Blueberry and cranberry
Wednesday August 09th 2017, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift,Recipes

This version of blueberry clafoutis. Half a cup of sugar was plenty. Other than that, that’s the one I want to make again. (These are by far the best 8″ cake pans I have ever owned. Highly recommended.)

Meantime, just finished, another cowl in this pattern because it’s an easy one to widen out at the bottom so that it will ease into perfect folds around the neck without messing up the continuity of the lace within.



Where you least expect it
Friday July 28th 2017, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Andy’s called me yesterday to let me know that if I still wanted a case of Baby Crawfords, they were in.

Hey! Twist my arm! But Richard had a doctor’s appointment and I didn’t have the car, so it had to wait till today.

(That mole on him I didn’t like? After all the times they said it was nothing, they finally tested it. Basal is the kind of cancer you want it to be. It’s gone now. Please get yours checked so you, too, can luck out like that.)

Andy’s let me make off with a case of half Lorings and half Kit Donnells too as long as I was there: I don’t run out of people who wish for his peaches like I don’t run out of people who want me to knit for them. I almost chose all Kit Donnells (seriously, Mom and Dad. If only I could bring you a taste-testing party.) But when there are my childhood’s Lorings one must buy at least a few and they are far from shabby.

The first one went to the guy who was panhandling at the end of a freeway offramp. The light did him the favor of being red (funny how that happens). I reached behind me, having no idea which box was closest, and motioned him over and handed him this enormous peach that was giving way slightly in my fingers from the weight of its own juice, telling him it had just come off a tree in Morgan Hill. (Found out later it was one of the Lorings.)

“Thank you. Thank you,” he said, and turned back to his post and sign and seat, devouring the thing, the pit showing top to bottom inside that beautiful ball in his hands as my light turned green.

And that. That was the best-tasting peach of all.



Up the canyon
Sunday July 23rd 2017, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Lupus

The hats: they knew I loved to knit but they never at all expected me to knit for them.

And I never really expected them to instantly treasure them that hard, but they did, which made me want to jump right in and do that again for someone else. Some people just recharge the knitting batteries by who they are, y’know?

The figs: rolled in melted butter, roasted, then drizzled with a little honey–mostly because they were from the store and picked before they were as ripe as they should have been, and once you pick them off the tree they’re done. Not much to these on their own.

And yet.

The scent didn’t quite pull me in all the way but then that first bite did: instantly I was back at the summer when I was eight and a half and my little sister turned seven. Our grandparents took us on our first plane rides (one dressed up for it in those days) to stay with them for two weeks in Utah.

And part of that stay was at the cabin they owned up near one of the ski resorts high in the mountains. There was no phone service, unless you took a goodly walk down the road to the country store there, and that made it perfect for Grandpa to have an actual vacation: nobody could reach him unless he wanted them to, or unless they were willing to make the long steep drive up that mountain, and if it was that important it would be something they didn’t want discussed on a public phone in front of everybody, in which case we kids were to clear out of the cabin till called back.

My grandmother tells the story in her autobiography of being woken up in the middle of the night by the phone ringing in the next apartment over at their DC place, and as soon as she was awake enough to be glad her freshmen Senator husband wasn’t important enough for reporters to flock to for a quote and started falling back asleep, by their own. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just broken and reporters wanted these two Senators’ reactions to the news. Well, actually, they were sound asleep and oblivious, thanks. Were.

Grandpa very much believed in being of service to his constituents, but those two weeks every summer he wanted his time to hike and think and just be. To have a break. I think they said that just once, someone on staff had made that drive up, but I’m not sure.

There were a few paths through the woods and there were rules: one does not play in the creek. The drinking water is taken straight from it to all the cabins up there as is and one does not contaminate it. Ooh, but look at the fish! And that tiny chipmunk. It’ll take a peanut from your outstretched fingers if you hold very very still. This over here is stinging nettle–if you touch it you’ll find out how it got its name, and you don’t want to. (I did, twice, but not on purpose, and Gram was right. It hurt like mosquito bites itch.)

