, for Sam and me, the second time on our way home from the yarn store, where I looked for the softest wool and asked her which color her husband would pick out if he were there.

I took home skeins of something new to me but that I am definitely looking for again: Fourteen (referring to the micron count in the merino), by Juniper Moon Farm.

I did the ribbing that started a hat and then surprised him by saying I had a design question: beanie or cables?

Say what? Double take. I was knitting this for him? We confirmed that cables meant like on his wife’s sweater; “Cables would be nice!”

Alright then!

We played, we giggled, we wore ourselves out.

And we marveled at how gorgeous the landscape is. I remember the unending snow of New Hampshire as being dirty and gray at the roads’ edges as you go by, but everywhere in Anchorage was just enough, not too much yet, of the purest white everywhere, with the towering mountains the most perfect of all. I understood now how one could love this place in winter.

And why a few of the homes here and there are painted in cheerful tropical colors.

They took us to see the edge of the bay and our son-in-law pointed out the textures in what in summer were mud flats; now, though, the tide relentlessly brings in waves of crashing ice under the ice.

There was a stiff wind at the edge there, defining what cold could begin to really mean. We stayed just long enough for Michelle to snap pictures. We were well bundled but my hands were too cold to.



Silliness
Tuesday November 14th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I found a project that should have been done several months ago. I just have to pick up stitches along the edge, and…

…leaning way over thataway and checking…

Buttons on the right, right?

He looks at me funny.

I need to add a button band. Buttons on the right?

And hearts on the left!

Me, envisioning that and doing a head tilt: Say what?

He pats his chest with a grin: Heart’s on the left!

OHHHH. Oh Okay. I was picturing you in an oxford shirt with little red hearts all over on just one side and not even on Valentine’s and it just wasn’t… And I definitely wasn’t going to add them to the sweater. It’s the apostrophe I missed. For once in my life I needed to add an apostrophe, not delete it like all those other superfluous ones running around out there indicating possession when the person meant plural, or substituting for the i in is. Heart is on the left. I. See?

Got it.



We are family
Wednesday November 08th 2017, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

Two moments from the weekend:

At the 65th anniversary party. Was it the cane? My hearing impairment? Or her own age? She would later tell me her childhood memories of LA going black at night after Pearl Harbor–no street lights, no headlights, no house lights near windows, just a total darkness that was new and strange.

She had to ask me twice, even though I actually did hear it the first time–it’s just that it was so unexpected that I had no idea how to respond and I didn’t want to be rude by bursting out laughing.

Again: “Are you Frances’s younger sister?”

(Frances IS the younger sister.) “No, I’m her fourth child.” Alright, then! And the conversation moved cheerfully on, no harm done.

Thing the second. When we stopped by my uncle’s house, we surprised him by coming, even if for just ten minutes or so pre-airport–he didn’t know we were in town–and he surprised us with two bound copies of some essays he’d had printed. He needed a little help figuring out again just what the connection was to his late friends but he knew there was one.

He had been the mission secretary to our daughter-in-law’s great-grandfather. This guy, in the man’s youth. And then he was in the Army with Conway, the man’s son.

There were memories in those pages and he’d wanted his late friend Conway’s kids to have a copy and there we were. Probably the best Christmas present we could possibly pass along to them–not that we’ll wait that long. Uncle Wally is 94 and he’ll want to hear back.

Just let me finish fighting off this bug. It’s down to simple cold status today.



Well not today
Tuesday November 07th 2017, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There were so many sick people in the airports, I forgot to wear a mask, and I bounced my nephew’s baby for awhile despite her cold: she was adorable, and she let me cheer her up even though she didn’t really feel up to it.

Today I know how she felt–it’s been awhile since I’ve been sick enough to sleep away nearly the entire day. And nobody to lift me up high and do head noogies on my tummy while making raspberry sounds. (Chicken soup, though, he did a great job adulting for me. Safer anyway.)

I prefer being just sick enough, if I have to be, to sit and quietly knit. Maybe tomorrow. Night night.



Yup, I got his curls
Monday November 06th 2017, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I got a few good photos of one of them, at least. Mom was always a blur of motion.

Here you go, though: Dad, at church before services started yesterday.

I hope I look that good at 91.



Sixty-five years of marriage
Sunday November 05th 2017, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

My parents celebrated their 65th in great style, first with family, then with friends on Saturday. One of whom pulled me aside and told me, Your parents throw a great party!

Today was the actual day. Turns out today was also my Uncle Wally’s 94th birthday, which we did not know, and he was having a get-together, too, so we swung by there for just a quick visit on our way home.

To back up a little: Friday, we got to the airport two hours early because going any later meant hitting the very worst of rush hour and there was just no way.

Then the flight was delayed two and a half hours.

I cast on a hat right at the beginning and knit. And knit. And knit. Grateful that it was a pretty hefty yarn and size 9 needles so that my hands could just keep going without needing ice packs. (Which is part of why I’d bought three more skeins of Malabrigo Mecha a few days earlier.)

The hat was finished before we landed: all but running in the ends.

