Loud restaurant
Wednesday June 12th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

How I managed to polish off nearly my entire big piece of whipped-cream-and-berry-stuffed birthday cake afterwards. (Happy 80th, Mary!)

It was the day of the annual lupus-group lunch before we close shop for the summer. We’ve gone to the same place three years now by mutual agreement.

And…the menu was the same as those last two times, pretty much. Those six lunch entrees. Everybody loves them but man, doesn’t the chef get bored?

I have this weird low-fiber diet as an ileostomy patient and have learned at the cost of a five-day intubation that I must not eat certain foods.

So.

Yeah their hamburger is the best I’ve ever had but c’mon. So I ordered an appetizer that was safe and asked what the soup of the day was. (Soup being cooked. Cooking breaks down fiber.) Beef? Sounds good, thanks, that, too.

The waiter left and I went, Wait. Did he say…  …Beet?

No, the others reassured me, He said beef.

It didn’t occur to any of us that there was a third possibility. Oops.

I have never had such a good cake with so many calories with so little guilt. Celebrated Mary next to me with gusto. We did it right.



Hunka hunka burning, Love! Ooh!
Saturday June 08th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

I put my favorite Mel and Kris hot cocoa mug in the microwave this morning, same as I always do, and turned my back to do something on the other side of the kitchen.

And suddenly wondered what that smell was. We’re talking maybe fifteen seconds here.

Richard came down the hall just then, going, Turn it off! Turn it off! Unplug it!

Smoke was pouring out of the microwave as we opened the door. And then the other doors, and the fan, and the skylight…

Is it just me, or does everybody have three different appliances spontaneously combust? Well not all at once, at least.

So did I knit today? I did not. I researched, I read endless reviews and reports, I went, Are you KIDDING me at Amazon’s saying they would ship that particular model in three to five months, and then I paid for the last one of these that Target had in stock so that nobody could beat me to it and drove over and picked it up so that I could have my hot cocoa in the morning without having to stand over a scorching pot again.

Do not stand between me and my morning cocoa. Three parts cocoa to one of sugar–I’m pretty hardcore.

Do you think we could start a microwave selfie fad?



Blueberry almond cake
Saturday June 01st 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Recipes,Spinning

Writing it down so I can find it later: I experimented to see if I could adapt my favorite blueberry cake recipe from chocolateandzucchini.com to use some of the freshly- made almond paste they sell at Milk Pail, with a higher almond and lower sugar content than any I know of.

For a few more weeks, anyway, till they shut down because Steve wants to retire. I need to find out where he sources it.

Okay, here it is:

Highly-Requested Blueberry Almond cake

Mix in one bowl:

1 2/3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In Cuisinart: the almond paste is sold in small random packages; I used .35 oz the first time and about .5 oz the second. Both worked, they were just a little different. So, pulverize it in a Cuisinart; add in 1 stick butter, sliced and at room temperature. (Note that Wayfare brand dairy-free vegan butter worked great, too. Now I have to find someone besides Steve who stocks it.)Whirr. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla, whirr, 1/2 c heavy cream (sour cream, plain yogurt, or going dairy-free, Kara brand coconut cream worked, too), then add 4 eggs and 1 c. sugar and whirr some more.

Add dry ingredients in. If you have a small food processor you might want to pour the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl first and add the dry in over there; one more thing to clean but easier to scrape into the pan, your choice.

Pour half into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover with four cups (don’t be stingy) of fresh, rinsed, patted-dry blueberries, then add the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle 1/4 c of brown sugar across the top and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

I made this for Richard on Monday and it was so good that he and Michelle asked me to make it again, dairy free so she could have some, and the Wayfare dairy-free whipped butter (butter beans are an ingredient. Who knew) with the coconut cream worked both in texture and flavor. I also happened to overdo on the almond extract a little that time and it obliterated any mention of coconut flavor.

Blueberries, almond paste, Wayfare, Kara coconut cream, sour cream, butter, and the particularly good versions of almond and Bourbon vanilla extracts: I have no idea what I’m going to do when that place shuts down. They are small but they have all the best stuff.

A funny story on the side: twenty-five years ago there was one single herd of Wensleydale sheep left in the world. Handspinners pitched in to try to help save the breed; I’m not the only one who bought ten pounds of their wool, and I’ll have a hand spun coat just as soon as I finally finish that button band in time for the SpinOff Magazine Rare Breeds Contest. Of 1999. Well anyway. So, I was at the doctor’s waiting room working on it once and someone with a British accent came over to sit next to me and ask me about my knitting.

