Over on the coast
Saturday January 23rd 2021, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Were they open? Yes they were, for pickups and deliveries. No the pandemic had not done them in. Hallelujah. So let’s help them stay that way.

There’s a week-long storm rolling in and you do not want to drive Highway 17’s twisty steep narrow mountain passage in the rain and next Saturday looks like a really bad idea. But today was going to be dry and the fire-damaged trees haven’t fallen across it–yet.

I grabbed a hat project that had a second ball of Mecha for the next one in the bag because you never know, right, and we headed out to the car.

I did not knit a stitch. I wasn’t going to miss a moment of seeing every moment of every sight out of sight of the house. (Wow that reservoir is low for January.) We have now been in quarantine for a solid year here.

To Mutari Chocolates in Santa Cruz. Where a dairy allergy is taken good care of and the small-batch chocolate is the very best. It’s a splurge we try to do a few times a year, and the daughter is here for the moment, so, of course.

The hot chocolate.

The chocolate covered orange rinds that are her absolute favorite.

The wild Bolivian bars were mine.

The wild bay laurel truffles we tried were…different, and curious, but declared good.

I confess we did not try the douglas fir truffles. I decorate Christmas trees, I don’t eat them.

Chicken.



Most of the time it goes perfectly well
Friday January 22nd 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Somebody, somewhere, is finding $150 worth of groceries outside their door and wondering who their benefactor is while thinking, ‘hey, cool!’ I hope they really needed it.

I just spent 45 minutes trying to fight my way past Amazon’s circular website h*ll trying to report a Whole Foods order that’s listed as delivered when it was not–at least not at my house. I can get it to list every item as not delivered, but then when I ask for a refund it demands I return the item (and then would probably tell me I can’t return groceries, but never mind.)

Just don’t charge me for what I didn’t get. I can even give them the Ring history to prove it. No car pulled up. Nothing came.

I’m typing this while a bit ticked, all the more so because I’m really hoping it doesn’t come out of the pocket of the one who can least afford it (so just don’t mess up like this, guy) but I’m afraid it might.

I said to Richard, who knows that I remember what it’s like to be young and poor and that I am quite generous on such things, “And I went back and changed the tip to zero. Because I’m mean like that.”

At that he laughed and saved the day for both of us.

If those groceries do actually finally come I have a day to consider adding some level of thank you back in.

But the unrefrigerated shrimp that were a bit of a splurge will be going straight in the trash.

——–

Update: Michelle went on a quick walk and found them next door. I texted the neighbor, wondering if she was in bed, while Michelle went back over there and waved her arms upon seeing that she was up, she was on the other side of the window and the new neighbor opened the door and at the explanation said ohmygosh oh no those aren’t mine take them!

The frozen shrimp wasn’t even cold anymore. Trashed.

But I did put a bit of a tip back in over at Amazon. Because the guy did at least give us a good neighbor story for later, and he tried. Sort of.



From Martin Luther King Jr. to my grandfather
Monday January 18th 2021, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,History

June 23, 1964

The Honorable Wallace F Bennett

Senate Office Building

Washington 25, DC

 

Dear Mr. Bennett:

Your vote together with those of your midwestern colleagues in the Senate was the sine qua non for passage of an effective Civil Rights Act. You have earned the sincere gratitude of freedom loving people the world over. I add to theirs my sincere and heartfelt thanks.

Sincerely yours,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kc

Dictated by Dr King but signed in his absence


Grampa considered that vote the most important one of his 24-year Senate career and told us grandkids that. He nearly lost his seat over it, but he wanted to teach us that standing up for what was right was what he was there for in the first place. As should we in all things.

 



It’s daughter o’clock
Saturday January 16th 2021, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Family

From careful quarantine pod to careful quarantine pod.

After a good dinner, Michelle and I were doing some organizing together in the kitchen and I finally said to her, You know, with all this laughing I’m going to work off those extra pounds while you’re here!

She laughed. Which was perfect.



Pandemic kitchen soup
Friday January 15th 2021, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

A box of chicken stock, a stalk of celery, green onions, let simmer while deciding what they want to be when they grow up. A little extra virgin California Organic olive oil (insert long lecture about how the Feds allow adulterated and lesser grades to be labeled EVOO but California’s grandfathered law requiring California Organic EVOO to be exactly that means that if you buy Californian-grown and organic and extra-virgin olive oil, that specific combination on the label, then you know you got what you paid for.

