Lockdown day 14 ends week six of our personal quarantine
Sunday March 29th 2020, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Food

I baked these yesterday.

They were supposed to be for the freezer for bites for breakfast: chocolate, eggs, hazelnuts, sounds pretty healthy, right?

Only, the freezer is still waiting and I walked in the kitchen this afternoon to–wait. Wow.

So now there are two.

(Turns out I needed two pans for one chocolate hazelnut torte recipe and I only had the one, so the other half of the batter became an 8″ cake which is as yet untouched. Because it looks too big and caloric to break into. I know, I know…) 

 



Lockdown days eight through twelve
Friday March 27th 2020, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Last summer I bought some apricots at Andy’s Orchard that did not taste like any apricot I had ever had in my life. Not only were they sweet, there was a richness and a depth and spiciness and indescribable something and wow were they good. And this from someone who had once thought apricots were kind of meh–but having read a little about what Andy had now, and having tasted his Blenheims, I had to give the new varieties a try.

Someone he worked with had spent decades going into some of the more dangerous parts of the world where they’d originated, trying to discover what that particular fruit was meant to be. He collected the pits and brought the best home to see what might grow in the very different climate of near-coastal California.

He sold a few trees to Andy, but they are not for sale to the general population.

And yet, the pits from the ones I marveled over were going to be at last halfway from one of those trees and the other parent was at the very least going to be something Andy grew and you know that that meant it would be something you’d be glad to have.

And so I looked up how to sprout apricot kernels.

There was a consensus that they had to be kept chilled in the fridge for months. From there the advice diverged wildly: one writer was adamant that they must be sprouted in the fridge as well, another that you needed a heating pad. One said wrap them in wet paper towels after the winter chilling (I couldn’t see how the rot sure to come would help anything), another said soak them overnight.

I soaked them overnight and wondered if I’d drowned them all and would have to wait a whole ‘nother year to try.

I tried a few days of having small pots of soil in the fridge with two of them and then thought, okay, that just really doesn’t work for my household, you know one of us is going to knock dirt all over in there, nuts to that.

The house is a bit chilly and I think our old heating pad got tossed about twenty years ago.

I’ve been watering them for a month. My tomatoes have their third set of leaves but those apricots did not come up. I had planted them after my fevers ended and my cough was subsiding to give me something to look forward to and how long was this supposed to take, anyway?

I resisted the temptation to dig one out just to look at it.

Three days ago a root appeared down the side. Next the split edges of the kernel pushed just slightly above the soil line.

Where they still are. But thicker, and turning green under the skylight and you can just see that it’s getting its strength together so as to be able to hold up a whole baby tree once it pushes itself the rest of the way out of there.

There’s a second pot that looks slightly different, like it might show soon too.

But this one was marked as the one that had been the biggest seed and now it’s the most vigorous earlybird and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m gonna need me some bigger pots. I do have one new one waiting. But the lockdown.

At some point I’m going to be trying to find someone to adopt my spare apricot seedlings, like trying to give away a litter of kittens–just, bigger, right?

That’s the hope, anyway.



Lockdown day six
Saturday March 21st 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift

1. It had been two weeks since she’d sprung us and she was hatching another plan for helping us be sure we still had depth perception. We were not to be exposed: she would do everything. She had us look at the menu and decide ahead of time.

Restaurants are allowed to serve to-go only, curbside.

She drove us to this ice cream shop. I had never seen parking freely available around there before. Ever. Everything around it was closed, as well it should be, and even the restaurants had the lights really low, trying to cut costs with the hit to their income or what I don’t know, but this one had their door open wide on a chilly day like the Whos in Whoville calling out to the larger world, We are here, we are HERE!

Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut totally for the win.

We’d actually tried calling Timothy Adams, thinking to get some hot chocolate to take home, too, and to see our old friends there (at the prescribed six foot distance and from the car) and it hurt hard that there was no answer.

One dessert place can stay open and the other can’t? What’s up with that?

2. Why that cashmere cowl got ditched for so long, as it turned out: I’d started it, I’d changed the pattern, and I hadn’t known where to go with it from there. When I rediscovered it I continued the second part and figured it would tell me how to end it: whether to expand it outward so it would be in three sizes to match the three stages, or whether I even had enough yarn for that.