I remember how very very cold the water in that creek was (I let it run and splash over my hand but I did not put my feet in it. On purpose, anyway.) It curved right below their patio out their back door. The idea that it could be barely melted snow in the middle of summer was a wonder to me.

I pulled lunch out of the oven this afternoon and wondered, what…something…

Something wild that grew at that cabin that my brain could almost, almost pick out from half a century ago, so close, and if the figs had been ripe I think they would have missed it entirely.

I could hear my grandparents’ voices again, from when I thought they were old but had no idea. They would have been 67 and 68, with 96 and 95 still to come.

When they died, there was no way to pass the place down in the family; there were too many of us to divide it up amongst. But a cousin bought it, and she and her husband are generous in sharing the space.

And so, two summers ago, we cousins were nearly all of us there again taking in the familiar old log cabin essence, with maybe an extra couch now as we squeezed in. I didn’t take the hikes through the woods that the others did for old times’ sake, thanks, lupus, and yet the air was crisp and cool as I remembered it, full of unique growing things that do not live where I do, the wildness in the elevation and air and trees.

Those figs. I wonder. Something surrounding that path by the creek. Someday I hope to go back and maybe I’ll find what they were trying so hard to belong to.



Roughly the same color
Thursday July 20th 2017, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift

With a little more brown to the hat.

Yeah, yeah, baby blanket baby blanket but this merino just leaped onto the needles in spite of me and demanded to be done right now. Right now. (Don’t look too closely at that cast-on edge, I was in a hurry.)

Clearly it is the boss of me.

Meantime, Richard is finally getting a pie from the cherries I bought at Andy’s last Friday. It seemed the right day for it. It doesn’t look perfect either but I just pulled it out of the oven and trust me when I say that that won’t stop us. (Pro tip: if you open the oven with one hand and try to take the photo of it there with the other, that hot steam as you look through the viewer is not your phone melting after all.)



It takes the cake
Saturday June 24th 2017, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Recipes

I was in the home stretch, one eye on the clock, thinking, I can get this done before bed and even still get a little blogging time in.

Michelle, who’s in town for her friend’s wedding, texted me: could I? Pretty please?

She’d been going to make an almond cake from the fresh almond paste she got at Milk Pail this afternoon: one of the perks of a trip home. But there was no way she was going to get back from that reception in time tonight–it takes an hour to bake.

Well, hey, I can make one of those really fast… (The recipe says baking powder in the list of ingredients, baking soda in the instructions. Do it in baking powder.)

The cast-off was finished at 10:55. The cake came out at 11:00 pm. I did it!



Memo: While You Were Out
Friday June 23rd 2017, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Recipes,Wildlife

Cooper’s hawk. Adult. Right there, intently watching my patio and back door as I came around the corner of the yard from trimming back the kids’ old climbing tree that had been shading my tomatoes a bit.

I stepped quickly back behind the house–but I think my startling it cost it its dinner. Sorry about that.

I came inside a few minutes later with  these Yellow Transparents. It is a sign of how different things are this year, drought-wise, that I still have plenty on my tree, proof that the squirrels don’t touch the tart stuff unless they’re starving: this year they have better options.  (Whatever they are out there, starting with my California Coffeeberries).

A little apple juice, four small quartered apples, cover, zap five minutes, cool, scrape off the skins and voila! Apple sauce for two.

And a Mathias picture just because.



Happy face yarn
Saturday June 17th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit,To dye for


Showing off Andy’s Bing and Rainier cherries, before the sugar/flour/cinnamon/almond and top crust.

Meantime, this was some 50/50 merino/silk from Colourmart, and I knew from knitting my brother a hat out of it in double strands of navy that it was warm, soft, and well spun, I knew my hands loved the stuff, but all they had left was this faded dusty taupe/sage mix that did not do a thing for me. Cannot beat that closeout price, though– (150 g/$12 ppd) –all it needed was a little work.

