A penny for your frosts
Tuesday February 06th 2024, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

I’ve seen this idea. I’ve thought hey, that would actually be a good idea. And then I’ve forgotten all about it.

Woke up this morning going, maaaan. The Crohn’s? A blockage after eating that bit of sweet potato? (Ding ding ding we probably have a winner. It’s an ostomy thing.) Was it something that should have been thrown out after the power was out for five hours Sunday? But we never opened the freezer, and then last night it was why save the good stuff when Wednesday’s another storm, right?

He said he seemed normal enough.

So it was just me, then, and I hadn’t eaten anything he hadn’t. I spent the day trying not to get dehydrated; by dinner time I chanced a little solid food. It was encouraging, and I should be fine by morning.

So. The good idea?

Take a paper cup. Fill it most of the way with water. Put it in the freezer. Put a small coin on top of the now-ice and add just a few more drops so it stays in place after the cup is put back in the freezer. (Edit: just put it there and the penny’s lower surface immediately freezes in place.)

If you have a power failure, check afterwards to see whether the penny dropped.

Better to toss the chicken than the cookies, but that way you’ll know if you actually need to.


Sunday February 04th 2024, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Our average annual rainfall is 12-15″. We got 3″ in two days, and I know the southern part of the state has had it much much worse.

That was the first power failure in memory where it was the oven that I didn’t open for fear of letting the temp escape. The blueberry muffins came out okay enough.

There had been a flash, and then part of the house had power, three rooms did not, and in several rooms, you’d flip the switch, think, well not that one, and then two seconds to, in one case, five minutes later, the light decided to turn on after all.

Except only halfway.

The hallway bathroom looked like it was auditioning for Halloween.

The oven was out.

The microwave could still helpfully offer a timer?

The computers were out.

The fridge was out.

The big freezer in the garage was out, but its temperature alarm was not.

Basically, anything that took a lot of power was cut off, and the house was starting to get cold.

The printer, unasked for, suddenly woke up every ten minutes on the nose and made sounds like it was printing. Bizarre.

And yet, most of the lights were in fact still on. You just couldn’t cook nor access any food that wasn’t shelf-stable–a definite heads-up that we need to buy soup or something and in sizes that won’t have leftovers. Yay for only slightly soggy blueberry muffins.

We looked at the breakers. He flipped some. Then I did, one at a time. The notations for what each goes to was written in pencil 35 years ago by the electrician and there was no way, so it meant turning one off, running inside, seeing what effect if any that had on anything in any room, flipping it back on in the rain and trying the next one as the camphor tree helpfully threw leafy bouquets at us. We were wondering if our wiring had been fried in that flash.

It didn’t seem like a power failure and yet it was acting enough like one that I finally said I would call the city.

City Utilities, said my phone, had a number to call to make a voltage report.

So this was actually a thing?

‘Known problem. 8:30,’ the recording promised.

At 8:37 the lights in the room where I was knitting an afghan row suddenly went out. I didn’t get up to get the flashlight across the room because they were still on in the living room and down the hall when suddenly oops, no they weren’t.

He tells me that means that of the two 110 volt lines going into the house, they cut one and then the other to work on them but for the sake of electronics they should have done both at the same time.

Me, I’m just glad for people who are willing to be out working in that storm with such hazardous wires flailing around them in the winds. To not have to replace a thousand dollars worth of food in the freezer for the second time in a few months.

The heat kicked on as I sat down to write this right after I had my computer back and man, it feels good.

The light in the front entryway refused to be resuscitated. That is a problem I can handle.

Update: the official rain monitor went down with the power failure at 3:46 pm and it has not yet been rebooted, so that three inch tally means up till that point.

It’s all set now
Wednesday January 17th 2024, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Tart cherries out of the freezer, pie into the oven, dinner on the table, good times.

We were waiting for it to finish baking. Then he told me a story that, if he told me forty years ago well it’s new all over again to me now because I sure didn’t remember it.

I had made some reference to the Hostess Fruit Pies of our youth: they sold them in the vending machines in the dorms but I couldn’t afford them on my budget, and they were always, always sold out anyway. I managed to snag one twice my entire freshman year–but that’s okay, since they didn’t have more than about a single actual cherry apiece in them. (My mother was a master of pie baking and those were always such a disappointment.)

He looked at me funny. They had cherries!

Was he sure?

He was.

Did he have a lot more of them than I had to make that observation by?

So that’s when he told me.

He was a teaching assistant in the computer science lab and people were constantly coming to him for help. He told me, The problem is people think computers are, are, magic! It’s ‘the computer’s not working,’ not, I told it something wrong.

GIGO! I said. I remembered that phrase! Been a long time since I’d heard it, though: Garbage In Garbage Out re computer commands.

So he would ask them, Tell me what it’s not doing for you. Then when they explained, without even going and looking he’d tell them, I bet you a cherry pie that the problem is in the…

He told me, They’d have like a typo in their code that they were sure they didn’t have; it’s easy to do, you just have to find it. Or something like that. Once they had to explain what the problem was he knew they could find it, they just needed to know they *could* find it. His job was to help them learn that, not do it for them.