It did tell me. I didn’t. I got to where I was unsure I could do another repeat as is, even weighing it repeatedly and doing the math. I just wasn’t sure and I’m not one to do a game of yarn chicken over an hour’s worth of work that isn’t a necessary risk.

So I followed Eleanor Roosevelt’s dictum: if you make a mistake in your knitting, do it again and make a pattern out of it. The four-stitch-repeat top now matches the four-stitch-repeat bottom as if I’d meant to frame the picture like that all along.

I’d thought that small yarn small needle project would cling to me forever but it is finished and drying and somehow it is actually done and part of me can’t quite comprehend that. But I don’t mind that it is.

3. Seemed as good a reason to celebrate as any. Michelle had brought us blueberries.



Lockdown day two
Tuesday March 17th 2020, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

I finished the hat. I found a red cowl I’d forgotten starting and got some work done on that, too, in Lisa Souza’s hand-dyed cashmere. How anybody could forget that I don’t know. It’s a very nice yarn.

This evening, the sudden quiet was almost startling when we turned the melanger off. Time to cool and pour the finished chocolate into the new molds.

Yonder geek husband had a new toy to try out. We have one of those laser thermometer readers, and he had the latest and greatest version with a flickering graph giving you sixty-four points of data instead of the one little red dot.

It was revelatory.

It read at five degrees celsius cooler than the old thermometer. Wow.

Which explains why the chocolate was almost setting in the bowl while the old thermometer was saying it was too hot to pour yet. It was clear to me it wasn’t. It wasn’t. And since adding any pre-tempered cocoa butter to make all the chocolate crystals align right is highly dependent on getting that temperature just so, well, we’ll see in the morning when we start unmolding the bars to see what we’ve got.

But so far, it looks like the best tempered batch we’ve ever made. New toy for the win!

Supply note: Esmeraldas cocoa nibs from The Chocolate Alchemist. Who has a photo of a chocolate Easter bunny with a white chocolate face mask on, the link to the artist who made it for him, and says the guy might make more that way if we ask him (he was hoping out loud for people to help the guy’s small business in the current environment.)

I have a favorite doctor. I’m tempted.



Lockdown day one
Monday March 16th 2020, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The six-county San Francisco Bay area is, as of this afternoon, essentially on lockdown: we can go to the doctor, the pharmacy, the grocery store, we can hire a plumber if need be and the plumber can come, but otherwise we are to stay home. Period. Till April 7.

There is a race on to hire delivery people and shelf stockers, with one company offering health benefits and sick leave even if the jobs turn out to be only as long as the pandemic, I’m sure those being a necessary component in the face of the incurred risks they’re asking people to take on.

I ordered a bar and some two-ingredient peanut butter cups from Dandelion Chocolates just to do my small part to help keep one of my favorite places afloat (the pastries in their shop! And it’s right around the corner from Imagiknit!) And because I’m curious: how good is something with no sugar and no salt, just peanuts and fresh 100% chocolate? I have a diabetic brother and I want to know, but if anyone could pull it off, they could.

And then, having perused their list of chocolate bars for longer than maybe was good for me and as a sign of our definitely doing better–we hadn’t done this since before Christmas and we were way overdue. I asked and he grinned and two pounds of Esmeraldas cacao nibs got roasted, Cuisinarted, and thrown in the melanger. An hour later I added .6 lb extrafine sugar; I figure we’ll come out about 78%-ish.

It’s just at the beginning so it’s slightly gritty, but I dipped a spoon in about an hour into it and man. That was good.

Dandelion sells Esmeraldas at two different sweetness options. Just saying.

And only then did I ask Richard if we were going to need to unplug the machine and run for the bathroom counter tomorrow while he has his conference calls with work. Plug it back in quick and shut the door? Because that thing is noisy.

That, he decided, was a problem he was going to be okay with having. We would see when we got there. But hey–homemade chocolate!

And all because Dandelion wrote this book that got us started.



Toffee or not toffee, that was the question
Wednesday February 26th 2020, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food

A question: if you read the Narnia books as a kid, what did you think Turkish Delight would be like?