We fell into bed in Salt Lake City at last at 1:15 a.m. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) We shall not speak of the car rental agency that did not check the flight status, decided we were no-shows, and did not hold our car nor would they make it right by upgrading us.

My cousin Bruce and his wife were at his dad’s during our brief dropping-by, and she got a chance to tell me how much she loved the soft shawl I’d made her. Looking at her three years later, I’d say that cancer treatment definitely worked. The doctors do theirs, I do mine.

Suddenly it dawned on me–I hadn’t wanted my handknits in my check-in so everything I’d brought to wear in the cold and the parties was stuffed in my purse–and that hat was in there. I asked her do you think he’d like, and as soon as he got wind of that idea, YES he’d love…!

But the ends. This was not quite up to my usual. Did they have a big sewing needle?

Bruce surprised me by saying that his stepmom had taught him how to crochet, so yes, he could figure out the weaving the ends in on the knitting. Then he asked how long it had taken me to make that.

Boggled his mind. “That would be six weeks for me!”

His sister joined the conversation, the cousin whose son I knit a Christmas stocking for earlier, and loved that Bruce got that and then half-turned away so as almost not to say it out loud that she wished she had a hat from me too.

Well, I’d started another one but it was only just started.

Wait. I hadn’t thought of it since I’d packed for the trip, but, I did, I’d brought a baby alpaca lace hat in a deep burgundy and it was right there. She exclaimed in delight as I pulled it out and offered it to her.

It was a little small, which is why I’d never given it away but it had carried it around on various trips to colder places: often taken, never worn but maybe once.

This time our plane was only delayed about fifteen minutes. Fifteen more and that second Mecha hat would have been done. I’m going to ask her if the hat she got really did work for her once she saw it in a mirror, and if not, hey. We’ve got a backup.

It was so very very good to see everybody. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thank you for having us!



Frost coverings
Thursday November 02nd 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Mango tree

I’m picturing Maddy two weeks ago, rocking in toddler exuberance next to me: “Read it AGIN! AGIN!”

He’s about 13. He cat-sits, including for a friend’s elderly cat that needed its meds while its owner had to go out of town and who was very grateful to him for the help. Just a really great kid. And so it finally occurred to me that I could ask if he would mango-tree-sit, too, keeping it covered by night and uncovered by day.

So I sent an email to his mom.

And I got this note back from him:

——

Hello,

This is (editorial note: let’s change it to Jacob). I’d love to take care of your tree. I could stop by with my mom tomorrow between 4 and 5 so you can show me what to do. Will that work? You can pay me $5 for both days.
If it has any favorite books to be read at night, let me know.
Thanks
——–
(I of course promptly upped his pay quite a bit, remember when I was a teenage babysitter and hated it when people asked me how much I charged and how I always asked for too little. I wanted him to be glad he took this on for me.)
Meantime, I guffawed at that note and then read it out loud for my wondering sweetie, who guffawed in turn and promptly found and ordered this: a children’s book about a tree in the forest decorated with things for the wildlife to share. The perfect story.
Maybe it’ll even come in time. Go Jacob!


It was in disguise
Tuesday October 31st 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

We had the usual pumpkin by the door, but it seemed like… It just needed a friend. Or something a little more, anyway.

Several years back, someone posted an offer on the local freecycle page for persimmons. He had lots. I said something about, if you still have some after you’re done with everyone else who asked, I’d love to pick a few up from you; he said, Hey, I’ll drop them by your place on my way by.

Delivery too? Wow, hey, sure!

So. The bell rang, I opened the door–and we both stood there speechless, staring. And then laughing.

Had you asked me his name I’d have been lost, but I definitely knew that face. He recognized me as his folks’ friend from their church.

So every year since, he has offered to bring me some by, and every year I am very happy to be the recipient. I love persimmons. His are the hachiya type, which I prefer and which you don’t want to eat until they’re completely ripe and the tannins are gone: they take on a jelly texture in a puddle of goodness. Peel the skin away and scrape into a bowl with a spoon.

Eric sent me a link to a lot of good recipes last year, but when he asked about it this time, I confessed that I just eat them. (Or freeze towards persimmon-less times of the year and then just eat them.) The fruit is dessert enough.

Those tannins though are why the critters leave them alone until they’re falling off in big rotting splats of orange sugar on the ground, and so, if you have a hachiya persimmon tree, it will become a big, heavy-laden tree, some of it quite high up there, and you will get a whole lot of fruit.

Of which my husband is not a fan. Nor do we have the room, even though they are quite pretty trees. Nor do we want the flock of crows that come feasting on the splats. And so there is not one here.

My saying I could keep one small by growing it in a tub got me a don’t-you-think-you-have-enough-fruit-trees look.

Eric brought me a big bagful a few days ago.

I was looking at that pumpkin out there. All alone. No fake spiderwebs, not even wool roving pulled and shredded to make a natural version thereof.

I grabbed a Sharpie. I drew a happy face. I wrote Boo! And I put that little pumpkin-colored fruit in the windowsill outside next to the doorknob where it would be eye level to the little kids. (Prior to its epic photo session here.)

Richard walked through the door tonight, commented, and then went–Wait. THAT wasn’t a pumpkin!