Oh any day’ll do
Friday November 26th 2021, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Food,History,Knit

Imagiknit let me know my Pocion Mecha yarn is on its way. I bought a single skein to leave the possibility open of getting to a LYS tomorrow and picking out more hat yarn in person but I wanted to know that that colorway would be here before the workers return, and tomorrow it should be.

On a random note of practicality: I read somewhere that the best way to freeze unused sourdough starter is to spread it out on parchment paper and then as soon as it’s frozen, crumble it into a small freezer container, giving it an easily-accessible form for later. So I just did that, wondering if it would pour out all over the place but it didn’t and finagling the parchment into the freezer space contained the starter, so, cool.

And randomness for its own sake: the Washington Post offers its subscribers a scanned-in shot of what the front page was the day (please fill in this form thank you) one was born.

Okay, I figured that was just trolling for data, but still, I was curious.

Below the fold, there was a story of a judge who’d had twenty young azalea bushes stolen from his yard while he was having a weekend at the beach, carefully spaded out of there.

It lists his home address, notes his tony neighborhood and the prices of the houses, and says the thieves even got the ones behind his ten foot fence.

Who on earth is allowed to have a ten foot fence?

His neighbors were hit that same weekend, and they, too, were at the beach. Their roses too were left untouched.

A truck was pulled over near that street with a hundred azaleas in back, and the authorities were requiring the driver to offer proof of having purchased them.

Okay, today, that would mean the newspaper doxxed a prominent judge–on the front page, no less.

The kicker is that the date on that newspaper? I was a crawling baby aspiring to walk. So per them, I was, in fact, born yesterday. And more than.

Edited to add: since I wrote that they have corrected the link.



Happy Thanksgiving!
Thursday November 25th 2021, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

I hope everybody had/is having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

We were to go to a friend’s, whose kids we know from when they were growing up, and I had just pulled the promised cranberry pie bars out of the oven a few minutes before when I heard Richard calling me.

He wanted a barf bowl for the migraine that had suddenly walloped him upside the head and he needed to go lie down with an ice pack in as dark a room as he could get.

I sent Karen a note with my thanks and apologies. I offered to drop the cookies by.

He got up a few hours later and seemed to be doing better.

I sent Karen a note. I said we were hoping that that would last, but just please know that we were tentative and I’m so sorry. (While glad she had a big enough crew coming that two people would not make a difference on the food one way or another.)

But it looked for awhile there like we were good after all. I got the little things done like covering the mango tree for the night (we hit 36F last night) to be ready and then noted that it was about time to go.

And that was his moment of truth. He wanted to go, he really did–but his head just couldn’t manage it. He was only barely upright.

I sent Karen a note, and then I drove to her house and dropped off three strong paper plates’ worth of cookies, hoping they would be enough with all her kids and grandkids snarfing them down.

But the house was dark. There was a string of white Christmas lights on in front of the door, which had me hopeful for a moment and knocking again only louder this time, and the side yard seemed set up so as to be pretty ready–but there was not a soul around. Huh. So I left the cookies on the doorstep a little off to the side so they would have a chance to see them before they stepped in the corn-syruped stickiness and headed home, glad that it wasn’t quite dark yet.

I have somehow reached the official Old Lady status of not liking to drive at night. Richard’s cataracts have been operated on. But he wasn’t there.

Got home, searched through the piles of emails back and forth from this past week, and there it was: it was going to be at her son’s house on X street. She’d never told me the actual address because, as she told me later, Who looks at the numbers? You just go to the one you always go to. (While noting that yeah, that wouldn’t work for me would it.)

And that is how one friend who is deaf and texts or emails missed signals with one who apparently doesn’t own a cellphone and how do you reach someone when their only phone is their landline and they’re not home? She got not one of those messages today. I thought they were going to her phone. Nope. Her desktop.

She finally called me, wondering where we were. I apologized and explained and told her I hoped she wouldn’t find herself in the middle of a raccoon/skunk fight over those cranberry bars when she gets home. She hoped I at least would still come, and I explained about the night driving, and since she’s older than me she totally got that.

Coming home from dropping off those cookies at dusk, a woman I’d never seen before, dressed in dark clothes, had stepped out in the middle of the street in front of my silent Prius a few minutes before. I saw her in time–but what if someday I might not, and so no, I don’t take that chance.

Turns out that the person I’d stopped and waited for to either cross or notice me and that I’d waved hi to when she finally did was my new next-door neighbor’s mom, out for a walk after dinner.

Anyway. So that is how we had our first-ever (Costco) stuffed chicken breast Thanksgiving dinner.