I thought of it as the obnoxiously tough toffee they sell to the tourists near Maryland’s shore, where sure it’s just sugar but you chew and chew and chew and chew and chew while it’s fighting back as if, should it win, it would wire your jaws shut out of sheer obnoxiousness, without enough flavor to make up for the assault on your mouth. If you still have all your teeth when it’s over you win.

My friend Michelle pointed out this Atlas Obscura article with the title, “CS Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight.” It made me laugh because it was so true.

Thus my curiosity.

I didn’t sample the real thing till well into adulthood, or at least not with that name attached, but you know what? In a way, I actually wasn’t all that far off.



Always did like a good autobiography
Sunday February 23rd 2020, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Knitting? Not up to it. Reading? I’ve finished Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” and I’m halfway through a Jimmy Carter memoir that I was always going to get around to. Wow has the world changed over his 95 years. He’s not forging steel hoops to put around his dad’s wagon wheels anymore.

Edited to add, both noted their surprise at being handed a large bill at the end of the first month in: the President is responsible for the food bill of his family and guests at the White House. Any idle mention of a favorite or wished-for food ends in that food happening on their table no matter the cost if they don’t say anything different.

They learned fast.



Hurry up, tree!
Wednesday February 05th 2020, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree

My Big Boy tomato plant from last year finally froze to death. The Sungold under the eaves is still blooming. House warmth for the win.

Monday night and thereafter, I had to turn on the heater under the Sunbubble at dusk for the first time all winter; the Christmas lights just weren’t enough. For so long it was simply about keeping the mango comfortably above freezing, but now we need to protect the more vulnerable flower buds that are bursting out all over.

This is just the top of the tree because I can’t step far enough back in the greenhouse for a better shot.

The tree’s gotten big and the crop will be a lot more than last year’s three fruits.

My friend Jean grew up in Hawaii and misses the Hayden mangoes of her youth. She tried three times to grow her own but always lost them to the cold and she has cheered my tree on with great enthusiasm ever since she found out about it.

Last year’s three went to Dani who instigated the whole thing and whom I’d long promised the first fruit to, Eli who helped take care of the tree numerous times while we were out of town before we bought the greenhouse, and the last one for, well, us.

This is the year the first one is supposed to be for Jean. Jean, who once brought a paper bag of ripe pomegranates to church from her two year old tree that were such a revelation that I’d planted my own, a Parfianka, having never known before what a ripe pom actually tastes like. (The stores can’t sell them when they start to split.) Jean, who loves seeing pictures of how my Alphonso is growing, it’s really doing it, it’s surviving here! It’s blooming!

Today’s her 94th birthday.

The last few months she’s been pretty much bed-bound.

I don’t know that it’s fair to ask her to hang around till this big plant of mine finishes doing its thing in six or seven months but I’m still going to remind her I promised.



Questions and answers part of the impeachment hearing
Wednesday January 29th 2020, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Food,History,Politics

Hours and hours of afghan rows as I watched.

Alan Dershowitz does the finger jabbing and the emphatic hands splayed, arms wide circular motions that darn if it didn’t make him look like a Bernie Sanders body double.

What came out of his mouth was utter nonsense. The President can do nothing wrong if he’s running for reelection because he thinks it’s for the good of the country and l’etat c’est moi and all that. (Yeah, that worked out so well for Napoleon and Nixon.) Truly: the President’s lawyers all argued that because he was the President he could do no wrong nor could he be held accountable in any way, including impeachment, ever. They waved away that whole pesky Constitution thing.

Adam Schiff was professional, smart as a whip, knew his stuff, and calmly went straight to the point, again and again. The others on his team were good but man he really nailed it each time. I fully expect him to be President someday, and we will be much better off for it when that happens.

And this was yesterday, but Mitt Romney broke the rules in the most rebellious-teenage-Mormon way possible: by both tradition and current decree, only water or milk in glasses may be drunk on the Senate floor during the proceedings.

He got an order flown in in dry ice from BYU Creamery and got caught drinking chocolate milk. From their bottle. (Product placement for his alma mater and all that for the old businessman.) Not exactly the letter of the law but with that triumphant grin that mothers of high schoolers everywhere know well.

So busted.



Blueberry
Monday January 20th 2020, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

It was lovely and heartbreaking and heartwarming and full of music and love and belonging. My sister found a video that’s a close rendition to the last piece offered up at the funeral by the Salt Lake Men’s Chorus, whom John used to play piano for.

