First ice cream
Tuesday February 20th 2018, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Wait. Daddy. This is Alaska and we’re always bundled up trying to stay warm and yes I’ll hold the napkin for you but you want me to put something that looks like snow *inside my mouth*?

It felt like snow, too–the next photo was of a baby recoiling in shock and betrayal.

The next photo was of a baby doing a double take.

The next photo was this long, thoughtful look as it dribbled down his chin: Cold. Food?

Yes. Yes. I think I do. I don’t know how but I like this. Daddy? More?



Love by chocolate
Tuesday February 13th 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

My friend Karen dropped by today to pick up the amaryllis I’d promised her (thank you, Dad!) and we ended up chatting awhile.

One of the things she told me was something that in 30 years I’d never known about her: that her family had had an older neighbor who’d never married and had no family around and they with their seven sons had just kind of adopted him as their local grandpa and he loved it. They had had him over for dinner at least once a month for forever and made him theirs.

When he could no longer care for himself and needed to go to a memory care unit, they helped him with that move. He’s 96 now.

She was talking to someone who worked at the nursing home and that is how she found out that the residents got fruit for dessert: but no chocolate. Never chocolate. There was just no reason for it in the caretakers’ eyes, I suppose, nor for the expense.

“Not even, like, brownies?”

Nope.

Well that was definitely something she could do something about–she knew how much he loved the stuff and went to his room and asked him if he’d like some chocolate.

Now, he might have some dementia but he remembered chocolate. Definitely yes. Yes please!

So now she has something she know she can do to cheer him up, to connect to him wherever he may be in there, every time she comes.

And I thought I would pass the good word along. If you don’t know how to visit or what to say to someone in a nursing home–bring them chocolate.

And if it’s ever me in there, dark would be great, thanks.



Hoping for seconds
Monday February 05th 2018, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

When the baby steals your chocolate chip cookie and suddenly realizes that your food tastes better than his food…



David
Tuesday January 30th 2018, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

We are home today. So let me first tell you one story that was not from the funeral.

My cousin David was flying in to Salt Lake City and was going to be playing piano at our aunt’s house. Now, when I say piano, you have probably never heard someone who can play like he can. I’m quite serious. And that house was built by our grandfather and concert-pianist grandmother so as to bring out the best in the music.

He invited all the cousins to come who could and offered to accompany them for anything they might want to sing or play. David being the one who, as a teen, would spend two hours on public transit to watch a show on Broadway, two more hours to come home, and sit down at the piano and play every piece he’d heard note-perfect. And now he’s a professional composer and musician in New York.

It just so happened that our trips to Salt Lake were happening on the same weekend.

I showed up late, with apologies; the funeral and family reunioning afterwards had gone into overtime and I had needed to be there, too. (Richard, grieving his father, decided on one-on-one time with my dad, who was not up to going to that, too, while I went to the concert. My mom was already there.) There were lots of people and lots of chairs set out but I saw none that were empty and simply plunked myself on the floor by the door. No biggy. It’s about the music and the people, not about the seating.

Aunt Joyce stopped David (who could not see me from behind a wall) between pieces and motioned over to me: there was an empty chair over here for me, and here, let’s set up more over near the kitchen for any other latecomers. Which were indeed put to use.

Now, there were several rows to the right where she was and then there was this one single chair forward of everybody else and kind of in the musicians’ faces. And that’s where they put me. Close to the piano, close (and almost in the way of) the vocalists. At least two of whom sing professionally on Broadway and, wow. Sitting there was like I had my old hearing back.

David declared it the last piece, and after that, stood and invited everybody to join him now for cake.

It was his birthday, a milestone birthday at that–I’d had no idea. Well then that makes this all the better.

I caught his eye from up there in my front row of one and kind of raised a finger halfway in a gesture of “wait” and then hesitated a moment, because this was his party, his celebration, his gift to us, and I didn’t want to distract from that in any way. And yet it just seemed a good time.

“I have an original composition.”

I had mentioned no such thing to him while he was planning this. He was surely jet-lagged–it was quite late his time–and he had no idea what to expect from his musical cousin who had lost most of her hearing. He looked afraid that this was somehow going to turn awkward, or, or what, but I was pulling this on him after he’d already said the playing was over and he didn’t know what I was up to and he wasn’t quite sure how to react.

And then I reached down to my unzipped purse and quickly handed it to him kind of folded and scrunched inside my hand and watched his face as he realized what he suddenly was holding.

The surprise. What it was. The crowd roared as it saw. I wanted to say it was from all of us here in thanks for what he’d just given us but I didn’t want to interrupt him in that wordless moment.

He held the black and white soft wool piano hat out for all to see. And then he put it on his head and folded up the brim. “It’s PERFECT! I LOVE it!”

I had wanted to make him one for a long time, and the chance to give it to him in person got it to finally happen.

A little later, as people were chatting and enjoying that cake, Aunt Joyce, who teaches flute, plays professionally herself, and who’d done a duet with him a few minutes earlier, asked me how long it took me to make that. She was quite taken with it.