Hank, scour the mill oils out in hot soapy water, overdye, rinse, then wind it up once it’s dry. Jacquard Acid Dye in (not a whole lot of) Bright Blue with just a touch of vinegar in the pot that helped the yarn take up the dye during the simmering.

It’s still got just a bit of earthy tone in some lighting from its ancestral color but I like it much better now.



Took him by surprise
Monday June 05th 2017, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I came around the corner. Perfect raspberries, a few thin slices of banana, low-fat vanilla ice cream (so we don’t feel guilty), thick caramel sauce (so we do) and as I handed him his perfect Mel-and-Kris bowl made all the more so his eyes got big. He had not heard me in the kitchen.

And a bowl for me.

No camera was able to race there in time.



Fork it over
Sunday June 04th 2017, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Tortes: two delivered and still waiting on the third.

One couple surprised me when I showed up. They’d brought me back these large wooden salad spoon and fork from a trip to Bali. (That is not a small serving bowl.) Beautiful, handcrafted, and absolutely unexpected.

Y’know, it had been bugging me for some time that I hadn’t yet gotten around to knitting anything for her, enough so that I’d already ordered what I think would be just the right yarn. And it’s here now. So let me go fix that.



It all ovens out
Saturday June 03rd 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

(Note to self: do not snitch the random bits of cherry goodness in the middle of the pan when taking the picture unless you smooth over the evidence first.)

So in the last few days I’ve made a cherry pie–and if you don’t have one, get this. Seriously. It’s fast and they come out pretty. Never again hassle with a knife to try to pry those stones out–not to mention the little-kid satisfaction of Hulk! Smash! I don’t love throwing a bunch of dumb kitchen gadgets in every drawer but I can’t praise my cherry pitter enough.

Well maybe sort of I could. To explain: I got the four-cherry version, but six would have been even better, both the number and the fact that a year later I forgot mine only does four, not eight, that the holds-eight base is that way because it’s supposed to flip around to accommodate small vs big cherries. Thus, even though I thought I double-checked every one after I realized my mistake, I missed a pit from the back that Richard found in his first bite of pie. Oops. There are only four pitting rods. I think I will circle the 4 on the box in thick black Sharpie for next year, loudly. (Edit–done.)

And I baked four chocolate tortes and a chocolate hazelnut torte.

I tried something new and it really did work: probably not for a cheesecake, but for a torte, lining the nonstick pan with (buttered) parchment paper that has handles meant I could pull gently on the tabs, then put a (Chinet in this case) plate over the cooled torte, flip it over, peel the tabs away and then the main part and it did the job of a springform pan without the leaks and with a perfectly formed lower (now upper) edge. This parchment paper. These pans. I’ve tried them all and those are definitely the keepers on all counts.

I’d promised a torte to each friend who gave us a ride to or from the airport in the past month. All of them said I didn’t need to. None of them complained when I said I was going to anyway, and I ordered the manufacturing cream to have it ready for pick up the day we got home. (Was that really only Monday?)

Phyllis and her husband said Yes please! when I asked last night if I could drop theirs by.

Jen said she’d be by Sunday for hers.

Karen’s is in the fridge, too.

Kim…got back to me. She has a relative coming into town Sunday who was celiac; was it gluten free?

Hers is now. She assured me her visitor wouldn’t mind if they ate in front of her, but I figure I’m doing this to make people feel good, not to feel left out; after getting the okay, hazelnut (recipe in link) it was.

So suddenly I had an extra. And now I know that if you fold in the sides of the Chinet plate Kim’s first 8″ torte was on, you can slide it into a ziplock gallon size freezer bag for future reference.

Meantime, I’ve still got enough manufacturing cream for two more tortes with all the leftovers after that for summer fruits that we could ask for. Somebody else needs to be made happy here. We’re not done yet.