And it is revelatory if you are new to such.

Apollo‘s varietals are the best I’ve found. It’s like the difference between freshly grated real parmesan cheese and the (delete the phrase hamster bedding) that shakes out of the green can.

Hey, when you live this close to where so much of the country’s food is produced for so long it rubs off on you. Last I saw the baby artichokes 10/$1 sign was still up along the coast.

A few shakes of gumbo file powder for thickener and flavor.

Hmm, a half hour of simmering later, how about a good long squeeze of Costco Californian tomato paste in a tube. We’ve seen those trucks in the Central Valley, stuffed bottom to top with tomatoes and a few red bombs flying off the back (don’t get too close) and splatting on the road behind them as they go. A few bounce. We saw no pallets, no divisions, and no covers (I bet that’s changed now), just open beds piled high like a giant heaping tablespoon of a truckload.

That’s what I always picture when I see tomato paste.

A half package of frozen okra, stir, and let it simmer another half hour.

Here’s where my mom goes, You’re finally eating okra? On purpose?

Then take a small package of precooked Teton Ranch beef sausage links out of the freezer, in my case, which adds a little pepper to it too, or ham, chicken, whatever floats your boat, slice and throw it in and let it keep going till the meat is nice and warm.

Dish and sprinkle grated fresh parmesan on the servings, not in the pot, because there might be some leftovers (there was, though not a lot) and Michelle’s driving down from Washington State for a visit and it would be nice to be able to hand her something dairy-free and good within a minute when she walks in the door tomorrow after that very long drive.

I can’t wait.



Winter spring summer or no don’t do that
Monday January 11th 2021, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Lupus

1. I did the first shingles shot over a year ago and was overdue for the other one. The healthcare provider’s office popped up an auto-notice that my tetanus expired last month.

You do not get near my grands without being up-to-date, not that we can visit them right now, but that was the incentive for me to get it over with.

The nurse insisted on one each arm, not together.

2. I thought about what Mathias had said. Seed starter trays and soil plugs arrived right on cue. I planted tomatoes (or rather, I tried to, they only seemed to actually be able to go in where there was already a hole at the centers.) We’ll make some green inside, too, honey, I thought his direction. And if they get leggy maybe I’ll even buy a plant grow lamp…except that what they need for growth I as a lupus patient need not to be exposed to, and how do you set up a lamp in this house where all its light would be contained and away from me on a timer. Not seeing it yet. Windows will have to make up for my failure of imagination.

3. I twisted my ankle in a good hard fall, more so than last night’s fall, neither one as bad as Richard’s falling over backwards three days ago, and why are we acting so old like that but never mind, icepacks and ankle braces and I’m good to go and he seems pretty much okay now.

4. And now if anyone asks me if the shots hurt I can say no that’s just the other thing. Go, get yours, if you need them!

5. Icepacks really work. I got off easy.

6. Can’t wait to see those tomatoes.

7. There are some pitted Anya apricot kernels thinking about sprouting in their zip locked paper towels in the fridge. I picked out the biggest. One was twins. I am intrigued as to whether that would have any effect at all on what they grow into, other than that most likely they’re duplicates of each other. There is so much I don’t know. I almost chose a botany major and I have at times over the years wished I had.

I could use me some spring right now even if I have to jumpstart it.



Out of the mouths of babes
Sunday January 10th 2021, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We might not be able to fly there right now, but today we got to see Lillian in that very brief stage of toddlerhood where she gets what this talking thing is, she wants to, badly, and she’s putting her all into it.

If you ask her a question and the answer is yes she nods her head so hard her nose points to the ceiling, then the floor, in slow motion as she watches you to make sure she got that right and that she has your full attention, and then she does it again.

We nodded our heads.

She nodded hers, so happy.

She picked up a book. We said, “Book!” Her eyes got big: we knew about those, too? She wanted us to read it but didn’t get that we couldn’t through the screen while she wandered, but she liked that word and she tried it again and again, pursing her lips as far out as they could go to make the sound and really leaning forward along with them but didn’t lose her balance. OOoo. (There may have been a b and a k in there too but I didn’t hear them.)

When her brother cried briefly she ran over to him, wanting to make it all better–and it helped. He wasn’t feeling well, but a hug from his mommy helped, too.

