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!



Aftobering
Saturday October 07th 2017, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knit,Life

(I just moved it, here, let me straighten up those edges.)

It’s Aftober, named for my friend Afton who instigated the tradition of October being the month for finishing projects. For whatever reason. Be they new or long-dragging, pick it up, get it done, and now you have a reason to.

And that is how the black scarf got done. And today that’s why the teal silk project that had been carried around in my purse since July–well, I did about half of it today and got it over with. It had been dragging because I only bought the one skein at Stitches and I wanted it to be for me since I could not duplicate that yarn nor that color and it matches a lot of things I really like.

But I am not high on my knitting list right now.

But those needles it was dangling from… I wanted those back. And so I freed them of that soft single-ply bombyx and it is drying now. I didn’t spin it out in the washer because of that loose ply–it would fuzz out like crazy in the spinning and I prefer how it looks now, and thus I am moving it around every so often as the one part of the old drying quilt gets a little too damp.

Bombyx silk, i.e. from the silkworms that eat mulberry leaves rather than, say, oak (re tussah silk) has this distinctive smell to it when it’s wet. How much depends on how much of the siricin (silk gum) has been washed out.

It always takes me straight back to my mom’s kitchen and that little dark brown bottle way up high.

I remember asking Mom about it one day.

She told me that her mom had insisted on feeding her kids cod liver oil and had been adamant that Mom have some for her own kids.

Mom dutifully got that bottle and put it up there… Nothing else medicinal in that cabinet, just that. (Maybe where Gram would see it?) It had been there as long as I could remember, unmentioned and untouched as far as I knew.

Mom got it down and opened it up and let me take a whiff.

EWWWW!!!! Gram made you EAT that?!

Just a spoonful.

Mary Poppins and her spoonful of sugar wasn’t going to help that stuff one little one bit. Gag. I winced that Mom had had to go through that. It was clear she appreciated my horror.

You know how grandparents and kids traditionally team up against the parents? On this one, it was me and Mom together, absolutely. Mom chuckled and put it back up there where it could do no harm.

And no the silk doesn’t smell just like that, but there’s just a hint of reminder of it, somehow, to me, anyway.

Never mind that. Nice, soft wormspit around your neck. It’s what’s good for you.



He heard we had peaches
Saturday September 16th 2017, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Not to brag, but–yeah I am–you want to know how much of a sweetheart my guy is? We had, with the help of friends, devoured every last peach from Andy’s Orchard and I was going through a serious end-of-summer withdrawal on the things.

He drove me to Andy’s. It’s about an eighty-minute round trip. It was his first time there. I wasn’t even sure they still had any, but I knew they would have something good (and they did. Some plums came home too.) He can now vouch for their candied almonds, too.

And then just to make the day perfect, Sam told us the hats arrived today, and of course in September in Anchorage you definitely need a hat. Mathias took the gray cashmere one off his head, his daddy said, and just buried his face in it.

And then the chomp. As one does.



Worth the trip
Thursday September 07th 2017, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Karen (who’s gone there with me once before) : You want to drive towards the fire? To all the smoke?

Me, confused: LA, Oregon–the skies are hazy but they’re certainly not close…

Karen: The fire! In Gilroy! Don’t you read the newspaper?

Me: Huh. The online version, other than Sundays. But I just was on the Merc’s website and there wasn’t anything about a fire in Gilroy.

Karen: Well, it’s all over the physical paper!

Me: (Went and looked. Didn’t find it at first. You had to follow a certain path: home page/local/county (get the right county)–oh THERE it is. Yow!

And so we waited a few days while the firefighters firefought. And then today, with her driving this time (because, life) we finally made it back to Andy’s Orchard.

Where they still had peaches after all. Fairtime and the well-named Last Chance, enormous and beckoning. Homegrown cherry tomato for scale.



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!