Still enough left to make pie
Wednesday May 31st 2017, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Michelle had to fly into town for a work meeting today. She came early and spent the night here–and in the morning surprised me with the news that she had just called Mariani’s and they opened at ten: we could get her to her meeting in San Mateo on time if we hurried. We could do it. You want to go?

A mini-road trip to Andy’s with my daughter for old times’ sake? For fresh-picked cherries? Is this a trick question?!

Typing this as Richard reaches for another one…



Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing…
Wednesday April 19th 2017, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Food,Friends,Life

My daughter-in-law had a moment of great inspiration that blessed a lot of us. That will be a story to tell, probably next week.

Meantime, today I had an appointment with the ENT who, years ago, diagnosed my hearing loss as being caused by an allergy to aspirin and thereby stopped its progression. I owe him much. He’s also the one whose love of his garden sparked my own fruit tree and veggie planting and I adore him.

He was running a moment late. And because he was running late, I ended up pulling back into my driveway exactly at the moment a neighbor from across the fence was standing right there, having stopped to talk to the guy next door after having walked all the way around the block in hopes of seeing me and finding me not there. But then I was.

If you remember the saga of the big ragged broken sad ugly Snoopy weathervane skewered on the fence that bugged me so much for so long and an elderly neighbor’s anger at my asking her to take it down or to let me help her do so, this was her.

I wanted peace between us after that. Praying was something I could do while trying to figure out how to create some positive interactions, and we have had some since then.

I stumbled across an article on war brides from her native land that left me feeling for the first time like I could understand why she came across the way she did–it was a survival tactic that had helped those women survive.

Whether it actually applied to her or not I don’t know for sure, but I do know that for me it helped a lot.

Last week I left a stalk of bright red amaryllis flowers in a vase by her door after no one answered. (At her age, I just hoped she was still there but nothing had changed in her front yard, so…)

Here she was, responding in kind. She had a surprise for me. I looked in and laughed, “You didn’t need to return the vase!” There were dark-chocolate-covered butter cookies in there, too. Wow. Yum. “Thank you!”

But here is the thing: she was radiant. She glowed with love, and we gave each other a big hug and I didn’t even know she does hugs. My next door neighbor shared in by saying I’d given them an amaryllis, too, and his being there made it all the sweeter. Had he not stepped outside to put his trash bin away just in time to see and delay her by visiting a moment she probably would have missed us both.

She said, “But when the flowers got old they dripped red. It looked like blood!” She turned and said it a moment later to him, too, in case he hadn’t heard it the first time. I grinned at the scandalousness of its dastardly deed. Yeah, they do that. And thought, actually, it would probably make a great dye for my wool, but who would ever sacrifice the number of flowers it would take to find out?

Only later did the thought occur to me that, oh, I hope that didn’t cause her any flashbacks. But judging by her face and her voice, I think, I think, we did just fine there. Replace the old memories with the new. Better. Happier. And hey–amaryllises!



Soggy serial
Sunday February 19th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Three and a half inches of rain due in the next 24 hours and more after that. It’ll be interesting to see if we get any peaches off those early blossoms.

Michelle is home for the weekend and talked me into trying out this almond cake recipe. I used a tablespoon less butter (because it seemed so much), a little more almond paste because why not use it all up, and added a half teaspoon of almond extract after taking a poll and getting two enthusiastic votes yes on the extract.

She was right–that one is definitely company-worthy.



It’s a toss-up
Saturday February 11th 2017, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

I sure don’t think the hawk dropped them, and the squirrels only tear an occasional one apart when they’re thirsty enough–when they do, though, you know from a distance that they did.

I was putting the frost covers on the mango for the evening when I happened to glance across the yard: say what?! My lemons aren’t that color and they sure don’t fall over there (or at all, until they’ve been hanging on the tree until the next crop comes in and there are none of those right now.)

I went and looked. I’d been outside earlier and they hadn’t been there then. I picked up one, more over there, finally six, a few of them cracked open from the impact. They’d been tossed a good toss.