The yarn was a new thing to her, and so I told her it was Wensleydale I’d spun.

Wensleydale! She smacked her lips loudly. That’s good eating!

I was so not expecting that reaction. I was speechless. I knew they ate a lot of mutton over there… I had no way to respond to that.

It wasn’t till years later that I found out what she’d been talking about and had a good laugh at myself and wondered what she’d thought I’d been thinking.

All of which I was reminded of last night as I made toasted cheese sandwiches with Wensleydale with cranberries. From Milk Pail.

Thank you for all these ingredients all these years, Steve!



Yarn then chocolate. Priorities.
Monday May 27th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,LYS

Alarm went off, we got up, got ready, got out the door, got onto the main road…

And in a split second of wait, where is everybody, had a good guffaw at ourselves and turned back into the neighborhood. Oops. Yeah we had a nice vacation day Friday but today’s one, too, remember? Not to mention what it was a remembrance for. With real thanks to all those who’ve served and the differences they’ve made.

Not long after that he asked me what I wanted to do with the day, then, now that we had it.

Well, we’d already avoided holiday beach traffic for good reason, so I threw out an in-my-dreams: Imagiknit and Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco.

Was I serious?

Well, actually, yeah, I’d love, but only the purest of love would make him offer to take me to a yarn store, much less one that far away… I’d bought these three extra skeins at Fillory that were just plain too off to feel good trying to mix dye lots with and I’d been trying to reconcile myself to the thought of not only buying more but buying quite a few more. That project devours yardage. And I had to see it in person.

Imagiknit’s website said they had nine. If it didn’t work we could check Cottage on the way back to see if they’d gotten more in stock. So because my husband really is that much of a peach, off we went. And he knows that that’s one yarn store I particularly do not get in and out of quickly even when I’m trying to be good–they have all my favorites. And I so rarely get there.

I spread the afghan-so-far on their counter and the young woman manning the register pronounced, simply, Wow.

That right there made it worth the trip to San Francisco.

The other, gray-haired woman went looking for the last skein but it had apparently been bought while we were on our way there. She sent us to the second room with the stronger lighting to get a better look at the colors, apologized about that missing skein and said that if we call ahead next time they’re happy to reserve… I assured her it was okay.

I had the afghan spread out again and this time Richard took a good look at it.

I’d bought ten? That’s four skeins? That’s not enough! he said decisively (he was right), and urged me to buy all seven they had that matched.

This time, (with the shop’s permission), I took one of theirs outside into the direct sunlight to see if it matched there, too. I’d made that mistake a week ago and I wasn’t going to repeat it.

The one difference, which the older woman pointed out, was that the shop’s was more nearly solid of a color while mine had more little bits where it was lighter here and there.

I could alternate rows.

The purple was the right purple, and what were the chances I’d get that so perfect anywhere else. I bought them.

They had a ball winder and swift set-up but winding the skeins was a do-it-yourself over in their classroom space. Back to the brighter room.

I had memories of friends telling me their ball winder’s gears had been stripped by people who’d cranked it too hard and the wrong way. I was not about to ruin theirs, and I’d kept him long enough; I was ready to just go.

But it was a mechanical thing, and mechanical things are toys to entice and figure out and use and feel great about and my ever-loving sat down with that first skein, got the nod from the woman to make sure he was doing this right, and set to it.

Six skeins later his arm was getting tired and he asked if I’d mind doing the last one. Not at all.

He got to wind the soft wool for his baby granddaughter in happy anticipation of getting to meet her soon, and being able to be participate in that afghan meant a lot to him.

Four hours of knitting later, sun light, artificial light: if I didn’t know where the second dye lot comes in every second row, I wouldn’t know of it at all.



Ten bars and a bit of extra
Wednesday May 15th 2019, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Holly’s coming tomorrow.

If I needed an excuse to start a batch of chocolate, that was a good one.



Parfiankas!
Thursday May 09th 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

The Yamagami Nursery guy’s favorite variety.

Somehow I completely missed them before today. I had been a little disappointed that my pomegranate had decided it needed a full third year’s growth before producing anything, unlike my friend Jean’s that gave her enough to share at two years old. She couldn’t remember what type she’d bought but they were so good that I’d bought a tree myself and I’d hoped I could compare with her and maybe even see if I could find the name for hers thereby.

She’s 93. I’m in a bit of a hurry.

I’m sure she bought a bigger, potted specimen; my four-inch-sleeve one was, um, cute, the last one they had, and given how flimsy the branches still are it made sense that mine wasn’t ready.