I was trying to come up with good questions to ask a three year old going on four come April to help out, too, and came up with, “What’s your favorite color?”

He told us green: because when it’s green again outside it makes everybody happy.

It just staggered me. How did he already know this?

(Update1/11: Turns out he’d heard his daddy talking about back in Alaska, where Mathias was born. A color that makes people happy? What better could you ask for?)



The celebrations rolled over
Wednesday December 30th 2020, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Last Saturday I was actually starting to feel like baking something festive, y’know, try out that new yarn ball cake pan at last (I’d been avoiding the calories), or make some caramel sauce like my mom always made this time of year and all the possibilities of what I might do with it. Mom always poured it on homemade figgy pudding, but what if I lined my new silicone mini-cupcake molds with chocolate (so they could pop right out after cooling), poured in some cooled sauce, added ganache and chilled it with a raspberry on top…

The oven mitt stockings that a friend laughed and called “The most 2020 thing yet!” came down from the mantle.

The doorbell rang. It was a Christmas present order both for me and for the sake of the local bakery that my kids remember fondly and want to have still be in business when they come back into town.

The youngest on the phone later: Was it from…? Me: Yes. Him: Oh good!

I do believe that was the owner of the bakery himself, masked and handing it to me from arm’s length. He retreated down the walkway and turned: clearly he was hoping to see the look on my face when I opened the box and saw what they’d created. He definitely got what he’d hoped for–my jaw dropped. I looked back up his way and went, Wow!! THANK you!!

He drove off with the biggest smile on his face.

When there are that many calories hanging over you you don’t go making competing ones.

The photo doesn’t quite get the height and depth of the thing. The box stretched across the fridge. It was huge–and very good.

My sweetie enjoyed it for breakfast these past five days; I’m not a big breakfast person and couldn’t bring myself to touch all that sweetness before eleven a.m. but I sure did then. We had it for dessert a few nights. Snacking happened.

Finally, somewhat reluctantly, we watched the last morsels disappear after lunch today. It was time.

I found this recipe tonight and thought, someone was thinking like I was thinking. Maybe I should stuff those chocolate shells-to-be with whipped ricotta instead? Y’know, fewer calories?

Nah. I still want some of Mom’s caramel sauce.



Someone Merry Christmased the whole city
Saturday December 26th 2020, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

You know those monoliths that have been popping up, starting with the metal one in the Utah desert?

Someone set one up on top of, where else could be better, Corona Heights hill in San Francisco. Made of gingerbread. (BBC link.) Frosted around the edges and gum drops for nails.



At sixteen months
Saturday December 26th 2020, 12:09 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

There’s got to be a word for the type of wide shipping box that opens like a lid and closes with flaps at the end tucking inside their slots.

Turns out that if you’re little enough, and the present is still inside the box after the lid has been opened all the way and it’s heavy enough to counterbalance you, you have an impromptu slide just your size and then you do it again because that was fun and the people on the screen are clapping and cheering you on and this box is the best present ever!

The phone is being its usual slow self re photos but meantime here’s last night’s glamour shot of our Christmas stockings before the Chocolate Cherry Fantasies and Sugar Plums from Andy’s got tucked in there.

 



Give them a hand
Thursday December 24th 2020, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

With the neighbor’s trees overhanging our house gone now, the holly has berries for the first time in so many years that I’d forgotten it could.

The Christmas tree isn’t up: a few years ago we bought the widest-but-one, fullest, heaviest tree at Balsam Hill for its lack of allergens but this was just not the year for struggling with it.

Which means I didn’t go sorting through the ornament boxes in the garage to find the one with the stockings in it. I asked him his feelings on the subject and he said, apologetically, Well actually bah humbug?

Oh good. Neither one of us had to feel guilty about it, then. (The lights but one have burned out in the garage so it would be one hand on a flashlight and one hand moving and opening boxes.)

We did have a great time of a Christmas Eve, though, wishing Maddy a happy sixth birthday, talking to Mom, and later Zooming with her and my aunt and a whole bunch of cousins–one of whom I hadn’t seen since her wedding in the early 80’s. Aunt Joyce has always thrown a Christmas Eve party for whoever in the family could come and now we all could from wherever we were.