I don’t yet know how to make a flute hat, but clearly pianos were acceptable–and so I pulled a second one out of my purse, with brown at the brim and the top that made it go perfectly with the outfit she had on.

“No!” in disbelief.

I grinned.

What I didn’t tell them was, I had made that three-color one first. It was in a yarn new to me that took some tweaking of how I usually knit that pattern. I wanted it not too thick looking but quite warm. I liked it–but it came out just a tad slouchy and it seemed not quite the thing. It was good but I strongly felt it needed a do-over. Take out a row here, here, and these few too. I felt very pleased after the second one: I’d gotten it right for him this time.

So then but who was the other one for? There are a lot of musical people in the family to choose from. I would have to find out.

And then when she, the hostess of the evening, picked up his, not hoping nor asking for one in any way but simply appreciating the artistry that went into it, the question answered itself.



A brief interruption
Sunday January 07th 2018, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Food,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Quite to my surprise, my stomach demanded a divorce from dinner. Richard is utterly unaffected. Maybe it was (hopefully it’s only) the recalled romaine lettuce? It arrived in a produce box, overnighted in the fridge, but all I ever did with it after that was I threw it away after I read the recall alert and quickly washed my hands.

I think I just need a good night’s sleep. I’ll tell you the cowl story tomorrow. It’s a happy one.

Oh and–there was a new chunk out of the pumpkin too big to be from a squirrel.

The skunk smell was stronger inside than outside this morning (I really should not have opened that door) and the car got it, too. It probably took cover under there afterwards.



Trespass
Saturday January 06th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Wildlife

So here was the plan: today the weather was clear. I was going to get a few things at Costco and then do a quick run to Trader Joe’s, in part because we are supposed to be absolutely inundated with rain Monday and that is something I don’t want to feel any complaints about–we need that water. There will likely be some flooding and there will definitely be some bad driving on the road then. We were running low on juices and Richard is still recovering from the flu and it made no sense not to get it all done today.

I wanted to finish that cowl but it was time to put it down and just go.

I decided to run home between the two stores to put the cold things away. Walking in the door, I noted that the pimply Halloween pumpkin (chosen for its oddities) was still holding court there as always but it had finally been discovered by the squirrels. Maybe time to chuck it into the city’s compostables bin, but the thing still had character to it, I was busy, and I left it there for the moment.

This, into the fridge, that, into the freezer, I walked down the hall for something–

–wait. Can you–is that?

I opened the front door and shut it again fast. Man. I didn’t see the skunk but it was right outside there somewhere in the early dark and it had already declared loudly how very unhappy it felt. I hadn’t heard the neighbor’s dog bark to set it off, and besides, it was closer than that–maybe there were two of them arguing over territory? In our yard? Wouldn’t that be peachy?

It was probably able to watch me standing there in the light of the doorway even if I wasn’t seeing it.

Let me assure you Sir Pepe Le Peu that you are welcome to all the pumpkin you want. Gourmet variety, I assure you. (I would have to open the gate and step further into the dark to chuck it and if the skunk was on the other side of that gate than I would be scaring it into a corner to do so. Let’s not.)

I waited a few hours before I finally risked all and Wonder Womaned it out of there: we now have milk and apple juice and cream for that sticky toffee pudding recipe I want to try. Do I go for the classic, the full-calorie version, or the dairy-free oat flour healthy one (with regular sugar) that sounds like it’s actually more like Trader Joe’s’s that was so good? Is there an Instant Pot recipe? Anybody made this, any suggestions?

The door is now closed tight for the night. The pumpkin awaits (as far as I know, anyway.) Let the wild rumpus begin.



Old friends
Thursday December 14th 2017, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

I baked Phyl and Lee a chocolate torte yesterday and didn’t manage to finish glazing it with the ganache until just after they’d shown up at our doorstep last night–with a surprise gift from Prolific Oven with “Happy Birthday Alison” on it. What comes around…

We stopped by and visited Betty today, and if she didn’t remember who I was this time she sure didn’t let on. Fifteen or twenty minutes was enough, she was starting to fade, but she wished me a happy birthday and I wished her one, too, a few days before her 93d. Richard asked her her favorite Christmas carol and then sang it, with me coming in and out (mostly out) depending on whether I could remember the next lines or not–it wasn’t one I knew well. His was a voice of angelic intention.

Came home, started a half-load of laundry, all we dare do till that machine is repaired or replaced–and there was a gurgle in the bathtub. Did you hear that? He knew. It took me a moment longer.

It wasn’t just one bathroom, either. Don’t turn on that dishwasher.

We have to decide which plumber to call in the morning, fully aware that we were once given a $7000 estimate on ripping up the front yard for the complete sewer line do-over that has been coming for some time.

Yeah… But our daughter sent us video of the baby’s first crawling, we got to FaceTime with him yesterday and this time he knew exactly who those people on the screen talking to him were, we got to likewise see the grandkids in San Diego across the electrons and Parker, who is somehow already turning seven next week, proudly played Hark How The Bells for us (with two hands!) on the piano.