Plants flower most where the sun shines brightest and every day I’ve been looking out the window at the new leaves across the top of the tree behind the barbecue grill, wondering when it was supposed to flower and wishing for some sign that it would.

So someone explain to me how it is that they were all tucked away at the bottom and underneath, so out of sight that even with those colors I didn’t see anything while watering the thing? How did I miss these? They were all on the morning-sun side, at least.

Because this evening I discovered bright orange petals on the ground, a few flowers still on the tree–and a few actual tiny pomegranates! Eight in all! Richard, Richard, guess what, we get to taste our new Parfiankas this year after all!

Jean’s been ill these last few weeks. Something to look forward to will be a good thing.



But don’t climb the peaches. They’re useless that way.
Monday April 22nd 2019, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

It’s easier for the two of us to fly than the two of them and their four kids, so it had been awhile since they’d all been here. There’ve been changes in the yard just this year; the two older boys ran out back to explore.

I named each fruit tree going around one by one.

It was when I said the magic words ‘apple tree’ that Parker’s face lit up. “Apple!”

I’d wondered if he remembered. He’d been not quite four. Me snipping the tape off the clamshell squirrel cage then lifting him up, him picking the last apples off that tree I planted when his daddy had been about his age, him watching me intently in the kitchen as I sliced them up and then him proudly offering everybody their portion. (His baby brother ditched the skin on his by wiping the bits into the spaces between the keys on the piano when no one was looking.)

After that visit, my daughter-in-law told me that Parker wanted to eat apples all the time and he wanted them cut across the equator so all the seeds showed and he wanted to go on walks to plant those seeds so they could grow into great big apple trees where they lived so that everybody around them could get to pick and eat apples like that, too.

He wasn’t more than politely impressed with my peaches or cherries (yet) but that big old Fuji, that one was near and dear to his heart.

And the kids could climb it, too, though I didn’t think of it at the time and they didn’t think to ask. It wasn’t till later that I tried to picture any good climbing trees near them and couldn’t come up with any, and I can imagine it didn’t occur to them that one even does such things.

It’s not terribly scary high and it is pretty sturdy.

Well then. Next time.



But is it woolly edible?
Monday March 18th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knit

When my sister Anne was an art major, there was a semester where she had to choose one article and render it in many mediums. I remember the watercolor the best of all her lobsters.

With thanks to Margo Lynn for the heads-up, now someone has crocheted one: along with a knitted squid, shrimp, smelt, mussels, oysters, scallops, a beaded crab and a side of French fries wearing French berets and sporting the perfect little mustaches. Red i-cord for the tabasco sauce dribbling out. Atlas Obscura had fun with this one.



Chez Suzi
Saturday March 16th 2019, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

She’s someone else’s daughter, but I know how much it means to my own when someone takes her dairy allergy seriously: is chocolate made on equipment shared with milk, etc, okay to use in the ganache? She said yes, grateful at my asking her first without her having to say anything. Alright then, coconut cream for the cream, Earth Balance for the butter, and the chocolate torte just kind of melted in your mouth.

I sent her home with the leftovers.

And our mutual friend Suzi is a fabulous cook. If she ever opens a restaurant I’ll be first in line.



Ear doctoring
Wednesday March 13th 2019, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sometimes a blueberry clafoutis just demands to be made and that’s that.

Meantime, I went to go see my ENT today. His wife got a handknit from me years ago but I’d never knit him his own something; it was time.

A Malabrigo Mecha hat, thick, densely knit, warm, and soft. He quite liked the dark teal green. He tried it on for size, very pleased.

Turns out he’s taking a week off starting tomorrow to visit his daughter’s family, and where she lives it’s been snowing a lot.



Scooting right along
Tuesday February 19th 2019, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

I got the chair down to Bischoff’s Medical and they got right to it. I was good to go for Stitches and the guy was as happy about that as I was. Good folks. I recommended to my friend Pamela that she rent a scooter from them so as not to miss out–she broke both bones in her lower leg a few days ago and one of her first reactions was, But Stitches!

Meantime, I learned something new about the melanger: even though you don’t want to run it more than a minute without something in it, always do turn it on right before you start pouring the cocoa nibs in, not the other way around: otherwise the bits mound up, caught beneath the arms and jam the thing. And that is a motor I want working for many years to come. I sent a note to Afton so that that wouldn’t happen to her too with her new machine and turns out it already had. Both of us had to stop, pour the loose stuff out and hack away at those mounds to free the thing–but when we did it worked peachy fine.