Emily played The Holly and the Ivy on the piano and it was all I could do not to burst into unexpected tears: with her fingertips gone, there were missed notes–but there was so much feeling, so much living, so much rejoicing in those notes, so much forever the musician no matter what and it was a privilege to be able to witness.

Writing that just now led me to Alison Kraus and Yo-Yo Ma’s beautiful Wexford Carol rendition–I have that album. But my CD player did the 2020 thing and repairs have to wait till after the pandemic and yes of course computers and all that but I’ve simply gotten out of the habit.

It hit me that I have needed more music. It has been missing, and a bit of me with it.

As for the stockings: I had to have something, because I’d bought some great treats at Andy’s Orchard to put in them and whatever with the garage, they refused to be denied.

I was standing in the kitchen…

When in Romaine do as the Romaineians.

It’s awfully handy of oven mitts to come with a loop for hanging them. A few long paper/wire twisties that the vegetable crisper doesn’t need anymore, the long thick wire under the mantle we always hang the stockings from waiting for the new set-up, and there you go. No Santa that doesn’t mean your cookies are in the oven and you have to take them out yourself but thank you for offering to help.

I was leaning over the chair taking a picture of the mitts and smashed the back of the rocker into the underside of my nose because 2020 is into slapstick comedy like that.

Next year will be all about the grandkids. As it should be. I can’t wait.



A concrete example of a good Christmas card
Monday December 21st 2020, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family

The other thing that happened yesterday.

With socially-distanced love from our niece, who texted us afterwards to tell us what she’d done to make sure we would see it before the next rain. Surprise!



Happy Birthsday!
Sunday December 20th 2020, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Today my mom is 90 and our oldest grandson is 10.

Parker got a promise of one toy on the way that had gone late in the package crush out there, and one copy of Sibley’s new What It’s Like To Be A Bird. He plunked down with it and was reading it and showing us things from it by Zoom.

I asked him about loons, just so his daddy could tease me later, and he eagerly looked them up and showed me the large, detailed picture.

There was some surprise in my voice as I said, “That’s beautiful!”

For Mom, all her generations were invited to a family reunion by Zoom where we talked about our favorite memories of her.

I talked about studying her hands as a kid, fervently wishing mine could do what hers did as she knit an aran sweater for my older sister. Of her teaching me how to knit at ten on a car trip around the country and all my dropped stitches going back and forth between me in the far back of the station wagon and her in the front seat for help, and then at 16 when I picked something out of her knitting magazine and asked her to make it for me, she told me, “It’s not your turn. Go make it yourself!”

I was a teenager. I was not about to admit I didn’t remember how.

I did admit I couldn’t remember how to cast on, because there was no getting past that deficit, but after that I went in my room and tried to remember how her hands did it–surely I should know! I used to do this!–and fiddled around till I got it.

Having no idea I’d invented my own way that was completely different from hers–but that would serve my hands much better later in life in terms of arthritis and repetitive motions: I grab and drop the yarn with my right hand every single stitch. Open and close thumb and forefinger lightly, no wrist-twisting and less motioning.

If you’ve ever watched Stephanie Pearl-McPhee knit you know that any claim of my way being just as fast as anybody else’s is absolutely laughable–but against most knitters, I do a definitely respectable pace. But whatever, it’s what works for me to be able to keep going so I’m glad I didn’t ask for help way back when. I could never have known that then.

Mom never gave the slightest hint that I was doing it wrong or even that I was doing it differently because clearly it worked just fine.

Mom didn’t just teach me to knit.

She taught me to see a ball of plain string as all the things it could become–and then to narrow the choices to one, to put in the time and work to make that vision into a real thing and then to use the outcome to bless others.

She taught me that creativity requires perseverance to live up to its potential. That it both teaches and demands ever more learning. That it is worth ripping back to get it right and even that how easy that is depends on what you’re working with.

I’m thinking of her description of buying two sweaters’ worth of pure plucked angora yarn in postwar France, having no idea what that would have cost her back in the States, starting to knit my sister a sweater in the round, finding the yarn felting just from running through her hands and rustling around in her knitting bag–and then finding out she was knitting an inadvertent mobius strip. The world’s softest most incorrigible mobius strip. But she did it, she frogged it. It took her awhile. You see the little moth-eaten yellow ball at the top of this blog and the three scarves I knit out of its leftovers after boiling them in dye to kill the little monsters? That was the last of that angora, decades later. Turns out one of my sisters was allergic to her sweater.