Tradition-heretic that I am, I’d always wanted to ditch the turkey.



Bar none
Thursday November 18th 2021, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Yesterday, it seemed like one of the crew by the end of the day was tired and grumpy, and I expressed concern; was everyone okay.

Maybe he’d just needed someone to notice and have it matter to them, because today they clearly were. I heard laughing between them again and again, enjoying this fine day and each other’s company as they worked.

There’s a skylight in the hallway that they decided to do first, before any more rain might happen to it.

It was a mess. The guy who put it in (we found out later) had only nailed things in on three sides. After a tree fell on our house, a roofing crew sent out to repair that damage happened to notice that right behind them was this spot where it was funny when you step–and one of them started playing see-saw with our skylight while the others laughed, not seeing me standing below shouting upwards, STOP IT!!! at them. I was so mad.

That contractor refused to pay the $600 it cost to repair that, blaming the guy who’d done it wrong in the first place. The guy who tried to fix it repainted below with whatever shade he thought would match. It didn’t.

So of course that’s the skylight that leaked after that. The boards it was resting on rotted out.

We knew it was bad, but…

It took the men quite awhile to get all that out of there today, complicated by being sealed to the foam roof and the fact that there was a fluorescent tube light on top of the beam that ran down the center below the skylight that had to be rewired and reinstalled.

And so for several hours today there was no skylight down the hall, just a face or two nodding hello against the open sky if you came past.

Karo, check. Butter, check. Cranberries? Toss the first bag, the second thankfully was fine.

I started baking cranberry pie bars.

As the oven started smelling wonderful as the cookie crust stage baked, I suddenly noticed the change.

Someone was a little hungry and probably a little tired and all this wonderfulness that certainly wasn’t going to be for him–all he was going to get to do was wish and be tormented. He started sounding grumpy again.

He didn’t know me very well, did he?

He caught himself and cheered up a bit while I was silently telling that pan to hurry up.

You’re supposed to let them cool all the way and even chill if possible before cutting them. I had the kitchen slider open to the 61F out there and after half an hour put the pan on a metal cookie sheet to help with the hurry; their day was winding down and I didn’t want to miss them after all that. Finally at about the hour mark I pronounced it good enough, sliced, mushed the topping a little–eh–and set half a dozen very crisp-bottomed cookies on each of two sturdy paper plates till there was no room for more, covered them with a little plastic wrap so the men could take them home, and went outside to make sure both their vehicles were still there.

The first guy’s face lit up.

He walked halfway down the outside of the house and called up towards the roof and the second guy, the one who’d sounded grumpy at smelling those wonderful smells, suddenly hoisted himself over the edge and down the ladder with his face all but shouting YESSSS!!!!! after seeing the outstretched plate in the other guy’s hands. He was almost giddy.

“These are so good. SO good!”

They are, and that’s why I so seldom make them. I need to have someone around to protect us from them.

I don’t think any of theirs made it past our driveway.

 

(On a side note: pouring liquid into an oven-hot glass pan is how you shatter such pans. I realized a moment late that I’d chosen the wrong type, so I pushed the crust high up the sides so that no egg mixture would directly touch the glass when I poured it onto the hot crust. It was still probably a near thing. Just mentioning.)



One and a half skeins to go out of nineteen
Saturday October 23rd 2021, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

Our local forecast now says 2.73″ of rain tomorrow as the atmospheric river tries to play a game of Noah with us. That’s a huge amount for California and the biggest storm in two years. It’s badly needed.

And so it came to me as I knitted above the top of the redwood that I ought to memorialize that.

Which is why the section above where I’m working now, where I will repeat the lace pattern that frames the beginning and sides of this thing, will be done in Malabrigo’s London Sky, a lavender-ish blue. My skein is a nice deep shade of pouring rain.

The afghan is so close to being done.

Meantime, the last chocolate bars to be poured from the melanger are the most fun because you can swirl them and it shows better than the ones that were hotter coming out–but you can’t see the effects till they set. You have no idea what they’ll look like.

A whale mid-dive, a parrot looking askance back over its shoulder: Hey! No splashing!



No more monitor
Friday October 22nd 2021, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

This is long and meandering but it’s late and I don’t have time to edit it.

My cousin Virginia cut her beautiful shoulder-length hair very short and posted pictures on Facebook and got lots of compliments over her new look.

And then she quietly sent out a note to her cousins that she’d had cancer nine years ago, had long since beaten it… and the haircut was to make it seem less abrupt when it starts falling out again.