And he gave them a little extra incentive to want to. Plus he got a hand pie out of it.

I could just picture some poor sod hitting every vending machine on campus looking for a danged cherry Hostess.

He told me, I never–not once–lost that bet.

Then he mentioned an old friend of ours at the next grad school who said to him one day, Every time you come in here and we talk I always, always find the bug. You never tell me what it is. You never go looking for it. But after you leave I always find it. How do you do that?!

The answer was, (You find the confidence and then) You think it through. That’s how.

And with that, we decided not to wait till our Definitely Not Hostess tart cherry pie had set, much less cooled down. Straight out of the oven. A little whipped cream for a little cooling and we dove in while it was still, frankly, a bit soupy.

We figured out we wanted it right now enough not to let that bug us.

The power of suggestion
Wednesday January 10th 2024, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food

Someone asked the folks who run the baking pages at the Washington Post how one could find frozen pitted tart cherries.

Since I have never seen them sold frozen in any grocery store anywhere I’ve lived, I thought I’d pass their answer along.

Granted, 25 pound buckets and 7 pound buckets times two would take a lot of freezer space. But oh, they’d be worth it.

With planning and a bunch of ziploc bags I got about twenty pounds of my English Morellos in mine last year, but that’s a small and malleable amount per and mine weren’t frozen yet.

Still. The pitting is already done. (It takes me about an hour per pie’s worth; tart cherries are small.) You decide how much sugar. Orders can be split if you don’t mind hacking at frozen stuff–or just get the case of two.

The shipping sounds like a lot till you figure in the cost of dry ice etc, and yet to my house at least it totals out to $5.57/lb for the 14 lbs and $4.50/lb for the 25. Which is less than they cost fresh here.

Those carefully hoarded last of the ziplocs are suddenly looking warily my direction.

Stoneware pie plates make the crispest crusts.

I just might need to do some baking tomorrow.

Priority: mailed
Thursday January 04th 2024, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Yesterday I asked my brother if he’d like some Andy’s apricots.

He knew what those slab Blenheims are like, and Yes he would absolutely love that.

He texted today that he was coming home. (YAY!!!)

Emergency room medicine, I told Richard.

My non-apricot-loving husband got this impish look on his face and told me that that was copyrighted thankyouverymuch.

It doesn’t count if it’s not ice cream on the way home from the ER?

Nope! he grinned. Tradition!

It would be kind of hard to ship Cherry Garcia…

I found a box big enough for a single pound; there was space for more but not for another box, so I emptied most of a second pound into a ziplock and used that for padding.

I’ll just call it emergency medicine. It is on its way.

(I had no idea what was about to happen when I suddenly decided on Friday to make one last long trek down to Andy’s farm before he closed his shop from January 1 till May. I had some of his apricots to tide me over–but I bought a few more anyway. And there you go.)

Good friends, good food
Wednesday December 27th 2023, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Recipes

We had a spur of the moment lunch out with old friends, a great time, and a restless toddler at the next table where two couples were doing the same thing we were.

A panda puppet. Happy faces.

On a side note, if you take my favorite blueberry cake recipe, use Forager cashewmilk yogurt because the dairy-allergic kid is gone and it needs to be used up (but real butter because I can again), swap 2/3 c of the flour out for 2/3 c of almond flour, and sprinkle the tops with half the blueberries and then maple sugar and bake for 23 minutes, it makes eighteen blueberry almond maple muffins and they came out very very good.

Cookie cookie cookie
Friday December 22nd 2023, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

A crazy-busy nonstop runrunrunrunrun kind of a day like probably a lot of other people had today.

The teacher friend who needed homemade cookies for a party and was even crazier-busier than we were and had absolutely no time for it got handed plates filled with warm ones right out of the oven, courtesy of yonder daughter.

I think we’re ready?

Happy Birthsday!
Tuesday December 19th 2023, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Well, I did think the display on the oven actually looked kind of pretty: kind of a cross between Christmas lights and tech graffiti with every single error code showing at once.

But all we have of it now is its picture. Found the right breaker, tried it, came back in the kitchen, exclaimed, YES!!! and baked a raspberry cake in celebration.

A birthday cake from afar in honor of my mom’s and grandson’s and cousin’s birthsday Wednesday along with five friends that I know of. Happy Birthday, Mom and Parker! And everybody else!

There’s a big storm rolling in. Maybe we should stand flashlights around it instead of candles in it for when the skies blow the lights out again. I kid, I kid… But only halfway.

Having a ball
Saturday December 16th 2023, 10:07 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

My mom called yesterday, blown away.

My best friend from high school lost her mom to cancer while Karen was a freshman in college. Her dad remarried, then passed away himself a few years later, and her stepmom was the only grandmother her daughter ever knew. She died in her 90’s a few years ago.

It’s the Christmas season. And there was a wonderful mother figure still out there from Karen’s point of view, one who was widowed just before the pandemic and after a long, good marriage. Reaching out just felt like the thing to do.

My folks had moved at retirement, so she made sure she got the correct address from me.