I remember the January in high school when the school district decided to save money by turning off the heat. I had glommed onto Marian’s regretfully handed down (she loved it, she just couldn’t wear it) green angora sweater and walking around in a cloud puff of fur, marveling at how warm it was while everyone around me shivered.

Mom stormed the gates at district headquarters by phone and demanded they turn the heat back on in those schools–and they did!

To this day when joining stitches in the round, be it hat or sweater, I think, no rabbit-hair mobius strips, okay?

Mom looked around at all those gathered around their screens, her children (except one who was out of cellphone range), most of her grandchildren, some great grandchildren–Mathias waved hi uncertainly at all the strange faces and Lillian with cheerful certainty and charmed the socks off everyone for their few moments onscreen–and Mom marveled at how nice we all are. To her, to each other, to everyone. Nice, nice people.

Of course, Mom. You knit our lives together with love. You never said an unkind word about anyone. We’re still all hoping to be like you when we grow up. Happy Birthday!

And Happy Birthday, Parker! You can play some loony tunes on the piano next time we get to get together.



Well what would you call them?
Saturday December 19th 2020, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

People who live in glass houses (floor to ceiling along one and a half walls of this room, but at least it’s double-paned)…

Him in his standard daily year-round boring blue oxford shirt this morning (white on Sundays), surprised: You’re wearing two sweaters!

Me, surprised back, guffawing: I always do. I’ve been wearing two sweaters every day for what, six weeks now? It’s cold.

We’ve both been here all day every day thank you pandemic and it wasn’t like I was sneaking them past him. Men are so funny. I’ve been randomly chuckling all day. I think this particular combination is going to go down as Two Sweaters, linked forevermore.



Clafoutis for all that ails you
Friday December 18th 2020, 12:14 am
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Food,Friends,Recipes

At 9:55 this morning there was one customer being helped and three clerks, the easiest December post office run ever. I told Anne her apricots were on their way and she told me those are the best she’s ever had, she can’t wait. She made my day.

That was just the start.

This afternoon I got a text from a friend: he’d heard Richard was sick; how was he doing?

Definitely getting better, thanks.

Next thing you know there was a second text saying he’d dropped off a little something for us.

I opened the door. He was already gone–which makes sense, because, exposure. There was a bag with eggs, veggies, grits, butter, juice, milk, just because he could. Wow! I was gobsmacked, and so was Richard.

His stomach’s still a bit tender, eggs are easy on it, we were running low, and now we aren’t.

A little history: years ago I got sent to Urgent Care with what was clearly the start of a Crohn’s flare. It’s not like I didn’t know what that was at that point.

To my great surprise the doctor who saw me was dismissive of anything I had to say about that; all he wanted to know was, had I eaten raspberries.

A day or two ago…

He insisted I had salmonella poisoning from Mexican raspberries (who says they weren’t US grown? There was no recall nor mention in the press in either case) and he sent me home without doing anything about the Crohn’s, which is indeed what it was. My GI doctor rolled his eyes with a bit of suppressed indignation at that when I ended up in his office, which made me want to say oh thank you thank you.

So. I found myself thinking, well, you know, though. My husband does not have Crohn’s and he did eat a lot of raspberries when I didn’t.

We had more of them. I wasn’t taking any chances–I baked them into a clafoutis, with some blueberries to get it up to four cups of fruit. Cook’em. They’re probably innocent but this way I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

The recipe calls for whole milk. I substituted the last of some cream 50/50 with the 1% that’s always around and was surprised at how much of a difference it made–it definitely improved it over my usual low-fat ones.

And it’s a good way to get fruit and protein down a whiny stomach.

Thanks to our friend, if Richard wants more, and he’s quite fond of it, I have whole milk in my fridge now and I can make it come out that way again tomorrow.

Clafoutis recipe: butter a 9″ deep-dish pan, not smaller, whip three eggs a goodly while, add 1/2 c sugar, beat, then 1 c whole milk, still beating, a small pinch salt, 1 tsp vanilla, a tbl melted butter, still beating, and then at the last beat in 1/2 c flour. Pour it in the pan quickly, put the fruit on top, bake about 40 minutes, 45-50 in my ceramic pan or till a knife in the center comes out clean. (Ed. to add: oven at 350.)

And then try to wait till it cools, but I won’t blame you if you don’t.