All those hats knitted as carry-around projects, a moment here, a row there, they were ready.

She said she had a blue one from me from years ago but yes, she’d like a soft white one, very much, thank you.

And so today, I–

Waited till 3 pm. On the nose at the two week mark, off with the heart monitor and into its box to ship back to its manufacturer so they can report to my cardiologist. My skin had a fierce enough reaction to the adhesive that I’m amazed it stayed on. I hope I don’t have to do that again for awhile.

So that got mailed and the white hat, and also one in purples and another in greens. She hadn’t wanted to ask for too much. I had wanted to give her all.the.hats. I compromised.

Andy’s dried slab Blenheim apricots in another box for my mom, the ones picked so ripe they go smush when cut. The best.

And a warm winter outfit to my niece’s baby girl.

But before I headed out for the post office, one last note on the diary notebook to return with the monitor: yes I pushed the button at 3 a.m. this morning but, um, ignore that. I was asleep. Pushing it woke me up that wait, I did what? No. Nothing to see there. I was dreaming.

If only we could solve all health problems that easily.

And then at the end of the day, finally, I knit and got past the tree.

And then said, But what I really want is to go make a batch of chocolate, darn it. We’re out, and the pre-pandemic Trader Joe’s bar doesn’t count.

Wild Bolivian Mix, in the melanger now.

I said to Richard, I calculated wrong so I didn’t put in all the sugar I measured and now I don’t know how much I did and is this sweet enough?

He took a taste and considered thoughtfully: it was good, and yet, “Seems a little too sweet to me.”

And it’s not enough to me, even though I like mine quite dark. Good. Right in between. That means we hit the sweet spot.



Screen grab
Sunday October 03rd 2021, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

When little ones who’ve been sick (negative for covid, thank heavens) need some cheering up and their parents discover that Trader Joe’s sells kits for Halloween gingerbread houses. Then they add in grandparent and auntie time via the phone to have them watch you break off whatever you want to eat and to cheer you on and it doesn’t get better than that.

Snack! proclaimed Lillian, holding a piece of candy out to the camera for us to see.

Snack! agreed Mathias, with who knows what part of it in his hand (was it the door?) and then he told us a little bit more about it all that I didn’t hear but that’s okay. The smiles and giggles came through loud and clear.



Baklava knitting
Saturday October 02nd 2021, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Food,History,Life

They haven’t posted the individual talk as a video yet or I’d link to it rather than a quick summary.

It’s General Conference weekend in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ie the Mormons, with the leaders directly addressing members worldwide. Pacific time, Sunday’s two hour sessions will start at 9:00 and 1:00.

I picked cashmere yarn for it, because it seemed fitting, and got at least half a cowl done while we watched, quietly wondering whose it would turn out to be. It was telling me it needed to be knitted and ready.

Sharon Eubank, head of LDS Charities, talked today about some of the humanitarian aid projects. In the scramble of the Afghanistan airlift, there were religious women who found themselves in public without their head coverings and were very uncomfortable with that. The Church got right to work sewing some for those who wanted them.

She (edited to add link) talked a little about Syria. Where a family that had owned a bakery found themselves unable to procure any food, much less provide it to others, and were on the verge of starvation.

LDS Charities was able to reach them. Food was the immediate need. They were vetted and able to leave for another (unnamed) country.

Needing to somehow convey the depth of their gratitude, Sister Eubanks said, a box of cookies showed up at Church headquarters. From those gifted bakers.

A box of cookies.

So much emotion and experience and gratitude was poured into that surprise package. It was everything.



Parfianka
Sunday September 26th 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Every time I look at one of my pomegranates I think gratefully of Jean, whose sharing is why I had to grow some, too. She’d planted hers as a gift to the future when she was 85. She didn’t remember what variety hers was, but if I had to guess it would be the one that was the favorite of the highly-knowledgeable owners of Yamagami’s Nursery. Mine is.

I’d forgotten the paper lunch bags for people to take the splitting chunks of seeds home in while wearing their Sunday best that day. Thoughtful, and so very much something she would do. No pomegranate juice on the carpeting at church.

I keep thinking, now I just need to find me a shimmery silk/merino yarn in dk or worsted weight in exactly those shades of red because I just really like it.



Small gifts
Thursday September 23rd 2021, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Wednesday is my tree watering day.

My last Indian Free peach fell into its protective clam shell about two weeks ago and I thought oh okay that one’s definitely ripe. I searched through the leaves and found no more, and figured, well, if there is one, the squirrels and jays will find it.

