Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing…
Wednesday April 19th 2017, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Food,Friends,Life

My daughter-in-law had a moment of great inspiration that blessed a lot of us. That will be a story to tell, probably next week.

Meantime, today I had an appointment with the ENT who, years ago, diagnosed my hearing loss as being caused by an allergy to aspirin and thereby stopped its progression. I owe him much. He’s also the one whose love of his garden sparked my own fruit tree and veggie planting and I adore him.

He was running a moment late. And because he was running late, I ended up pulling back into my driveway exactly at the moment a neighbor from across the fence was standing right there, having stopped to talk to the guy next door after having walked all the way around the block in hopes of seeing me and finding me not there. But then I was.

If you remember the saga of the big ragged broken sad ugly Snoopy weathervane skewered on the fence that bugged me so much for so long and an elderly neighbor’s anger at my asking her to take it down or to let me help her do so, this was her.

I wanted peace between us after that. Praying was something I could do while trying to figure out how to create some positive interactions, and we have had some since then.

I stumbled across an article on war brides from her native land that left me feeling for the first time like I could understand why she came across the way she did–it was a survival tactic that had helped those women survive.

Whether it actually applied to her or not I don’t know for sure, but I do know that for me it helped a lot.

Last week I left a stalk of bright red amaryllis flowers in a vase by her door after no one answered. (At her age, I just hoped she was still there but nothing had changed in her front yard, so…)

Here she was, responding in kind. She had a surprise for me. I looked in and laughed, “You didn’t need to return the vase!” There were dark-chocolate-covered butter cookies in there, too. Wow. Yum. “Thank you!”

But here is the thing: she was radiant. She glowed with love, and we gave each other a big hug and I didn’t even know she does hugs. My next door neighbor shared in by saying I’d given them an amaryllis, too, and his being there made it all the sweeter. Had he not stepped outside to put his trash bin away just in time to see and delay her by visiting a moment she probably would have missed us both.

She said, “But when the flowers got old they dripped red. It looked like blood!” She turned and said it a moment later to him, too, in case he hadn’t heard it the first time. I grinned at the scandalousness of its dastardly deed. Yeah, they do that. And thought, actually, it would probably make a great dye for my wool, but who would ever sacrifice the number of flowers it would take to find out?

Only later did the thought occur to me that, oh, I hope that didn’t cause her any flashbacks. But judging by her face and her voice, I think, I think, we did just fine there. Replace the old memories with the new. Better. Happier. And hey–amaryllises!



Soggy serial
Sunday February 19th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Three and a half inches of rain due in the next 24 hours and more after that. It’ll be interesting to see if we get any peaches off those early blossoms.

Michelle is home for the weekend and talked me into trying out this almond cake recipe. I used a tablespoon less butter (because it seemed so much), a little more almond paste because why not use it all up, and added a half teaspoon of almond extract after taking a poll and getting two enthusiastic votes yes on the extract.

She was right–that one is definitely company-worthy.



It’s a toss-up
Saturday February 11th 2017, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

I sure don’t think the hawk dropped them, and the squirrels only tear an occasional one apart when they’re thirsty enough–when they do, though, you know from a distance that they did.

I was putting the frost covers on the mango for the evening when I happened to glance across the yard: say what?! My lemons aren’t that color and they sure don’t fall over there (or at all, until they’ve been hanging on the tree until the next crop comes in and there are none of those right now.)

I went and looked. I’d been outside earlier and they hadn’t been there then. I picked up one, more over there, finally six, a few of them cracked open from the impact. They’d been tossed a good toss.

Oranges.

Most people plant dwarf versions in their backyards; my Meyer lemon is probably older than I am but it’s not much taller.

But someone across the corner and down a bit at the fence line had planted a now-immense citrus that goes up nearly to the top of the power pole, and right now it is loaded, and since it was planted close against the fence, at least a third if not half the crop is accessible only to the other side. Free fruit!

And on that other side is my neighbor with early dementia whom I planted my Indian Free peach for. Our fig tree will spill over into their yard, too, when it gets bigger, if they want it to.

They’ve been anticipating those peaches and I have no doubt that Adele wanted to share back. She’s always loved knocking on my door in the summer and offering us some of her tomatoes.

I sent her husband a note telling him how loved it had made me feel that she’d made sure we could enjoy some of those oranges, too, if that was her–but I also mentioned still being in recovery from a serious head injury; maybe she could roll them gently over the top of the fence next time? (Hey, I could walk over there and visit with her and give him a reprieve for a moment, too.)

Just let me offer a gentle mutiny on the bounty, I thought. In the current delivery method, it’s the thought that klonks.

I think I need to go back to wearing that helmet in the back yard again, just to be sure.