Oranges.

Most people plant dwarf versions in their backyards; my Meyer lemon is probably older than I am but it’s not much taller.

But someone across the corner and down a bit at the fence line had planted a now-immense citrus that goes up nearly to the top of the power pole, and right now it is loaded, and since it was planted close against the fence, at least a third if not half the crop is accessible only to the other side. Free fruit!

And on that other side is my neighbor with early dementia whom I planted my Indian Free peach for. Our fig tree will spill over into their yard, too, when it gets bigger, if they want it to.

They’ve been anticipating those peaches and I have no doubt that Adele wanted to share back. She’s always loved knocking on my door in the summer and offering us some of her tomatoes.

I sent her husband a note telling him how loved it had made me feel that she’d made sure we could enjoy some of those oranges, too, if that was her–but I also mentioned still being in recovery from a serious head injury; maybe she could roll them gently over the top of the fence next time? (Hey, I could walk over there and visit with her and give him a reprieve for a moment, too.)

Just let me offer a gentle mutiny on the bounty, I thought. In the current delivery method, it’s the thought that klonks.

I think I need to go back to wearing that helmet in the back yard again, just to be sure.



Death Star butternut
Tuesday January 03rd 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Politics,Recipes

So today the House of Representatives, having decided that, Ethics Committee? We don’t need no stinkin’ Ethics! found that having the voters storm the gates by the thousands and thousands in protest meant that, Oh wait, what we meant to say was of course we do!

Meantime, we had one last Pilgrim butternut squash from the garden. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for months. There was no way my still-broken right knuckle was coming anywhere near the size of knife and amount of oomph it would take for me to break into that thing and I didn’t like that stringy variety enough to ask Richard to bother–we’d tasted those.

It was left for last because it had a bit of a Death Star look to it: a squirrel had taken a bite out of the bulbous end when it was quite young and it had crusted over and healed while the rest of the bulb part swelled and grew huge around it. I figured there was no squirrel spit inside, but still…

Sunday, the Merc ran this column. Don’t slice your fingers. Just put the whole thing in the hot oven like a baked potato. Simple.

Well, that would finally get it off my counter, at the very least. I tried it. No foil, it didn’t deserve it and it kinda came in its own anyway, I just threw it in and on second thought grabbed it back and put a cookie sheet underneath. Good thing.

I’d felt a bit conned by the ad copy claiming it was one of the best-tasting.

Well let me tell you. It is now. Or at least til I grow me some Walthams later, as someone suggested here for next time. But man that was good! It steamed and caramelized itself and the shell peeled off like paper. Still slightly stringy inside, but I could Cuisinart the leftovers (it had been six pounds) into a pumpkin pie that wouldn’t need much or any sugar added; it’s got its own this way.

It did try to live up to that Death Star persona one last time, though: it exploded at the flaw straight down onto the cookie sheet, where the sugars blew up like a marshmallow and then blackened into a finely molded dust while the smell let you know that that squash really did need to come out of there!

Oooh, but the rest of it…! I am definitely growing squashes again and I wasn’t sure of that before.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young mom of thinking I would finally put the actual fillet knife someone had given us to its purported use and I bought a live fish from an Asian market. I chose it, they cleaned it, and then I painstakingly tried to follow James Beard’s instructions on how to carve the scales off. I spent quite a bit of time ever so carefully hacking away while trying not to damage the thing and finally, feeling like an utter failure, looked at how little I’d gotten done and how bad it looked, said nuts to this, and simply threw foil around it and let the oven take care of it while I caught up with whatever my kids had been getting into during my distraction.

I pulled it out of there with the skin falling away with the foil. The idea of trying to ditch the scales and keep the skin for the perfect restaurant presentation had been ridiculous all along. It didn’t have to be the hard way at all.

Fish, squash, and Congressmen: they can come out right after all, all you have to do is surround them with heat.