One cousin told of her toddler granddaughter’s love for Uncle John, who came by often and taught her to love blueberries when nobody else could get her to touch them. She liked his so much that he brought them every time after that to share some with her.

She was given the little toy stuffed dog he’d cherished as a memory of his mother and promptly named it Blueberry.

She went to sleep still holding it, woke up in the morning still holding it, and with nobody having told her any such thing pronounced:

“Blueberry, Uncle John gave you to me..  It’s okay, I will take care of you. Uncle John is far away, Uncle John is up in the stars.”



Schroedinger’s afghan: done/not done
Wednesday January 01st 2020, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

After a slower start than I wanted, it needed every spare moment for the past month. It made me make good use of my time, and it occasionally diverted me from other things and there was some internal second-guessing over whether I always got it right but I knew it was such a huge project and that that deadline was non-negotiable.

Plus the unshakeable feeling that her baby is going to come early. She’s due the end of this month.

For the last hour or so I’ve repeatedly found myself feeling that itch, that sense of hurry to get back to it.

Well, actually, I could: I’m still going to knit those matching end pieces and sew them on.

But for now I’ve earned the rest of my evening off and some time to simply marvel at how water plus lace stitches equals magic.

Do I admit to a bit of relief, too–that no matter what, there is now a blanket I could hand over. Having broken my hand three years ago while making one for Mathias makes me appreciate the uncertainty of being able to finish things when I want to.

So. The other part of today: while split pea soup was cooking away on the stove (dinner that doesn’t need much attention: good) I picked up the lavender afghan and the left end of the circs was caught in the fabric. I was paying more attention to trying to make sure the stitches didn’t fall off the other needle tip as I both picked the afghan up and started, with arms raising high, to swing that giant heavy mass of wool around to start a new row.

The left tip I was trying to uncatch but not paying much attention to flipped out and into my eye.

I had this moment of, You can’t do that! I had my glasses on! And usually I don’t these days when I’m knitting, I need to fill that new prescription. How did it do that?!

So yeah, if I show up at Fillory with a black eye my knitting needles attacked me.

I instantly thought of the woman across town years ago who tripped, fell and impaled herself on a straight metal needle and would not let the paramedics touch it. The ER doctor told her, good thing, because she’d impaled her heart and needed to go straight to surgery and oh by the way did you know you have breast cancer?

That is how she got diagnosed early enough. Her needle saved her life.

I got back at mine by finishing those last rows of the fifteenth repeat and casting off. For now.



He opened his car door
Thursday December 26th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The doorbell rang.

It was the son of the elderly woman next door, the one who fell two months ago and after her kids couldn’t reach her from out of state and called us neighbors and then 911 was found by the firemen breaking in her door for the rescue.

Previously, she had been adamant to me that she did not want to go into assisted living.

She doesn’t know how many days she was down but it could have been as many as four. Even before that she could barely walk and clearly she just could not continue to live alone.

She has not returned.

He was coming by to let me know he was taking her home. There was a place a mile from his house, she had seen it before and actually liked the place and she has decided for herself that that’s where she’d like to be now. He wanted me to know her story had a happy ending after all, and that he would be right there to look out for her.

And he will. And his wife is a love of a woman who will be right there with him on it. They are all deeply good people.

I thanked him for letting me know, and told him, “I miss her.” A lot.

I knew she would want to know that, to really know that, not just assume that I would. Of course I would. I have, for all these weeks. But I knew he would tell her and that it would feel good for both of them to say it and to hear it on their long trip to where everything will be different now, again.

I sent him off with a box of Andy’s peach and honey-stuffed figs, glad for the surprised delight in his face at the mention of Andy’s Orchard. Taking the best of California with them on their long way north–he knew they were in for a treat.

And I just wanted to say, Thank you, Andy. That helped.



Abundance
Wednesday December 25th 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

You don’t have to bring anything, just come…

But I really wanted to contribute, so she said, I know–bring a pie.

I didn’t know just how many were coming and just in case it didn’t get done because you never know and so since we were at Costco anyway I bought one of their giant pecan pies.

And fresh fruit. Enough for…

I didn’t know exactly how that blueberry cream pie (Betty Crocker 1952 recipe) would come out, but really, how could it go wrong.