Death Star butternut
Tuesday January 03rd 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Politics,Recipes

So today the House of Representatives, having decided that, Ethics Committee? We don’t need no stinkin’ Ethics! found that having the voters storm the gates by the thousands and thousands in protest meant that, Oh wait, what we meant to say was of course we do!

Meantime, we had one last Pilgrim butternut squash from the garden. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for months. There was no way my still-broken right knuckle was coming anywhere near the size of knife and amount of oomph it would take for me to break into that thing and I didn’t like that stringy variety enough to ask Richard to bother–we’d tasted those.

It was left for last because it had a bit of a Death Star look to it: a squirrel had taken a bite out of the bulbous end when it was quite young and it had crusted over and healed while the rest of the bulb part swelled and grew huge around it. I figured there was no squirrel spit inside, but still…

Sunday, the Merc ran this column. Don’t slice your fingers. Just put the whole thing in the hot oven like a baked potato. Simple.

Well, that would finally get it off my counter, at the very least. I tried it. No foil, it didn’t deserve it and it kinda came in its own anyway, I just threw it in and on second thought grabbed it back and put a cookie sheet underneath. Good thing.

I’d felt a bit conned by the ad copy claiming it was one of the best-tasting.

Well let me tell you. It is now. Or at least til I grow me some Walthams later, as someone suggested here for next time. But man that was good! It steamed and caramelized itself and the shell peeled off like paper. Still slightly stringy inside, but I could Cuisinart the leftovers (it had been six pounds) into a pumpkin pie that wouldn’t need much or any sugar added; it’s got its own this way.

It did try to live up to that Death Star persona one last time, though: it exploded at the flaw straight down onto the cookie sheet, where the sugars blew up like a marshmallow and then blackened into a finely molded dust while the smell let you know that that squash really did need to come out of there!

Oooh, but the rest of it…! I am definitely growing squashes again and I wasn’t sure of that before.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young mom of thinking I would finally put the actual fillet knife someone had given us to its purported use and I bought a live fish from an Asian market. I chose it, they cleaned it, and then I painstakingly tried to follow James Beard’s instructions on how to carve the scales off. I spent quite a bit of time ever so carefully hacking away while trying not to damage the thing and finally, feeling like an utter failure, looked at how little I’d gotten done and how bad it looked, said nuts to this, and simply threw foil around it and let the oven take care of it while I caught up with whatever my kids had been getting into during my distraction.

I pulled it out of there with the skin falling away with the foil. The idea of trying to ditch the scales and keep the skin for the perfect restaurant presentation had been ridiculous all along. It didn’t have to be the hard way at all.

Fish, squash, and Congressmen: they can come out right after all, all you have to do is surround them with heat.



The last day of vacation
Monday January 02nd 2017, 12:10 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

Nephew Ryan and his wife were in town and stopped by.

Friends stopped by (hi, Krys!)

Michelle is back for a day’s rest from her trek north and, a little too late to serve it up to the others, we had a rematch on the buche de noel experiment. Alice Medrich’s chocolate version of the cake part for the win, definitely–which is not a surprise. Anything by Alice Medrich is better than anyone else’s when it comes to chocolate.



Late December gathering
Tuesday December 27th 2016, 12:22 am
Filed under: Food,Friends

Good friends, good talk, good times, and the day is done. (Thank you Nina and Rod!)

 

Edited to add, hey, LynnM, I got yet another delayed bounce message; do you have any other email address I can respond to? Thanks.



I will so miss these trips together
Wednesday November 23rd 2016, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

I threw the idea out there on a lark, and she said, Sure!

And so for one last time before Michelle’s move Friday to her new job in San Diego, we drove down to Andy’s Orchard together. The last fresh fruit of the year was apples and persimmons, including a Giant Fuyu that truly was and a variety I’d never heard of.

But the best part was seeing the woman I’d given Andy’s hat to last month. She had always seemed like someone who needed a good hug and a listening ear somehow.

Boy, not this time. She was glad to see us and laughed again and again as we chatted.

Then the total, the credit card, and the sudden realization: how am I supposed to sign this?!

No problem, Mom, I can do it.

Wait what?

She told me of some long-forgotten (by me, anyway) time when she’d needed my signature in high school but that hadn’t been possible so I’d told her to just go sign it. Turned out she could do a darn good job of it, and today it was, here, let me show you. Our handwriting style’s a lot the same anyway, Mom.

(Actually I didn’t think it was but never mind.)

And then with my okay, go ahead, she did.

I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t have been able to tell you I hadn’t written that. She was disappointed it didn’t come out better while I was going no, you’ve got my old-age version down pat.

The clerk was bowled over laughing at this point.

You have found your superpower, my child. Use it only for good.