My routine has changed from four minutes per tree with the hose–you get deeper watering than you do with a drip system, I’m told, so I do–to three last year, to two this year plus an extra minute the next week if I see leaves going yellow, which a few have done. Maybe this winter we’ll get more rain.

It was nearly sunset by the time I got to the Indian Free, the late-season peach I’d planted so it would grow over the fence towards the neighbors where the wife has dementia to give her a place of fruit and restfulness and her husband a break. Earlier in her disease she had wished for there to be one that grew over to them so I’d bought another tree and made it happen.

Standing underneath it and looking up I couldn’t believe it. I ran inside to get my phone for the camera, came back outside, couldn’t find it–oh there it is!

I tried. I debated seeing if Richard could reach it, and then simply ran for the fruit picker.

It fell gently right into it. It was quite small, but it smelled like only a fresh-picked peach can.

Now, that particular variety isn’t supposed to get leaf curl disease but the tree nearest it did this past spring and it got a mild case, too. I had read that it not only damages the leaves, it can ruin the fruit.

Every peach from that tree but one this year, no matter how ripe it smelled or looked, was brown and starting to rot around the pit. We had our biggest, least-squirreled crop, except, we didn’t, and I was glad Andy’s farm was still here if I couldn’t enjoy my own.

So.

The day after offering Jim and his wife (not the dementia patient) peaches from Andy’s and hearing back that they had plenty, thanks, hours after the surprise at suddenly losing Jim, against all odds and long after the tree was supposedly done for the year–holding that hose and suddenly looking up, there was this one small, perfect little peach. From above and then into my surprised hands.

It felt like a gift from Jim, and I could just feel him smiling.

I want to share it with her. I’m afraid the center will be a disappointment, and I can disappoint me but I sure can’t do that to her right now.

She had told me they had enough for now. She’d had no idea what the morrow would bring.

Maybe the story will be comfort enough. Maybe I should take it to her and risk it. I just don’t know.

I put it in the fridge. It’s still there.



Set in stone
Saturday September 18th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

So we did, we went to Mutari, and I got their Costa Esmeraldas bar because that’s long been my favorite (Dandelion buys beans from that farm too) and those two put in chocolate and sugar and nothing else, whereas the Manoa we tried has some cocoa butter. They’re all great.

As we headed out I picked up a long-stalled hat project and saw why it had been on timeout so long–hadn’t I ever counted those stitches? How did that happen? I ripped it out, cast on again with the single-ply wool arguing with the bumpy road, and with great satisfaction finished the ribbing for the new hat at about Scotts Valley. I considered what kind of patterning–but, nah. I wanted to keep looking at the redwoods we were driving through. Mindless stockinette it was.

Meantime, remember how I love stone houses?

Someone made their kids a stone tree house. With stained glass (-ish) windows no less. Photos 28-30.

The perfect place to retreat with a good book or yarn while keeping an eye on the kids. (Hey Mom that’s MY tree house!)

The perfect little cool-grandparents retirement cottage, both of them.



Dairy-free, too
Thursday September 16th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dandelion Chocolates in San Francisco sent out a newsletter a month ago that, among other things, talked about a new bar they’re coming out with in the new year from Hawaiian-grown beans that they’d swooned over and bought 300 kg of. How often do you get to buy American-grown chocolate? But the flavor! That’s what had really grabbed them.

Then they said if you don’t want to wait that long to try it out, here’s our friends’ start-up over there and they’re using the same beans in their Mililani bar.

So of course I was tempted. How could I not be. I looked up Manoa Chocolate. I put that bar in my cart, I took it out of my cart, I told myself this was silly, I can make my own chocolate, I tried to forget about it. I ground up two pounds of stashed nibs to distract myself away from temptation: the tempering was total amateur level but the flavor made up for it and several weeks later we’ve slowly nibbled through a good bit of it.

And then Michelle was coming home, which meant a trip to Mutari’s in Santa Cruz would be coming up, and I wondered how Manoa’s would compare.

Science. You can’t learn if you don’t experiment. Right?

But I did not expect it to arrive in a box inside a zippered chocolate-decorated tote. Beautiful packaging that one would be quite happy to put to use.

Michelle tasted their chocolate hazelnut spread and pronounced it *the* best. Less sugar than Dandelion’s, more hazelnuts. Definitely this one. And the bar! This and this, she said, these are what she wants for Christmas.

Me, too.

Best pre-made chocolate splurge ever.