And now Mom needed Karen’s address for her very delighted thank you on those Lindt dark chocolate balls that she would never in the world have expected.

Man, I picked good friends when I was a kid.

Hey Mikey
Wednesday December 06th 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

And on a sillier note–

Scene: dinner table.

Him: If it were my blog, I wouldn’t link to a recipe I hadn’t tried.

Me: But in this case maybe that’s part of the point. I’m not gonna try it, *you* try it! Or most likely not.

Both of us: reminiscences of the infamous Oobleck Pie thirty years ago from my then-new Joy of Cheesecake book.  All the other recipes in it were great; avocado/honey cheesecake with a wheat germ crust was… um… a tad green. And sticky.

But I baked it! My first one was a gift to a friend group–and they took one look at that thing and made me eat the first piece. I made it again for my family. Once.

So here’s the recipe that just the description tonight made his face go all funny before he finally asked, Why??

Peanut butter ketchup cookies.

With apologies to its creator, but, it almost reads like a college psych student’s research paper on internet gullibility.

The Turducken of fruit
Friday December 01st 2023, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

Andy’s Orchard sent out a note saying their holiday figs stuffed with dried peaches mixed with honey and candied orange peel and nuts were available.

I wait all year every year for those. Coming!!

The woman manning the register was the one I’d seen most often all year. About my age, quiet, and since my cane leaves me one-armed with the groceries she is always quick to help out.

She looked a little tired. She rang up my fresh-picked persimmons and Comice pears and stuffed figs, and it wasn’t till she was done and payment made that I reached into my purse again.

There was a dark dull purple and a much more vibrant purple, and I had more color choices waiting in the car if she’d rather. (Zoom hat knitting for the win!)

Her face lit up in surprise as she went for the lighter brighter one, and then so was she. It was a treat to see.

It’s wool, I told her.

That surprised her all over again: But it’s so soft! she told me. I have a wool hat (as she looked upwards as if to see it and patted her head) but it’s scratchy. Scratchy, she said again. This is soft!

I told her that it was machine washable but would fuzz out if it went through the laundry; her choice. But something not to have to worry about if it does.

She offered to carry my filled box out to the car, didn’t ask to see the other colors, loved the one she got, and I loved getting to see her so happy.

Richard and I each had one of those figs when I got home. Clearly, I need to go buy more before they close down for the winter. They are so good!

And they have more employees I’d love to say thank you to.

As one does
Monday November 20th 2023, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Food

All the baking, all the tidying up, the laundry, (the blocking the new cowl, too), the dishes, more baking, more dishes… And we’re not even being the hosts! But how can you not bake Thanksgiving week.

Now excuse me, I need to go put some second-batch pumpkin muffins in the freezer for future breakfasts because that’s enough food already for now.

She got me
Sunday November 19th 2023, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

A friend wished out loud for one of my chocolate tortes for Thanksgiving week and offered to pay for one.

I waved that away with I’m going to make you one because I want to. Because for that friend, always.

Her husband showed up at our door this afternoon to pick it up and he held out a box in return; I protested, You didn’t have to do that! He grinned and headed for his car–it was like a mutual doorbell ditch.

Inside were her homemade jams, with flavors like gold plum/cardamom/blackberry/lemon/honey (she really should open a business. Her stuff is exquisite.) Fig sauce. Tomato sauce. All from their garden, and honeys labeled by the season from his hives, seven jars in all. I kept unwrapping more and more in there.

It took much much much more work to make all those than any chocolate torte of mine ever did. Wow.

And I thought I was done writing this post but it wasn’t till I took this picture just now that I saw that there was a card tied to the box under those ribbons. It took some doing to pick them open to get at it.

Inside, she’d written a thank you note. With a $20 bill, too, the little stinker. I laughed. They totally win this round.

Another slice, please?
Saturday November 11th 2023, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

For when I try to remember later when it was: last night we went to listen to the local philharmonic orchestra playing and to meet our niece’s boyfriend, who plays in it. He loves his new hat. We really like him.

Tonight, we went to a potluck of about 20 people and to swap Thanksgiving stories.

Alice’s was that the part of her family assigned to bring pies one year decided that their relative’s kitchen was small and let’s just leave them in the truck till it’s time for dessert.

They were at a farm.

I almost asked if it was a pickup as I was just waiting for it: crows? The dog? But yes, as she continued it was clearly a pickup.

It was the horses, and they were having the time of their lives.

Well that explains it
Saturday October 21st 2023, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

Don’t know if you can read it, but the Washington Post had a fascinating article on how plants under attack communicate with each other and fight back, blocking germs, making things taste bad for bugs, etc.

Several people in the comments highly recommended the book, “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by a Native American who’s a botany professor. As someone who almost majored in botany, the descriptions were too compelling to pass up and a copy is now on its way here.

If any of you’ve already read it I’d love to hear your take on it.

Meantime, I can just picture the first brussels sprouts plant in the row shouting out to its peers as the harvester comes through, I’m a goner! Save yourselves! and the rest going, We’re on it!

If you don’t like them that must be why.