Actually I’m from sort of here.
Saturday November 05th 2016, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knit,Life

Tonight was the annual Scout dinner and dessert auction.

There were a lot of really good home-baked desserts on that table and a lot of people bidding on them; it went on for awhile. I pulled out my knitting so my hands and my eyes would clearly be busy engaged in doing something else and not letting myself angle for Andrea’s chocolate caramel cake–it hit $110 and deserved it but there was no way. My own *two tortes together pulled down $95, less than last year but no small amount.

Someone across the room whom I didn’t know saw me and pulled out her own knitting. And so when it was over and I went and admired her work and introduced myself.

English was a bit of a struggle for her, although it seemed to me that she was better at it than she thought she was, and I explained that I’m hearing impaired–it wasn’t her.

She asked me where I was from.

“Washington, DC.”

“No–where are you from.”

I wasn’t sure what she was getting at.

She clarified. “What country?”

I laughed. “England, about 400 years ago. Oh, and Sweden, for my great great great (great?) grandfather.” (There were random other add-ons after the Mayflower but I wasn’t going to burden her with the whole spreadsheet.)

She laughed, “I’m from Hong Kong.” Then she proudly pointed out her grandsons, who were clearly, like me, a bit of everyone from everywhere.

We had cowls on our needles at about the same point in progress. Hers was a mobius. Mine laid flat.

——-

*And there were two more in the fridge, one not-good-enough-for-company slightly overbaked plain chocolate, one hazelnut chocolate left over from a party I **planned for but had to miss. We really didn’t need any more desserts around here for the moment.

**Because no matter what that map program said, road A did not connect through to road B and there was no telling where it was and after much back-and-forth searching and mileage I gave up and went home (hey, hazelnut torte for us.) Next time.



Brie, cheddar, we were experimenting tonight
Friday October 07th 2016, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

A friend who is in hospice care is having a potluck tomorrow for people she dearly wants to see, and bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed roasted ripe figs sounded divine to her.

I wanted them done right–and so I drove down to Andy’s Orchard for the figs. Besides, I’d been looking forward to going since just before our trip East. Oh wait–I sewed the “Created with pride by…” tag on the outside. Classic. Okay, let’s fix that, alright, now we really are ready. Go.

I got my figs, and I almost/sort of pulled off the equivalent of a doorbell-ditching of a handknit hat.

I forgot to put care instructions with it, so, to Andy: it’s extra fine merino wool, spun a bit tightly so as not to pill. It was a mill-end cone, which meant I pretreated the yarn in hot soapy water to get the mill oils out. Still, it could shrink more, so the thing to do is to hand wash it gently in tepid water as needed. Just a bit of suds in the sink, put it in, let it sit a bit, take it out, put it back in in tepid rinse water and then lay it out to dry, shaping it back in place a bit if needed.

Thank you for feeding my family and loved ones so well with such great fruit!



Cookie monster
Monday September 19th 2016, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I am totally going to plagiarize my friend Dannette’s toddler on this one. (A side note to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: he was the baby you held in San Francisco.) She needed chopped nuts, and you know there’s nothing a little boy would rather do than be allowed to pound things–and with a grown-up’s tool no less. And to be helping Mommy and Daddy with the baking while doing it!

And thus the gleeful picture she posted, the rubber mallet a blur in his happy hands, with the word: Pismashios!



Going for that Jackson Pollack/Salvador Dali touch
Sunday September 18th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

So the problem was only finding four of the mini cupcake pans–I know there used to be six, but then I had only one working oven for years; I probably gave the other two away, having no reason to hog them. Okay.

Mini paper liners, check.

But this batter is turning out to be way too much unless I wash and dry the first set of pans as they come out and the second set goes in, and then again. (The second oven’s busy with something else anyway.)

Butt-checking the baker: hey, that works, too!

(Final tally: 78-12. Not counting the ones we ate already.)

 

 



Durkee or not Durkee: is there even a question?
Saturday September 17th 2016, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The annual Labor Day block party happened today because that’s when the people who organize it could be there.

Having forgotten to buy cream, I didn’t bring a chocolate torte this year, but I figured homegrown black cherry tomatoes were a decent trade-off, with some Durkee sauce on the side and a plastic knife to scoop it out with and a note explaining that they go together.

It’s one of the great old traditions of summer. My dad tells me he learned about Durkee’s (there should be an ‘s there. There really should) from Richard’s great uncle (probably before we were even born, right, Dad?)

Three times I saw someone bending over my bowl and wondering out loud, without reaching in, Are those tomatoes?

I did not go on and on about their having been picked in the early morning for peak sweetness, yadda yadda; I just said, Yes, and homegrown, too!