And life is pretty darn sweet.



Good and busy
Thursday December 14th 2017, 12:36 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Good times, good friends, a good day, good night.



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.



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.”



Tomatoes, still
Saturday December 02nd 2017, 12:08 am
Filed under: Food,Garden

December first. Thirty-eight degrees last night. I went out this morning and around to the side of the house to the Sungold tomato hedge that is a single monster plant, and it was happily carrying on as usual.

There was a deep orange cherry tomato tucked halfway down that I’d missed earlier. I was curious. I know that any fruit or vegetable you pick will be sweetest earliest in the morning; I also know that tomatoes have a gene that turns the sweetness off if the fruit gets too chilled, which is why you don’t put them in the fridge.

It wasn’t a summertime Sungold but it was still definitely a good tomato. I didn’t know you could still get that this time of year.

Still. It’s probably time to pick all the big green ones and bring them inside.



Goaty McGoatface
Monday November 20th 2017, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Food

(Title in reference to a certain research vessel.)

Milk Pail has every kind of cheese you could think of.

He came back with goat brie. Well okay, why not?

And so we tested that recipe. I generously buttered a pan, rolled a pound of frozen cherries in Bistro Blends fig balsamic (bought at Stitches back when one of their vendors was still selling there) and into the pan and threw it in the oven for about half an hour till tender. I covered the toast with the brie, shaved a little dark chocolate on, then covered every inch with half those cherries. Open face.

And back into the oven with you.

They came out bubbling and beautiful, just beautiful.

The remaining half pound of cherries in their–what shall we call it? Cherry gravy?–got thrown in the Cuisinart, where they turned into a fabulous marinade for I’m not sure what yet but trust me it will be. I’ll happily buy more cherries just to make more of that.

The sandwiches were not quite what I had originally expected given that extra tang in there. But yeah. We would definitely do that again. No artsy pictures here; they disappeared too fast.



To brie or not to brie, is that a question?
Sunday November 19th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food

Sweet cherries rolled in good balsamic vinegar and then roasted, then piled on top of brie with a bit of dark chocolate for your grilled cheese sandwich. At the end of this week you could probably tuck a bit of leftover turkey in there, too.

The pictures are prettier than any words I could come up with. (Let’s see, got aged Cabot cheddar, maybe tomorrow…)

Food! Fruit! The patient is clearly feeling better.



A thank you, 45 years late
Saturday November 18th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

She found me via the high school reunion messages and friended me and sent me a message: she was looking for my book. Turns out she’s a new knitter.

I promptly responded with, It’s yours. Happy Birthday.

And then I explained a little.

We were in French 2 class in junior high, stuck with the same teacher we’d had the year before for French 1: a woman I now see as terribly depressed, but in her classroom, we kids simply kept our heads down and tried to dodge being a target and there were a lot who did not continue on.

I remember a kid in Fr. 1 who, on being called to read aloud, made what to the rest of us was an obvious mistake, y’know, the kind of thing the other kids might tease him for–but what happened is that the woman demanded that he leave right now if he was going to be like that! “If you have been in my classroom six weeks and still don’t know that in French we…!” He was not misbehaving in any way. It was our first semester in a new language–what did we know? I just remember sitting there stunned. Way to make him want to learn, lady.

So here we were across the hall the next year and she called on me to read something aloud. Now, my folks had had a French couple come stay with us for several weeks when I was two, and I think again when their daughter was two so I would have been six? (Mom, Dad, am I getting that right?) And my parents talked to each other in French when they didn’t want us kids in on the conversation, making us keen to learn.

So I had a slight head start at least on accent on the other kids, and that teacher tended to see me as being less trouble than the others.

She called on me to read something out loud.

Now, there was this phrase that I’d seen a few times before but had never known what language it was in and there it was–it was French. Okay, that made sense. Having been immersed in phonics in elementary school, I dove right into it. The v came after the r.

English phonics. Just like that other kid had instinctively done.

Horse DOOvres. With an h, no less. There is no h sound in French.

The teacher roared in indignation, betrayed. The classroom was a mixture of loud relieved laughter that it wasn’t them and as much teasing as they dared say out loud in that classroom. This was the DC area and there were kids in that school whose parents attended embassy balls and political dinners and the like and were well familiar with such edibles, but not me at thirteen.

Charm, a desk or two over, whom I saw as one of the popular girls while I was not, rescued me with the quiet words: “Hors d’ouvres.”

Me, suddenly putting it all together, the sounds, the spelling–so that’s…! Oh! Then, brightly, helpfully, I echoed her. “Hors d’ouvres.”

The teacher grumbled.

I went on in French through my senior year in spite of her.

And horse doovres has been an in-joke with my husband for decades.

I’ve owed Charm a thank you for a long, long time now.

She marveled at my good memory as we typed, and I guffawed quietly and thought oh honey if you only knew. But on that one? I had been the target. And she had saved me from it. She was nice when she didn’t have to be, even risking bringing the wrath of that teacher on her own head for my sake back when we were all bratty insecure adolescents.

I owed her.



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!