Maxwell’s smart
Monday September 13th 2021, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Note to self: Saturday is when I planted the four Rainier cherry pits a friend’s kid had saved for me because they were so good, along with two of my five Anya kernels. Yes that’s out of season, but they had chilled long enough to stratify and I think I needed to make a declaration of hope towards the future against the twentieth anniversary of 9/11–and I so want to be able to give that twelve-year-old a cherry seedling of his own in thanks for his wishing I could have cherries that good all the time.

There’s also a possibility that his family will move away in the next year, so I knew I needed to hurry. They’re the ones who polished off my favorite apricots at my request because we were leaving town to see grandkids for the week, and they saved the kernels so I could plant some more.

But those cherries from Andy’s farm! He had to save their pits for me, too, even if his mom wasn’t so sure–and so it was just the four.

Coming winter light levels are why I only experimented with two apricots to see if I could get a jump in growth on next year, but the cherries? Every one.

I have this secret ingredient for after the Root Riot plugs help them sprout…

I mentioned to Michelle that the Anya apricot grown in lobster compost from Maine totally skunked the other seedlings in height and growth after I’d tried different soil types. Five and a half inches (oh but it tried), 24″, and then 43″ for the Maine event. Such a stunning result.

My child for whom evolutionary biology was her favorite undergrad class cocked her head a bit, looked me in the eye, and cracked, I *assure* you they did not evolve in the same environment! (Wikipedia link to the Fergana Valley along the Silk Road.)

Well, no. But it just goes to prove that everything goes better when you’re serving lobster. The stone fruits are just the cherries on top.



And the bee-eat goes onnnn…
Monday September 06th 2021, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Food

I always thought I should try this but I wondered just how many squirrels would suddenly show up if I put a jar of honey out in the yard. Even with the lid on. I could just see them trying to wrestle or chew it open.

None, turns out, although it was only one afternoon. I did have a fair amount of smoke dust to wipe off it at the end of the day, which shouldn’t have surprised me but it did.

They say not to microwave it. They say a pot of hot but not boiling water will do it, and for me it’s never done it. Putting it right next to a pot of soup boiling away for hours? Not that either.

But by golly a black lid, direct sunlight, an unseasonably 93F day in September, and that crystalized year-old honey was now as runny as the day the hive was rather sorry to see it go.



Figs and peaches
Friday September 03rd 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

About this many a day now. Early September in the garden.

Which reminds me, I ought to be opening up the first pomegranate soon to see how the little geodes are coming along.



Post-op get-well basket
Sunday August 29th 2021, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

The elementary-school-age son of friends had had to have his appendix out, they told us; he was home now.

This is the family I gave Anya apricots to just before we left town to see the Washington grands and they’d carefully saved all the seeds for me. At the insistence of one of the boys, the pits from the rare-variety cherries he’d eaten, too. I was charmed and quietly told the parents that when the dad finishes his PhD I’m hoping to send them off into the world with a potted cherry tree grown from their son’s thoughtful gesture.

I couldn’t make their younger son’s stitches heal faster but I know they love a good fruit, so I could at least distract him a bit. I offered peaches bought yesterday at Andy’s; they said, Yes please!

I put just a couple from my tree in there with them. I confess the ones I’d tasted so far were drops (so many drops) and they weren’t great, but I figure when it falls off the tree into your hands as you walk by then it’s pretty much trying to claim it’s as ripe as it’s going to get and I hoped those would live up to my memory of them. It’s been so dry and the smoke blocks the UV and interferes with the sweetening of the fruit.

Walking up the stairs to their apartment, box in one hand, cane in the other, I watched in dismay as an Andy’s slipped out and bounced down to a story below. I pointed that one out as needing to be eaten first.

They’d once brought over their orange Flemish Giant for us to pet, the easiest-going rabbit you could ever hope to meet. And big!

I did not know they had two bunnies. Nor had I ever heard of a Lionhead. It looked just like the cute little gray fluffball at the top of that page, with A. explaining that she’d just clipped its fur around its forehead so it could see. It was adorable.

It was willing to let me pet it for a little while but only a little while and it was not willing to accept a walnut from me yet. I was a stranger. It was going to take more than one in-person time. It did not believe in instantly trusting all big things like its housemate, and that’s okay.

As we adults were talking, the younger son slipped away to the other room, reappearing a few times with a bounce (man, I never looked that good after surgery. Kids are amazing. But he’s too young for the covid vaccines and I kept my mask on.) The twelve-year-old stuck around a bit longer.

I said something to him about my Indian Free peaches not comparing to Andy’s and he looked at me steadily, munching away on one of mine, and pronounced, “It’s better.”

I don’t know if he was being sweet or if he just lucked out on a really good one but he most certainly made my day.