A few got eaten. The Durkee was left untouched. Leaving me wondering, is that combination just an East Coast thing? Don’t these people know how good this is? I couldn’t find it in any stores here and had to order a six-pack online, so hey, I had plenty to share if they’d let me.

Okay, searching for it to offer you all a link, I got this:

“FAMOUS SAUCE
This popular tangy sandwich spread has been around for over 100 years! It was even served in the Lincoln White House!”

With a picture of the bottle.

But when I searched for info on that actual item on the manufacturer’s website, it seems that after hanging in there since the mid-1800s, it… Is on the list of all their products but isn’t under Sauces and it isn’t filed under F. Wait, don’t tell me they’re not making it now!

Looking a little harder, I found this on food.com, along with a recipe for faking it:

“Eugene R. Durkee created the first prepared and packaged salad dressing called Durkee Famous Sauce in 1857. To appreciate his endeavor, it is important to remember this was created prior to refrigeration. His creation was carried west by the pioneers. Historians have found old, discarded Durkee dressing bottles along covered-wagon trails. Durkee Famous Sauce was even purported to be stocked in Mary Todd Lincoln’s pantry and served to Abraham Lincoln in the White House during the Civil War.”

The real stuff, as currently constituted (i.e. with soybean oil) is still on Amazon after all. Phew.



The clearing
Friday September 09th 2016, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,LYS

There was a photo and a note on Facebook: Did anybody want… Free to a good home…

Someone else asked for the big red crockpot. I asked if the smaller one had been spoken for. (Much more our size anyway.)

It had not. I headed over. The doors at Purlescence are locked now but lots of work was going on on the other side as the place was slowly being emptied of its ten years.

Kaye carried the thing to my car for me and, almost there, threw in the thought of, You wouldn’t be interested in a toaster oven?

YES! I exclaimed a little harder than quite entirely reasonable, surprising myself. I had long wanted to be able to warm up just a bit of the kitchen for some small baked thing, but not enough to justify replacing my elderly cracked-plastic simple two-slicer. We don’t have a lot of countertop space. I had not wanted to want one and it all kind of came out in that one-word blurt.

She apologized that it needed cleaning, but I found when I got home that it needed very little. It’s cute. It’s a two-bagel-slice top with a pull-down door in front and not much more of a footprint than my old toaster, a total win.

But the biggest thing about the both of them is the bit of history she offered with them: all those Thursday nights, all those knit nights, they’d had these tucked away upstairs for a quick bite to eat.

So that’s how they’d made it through all those long days over all those years.

These appliances had sustained my friends so that they could sustain our knitting community and now I get to have them here with me. And someone else got to take home part of that history too, and I like that. I like it a lot.

And I love that I now have a toaster oven that kind of looks like an old jukebox.

I need to go toast me some toast. Anyone got a favorite slow cooker recipe? Chicken tikka masala, maybe?



20 oz per
Wednesday September 07th 2016, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Hanging on to that last bit of summer…

Two boxes for us and the one on the left for another family. I delivered it and got to see the thrilled look on the 13-year-old’s face when he opened that door and saw Andy’s peaches. They’ve had them before. He knew.

Michelle had water on to boil (one minute and then quickly over to the other pot) and icewater to cool for skinning the first four about the moment we walked in the door; picture taken immediately after. Those four made enough puree for two batches of sorbet.



Sweetness and light
Wednesday August 31st 2016, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Knit,Life

Knitted a little.

Re that subject line, my mom used that phrase a lot when we were kids as something to always remember to aspire to–and said it at times, too, one must confess, in carefully stifled exasperation, reminding herself of what *she* aspired to, and then repeated by a certain daughter towards her own kids and herself as they were growing up. And so on.

And now I’m going to be boring a moment and repeat what I said on Facebook just because it’s useful information to get out there.

The Produce Picks column in the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday had this line in it: “On a really hot summer day, the pear may reach the minimum desired sugar level in the morning, but the heat will chase the sugar back into the tree. It’s the tree’s way of protecting itself.” I had never heard such a thing before, and I thought I knew at least a little about fruit trees. I wondered, just pears? I would quite doubt that. I’d wondered why a fig I’d picked one morning was so very very good but the ones I’d had since were just okay. Oh. I’d picked them late in the day. So I went out early this morning and picked the two that were currently ripe (I planted the tree last year, it’s new at this) and took that first bite.

THAT. That was what I’d been wondering where it had gone. That was what a ripe straight-off-the-tree fig was supposed to taste like. Moral of the story, and it probably applies to tomatoes, too: pick in the morning.

(And I knew Andy does. Now I know more of why.)

People chimed in who knew more than I do and the verdict was, yes, it’s true of every edible thing in the garden.

In that case, I figure it should be better known than it is. The food you grow tastes better if you pick it early in the day. Spread the word like come-post.