Got it cooled and into the fridge last night.

I didn’t worry about how the cherry Meyer lemon pie would come out today but I was glad I’d written it down last time. Whipped fresh cream on top again.

For the record: the people who say use a chopstick to skewer cherry pits out? They never had to fish a piece of bamboo out of one. Those stones are harder. I retrieved the 7-cherry pitter out of the cupboard and mentally thanked Sur La Table for selling a better version; should have used that in the first place. This is why I’d gone for the easier blueberry yesterday.

I opened every single one. No pits got past it. There was no second sliver of bamboo (I knew but I’d needed to really know.) Into the cuisinart, then. Done.

We arrived.

She had a giant Costco pumpkin pie in the fridge just in case something hadn’t worked out.

We started pulling pies out of the big bag.

“Holy cow!”

Eleven of us with family elsewhere, all of us friends, all of us well fed in body and soul as we helped her clean up afterwards, telling her to take it easy and rest. Her car and that of the person who hit her a few days ago were totaled and we were all all the more aware of what a privilege it was to be able to spend this time together. No reason she should have to hurt to bring us together if we could help it.

You can get a lot done really fast when that many people are doing it.

The cherry had that one last small piece left that people do out of politeness in case someone else wants it more.

The blueberry was half gone.

The pecan had a slice out.

The pumpkin didn’t even get to sneak past the fridge.



Holiday baking
Friday December 20th 2019, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Here’s Sunset’s recipe and pretty pictures.

And here’s what my daughter came over and made with me this evening: using TCHO’s 81% for all of the melted chocolate and with peanut butter in the filling. We used Earth Balance because of her dairy allergy, and (quietly) if they came out this good one could only imagine what butter would be like in them.

Like bite size pieces of chocolate torte, is how she described the cookies. Portion-wise, you could almost not feel guilty.



To Sam and Devin with love
Wednesday December 18th 2019, 12:20 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

There, last week, next to the sugar plums I came for for my mom because she told me last year that they reminded her of her childhood and she loved them, those and his slab extra-ripe dried apricots she raves over made it easy to decide what to get her, and they warranted a trip to Andy’s Orchard. Not to mention his persimmons were ripe.

There were samples of this other fruity confection, too: no fancy packaging for them, just a plain plastic tub and they’re not listed online.

I thought I was going to put the two tubs in our Christmas stockings, since there’ll be nobody home but us this year. Hah.

So. My husband’s on vacation and we were munching on figs stuffed with dried ripe peaches that Andy’s had mixed into a thick paste with honey and orange peel into the most perfect texture and flavors and then topped with chopped almonds. Healthy, guilt-free, and oh man they are just achingly good.

I said with regret, When these are gone it’ll be a year before we can buy them again. (I didn’t think till later, if we even can. Harvests and products and employees and recipes change.)

A few minutes later it was, I think I’ll go to Andy’s… and he was cheering me on.

It was 1:30, about the latest I like to head that far down that freeway on a workday, so I took the one last box of Christmas presents that needed to be mailed so as to stop by the post office on my way back rather than doing it first. It was all ready to go.

I got to say hi to Andy, I got to see the lady there who’s been so helpful this whole year and she was wearing purple this time and it perfectly matched the purple cowl waiting hopefully in my purse and she was so knit-worthy and so thrilled.

Then I got to do something, as I was heading out, that I have never done in my life.

I walked behind my car towards the two peacocks (oh they show up from time to time, I was told, but I’d never seen them there before) and gently waved my arms and said, C’mon, boys, I need to back up here. Move along.

First time I have ever talked to a peacock.

They circled back towards my car. Come on guys.

I guess they knew where the good stuff was hiding.

Got in, backed up very carefully, and forty-five minutes later on the easier reverse commute got to the post office–and had a moment of truth.

Why yes. Yes I do love my kid. And yes that particular kid and her husband would love those. No I don’t have to hog them.

I bought a new roll of tape then and there, the clerk sliced the old tape open, I wedged that plastic tub in where it needed to go in all its unwrapped glory and she re-taped the box and slapped the shipping label on and tossed it into the nearby bin. All I could do was hope the tub stays closed in there, but I think it will.

Mother of the Year. You can just hand that award over right now. Mine.