It has a lid but it’s off while you’re pouring the nibs in, so you do it slowly because, um, popcorn effects are entertaining. (Which is why I tried putting them in first this time and turning it on. Bad idea.) She reported that her kitten went after a flying bit of chocolate but after tasting it gave her this look of, What have you *done* to me!

(Second sign posted for my retired high school English-teaching mom. A rare spotting of double letter inversions in the wild.)

 



Oooh, seconds?
Wednesday February 13th 2019, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Lupus

Went to my lupus group and offered a bar of my chocolate around the room, fresh from my melanger, I told them. Everybody but the person who can’t eat the stuff broke off a square politely.

We had our meeting, and at a comment at the end someone caught on: Wait. Did you MAKE this??! And suddenly that ziplock was in high demand as it went back around the room.

Photo taken afterwards, coming off the hospital grounds during a break between two waves of the storm.

I’m afraid that tree is just too tall to play jump rope with that rainbow.



The place was really busy
Tuesday February 12th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The sky was dark and low but the rain was holding off till evening. The shoppers were not.

I told the young clerk Pegi’s line about this being a French Toast run before the storm: milk eggs bread. He and the bagger cracked up, with the clerk especially looking like I had just totally made his day.

Clearly someone has parents who taught him how to make it. I remember thinking in college that everybody did: you just whip the eggs with a little milk, dip in the bread, pre-toasted or as is, a pat of butter in the skillet and one side and then the other and there you go. Easiest dish ever. (A side effect of our having lived in New Hampshire is that only real maple syrup will do for us. It’s the rule.)

And I remember the friend who watched my every movement like a hawk, trying to memorize proportions, which don’t matter much, not wanting to admit at the beginning that at 21 she’d never learned how to do this. How many eggs?

Her dad had died young and her mother was someone who bought blue cheese dressing but threw it away a day or two later because it had gone moldy. All those little blue bits in it.

And as long as I’m on that subject, my sister-in-law had a college roommate who was trying hard to learn from her how to cook. When my sister-in-law asked her to wash the lettuce she, having no idea, compliantly did: she squirted dish soap on it.



Maple pecan orange caramel strudel, this time with a little hazelnut too because that’s what was here
Sunday February 03rd 2019, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

A week ago, while we were packing up their house, B&N on the phone told us all food was take or toss and they urged us to help keep it from being wasted.

They had a big box of a dairy-free shortbread. We had a few more of the organic oranges from the neighbors. (Since you zest them, they really needed to be–it’s the difference between bitter and not bitter in my experience.)

Those two being essential to a childhood memory of my daughter’s (the recipe’s in that link) from before her dairy allergy surfaced, the thought kept percolating for her all week, not knowing that it was in mine, too. But she was the first one to bring it up yesterday, and a box of dairy-free phyllo dough soon followed her home from the grocery store.

There’s a point at which you quit resisting a good idea.

At the last minute it seemed I was out of Earth Balance, the one reliably dairy-free butter substitute I could think of but she found a box in the freezer of a coconut oil/cashew substitute for cultured butter for layering the sheets. I was a little unsure but it’s what we had.

The taste was perfect. The phyllo did come out just a bit tough rather than tender, but hey. I marveled at the end that the strudel was a lot easier to make than I remembered, and she laughed and said, You don’t have four little kids running around to try to keep track of at the same time.

Point.

In honor of my late father-in-law’s birthday. He watched me very carefully a few years ago as I showed him how easy it was to make your own caramel sauce–he wanted to be able to do that, too. Sugar, water, boil, cream? That’s all there was to it? Cool!

He had quite the sweet tooth.

Happy Birthday, DadH.



Detours
Monday January 28th 2019, 12:09 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Mango tree

Church. Then Dani and his beloved and our mutual friend Lee, whose birthday party it was where the conversation happened that led to my tree arriving.

I offered the not very large mango to Dani and he inhaled its essence, remembering the Alphonsos of his childhood back yard. I had my good Mel and Kris stoneware set out and we went to it. Mango pieces, homemade chocolate, juice I’d squeezed the night before after the neighbors gave us a boxful from their orange tree.

The mango might have been even better with one more day to ripen, but still: I could honestly say, and did, that he’d been right: that that was the best mango I had ever eaten in my life. Such a depth of flavor. The perfume! So much to that tiny bit of fruit the five of us each had. I did not know they could be like that. Wow.

Dani asked for the seed and the skin: the scent of home, and to prove to a fellow ex-pat friend of his that yes you can grow them here–you just have to want to badly enough.

His SO teased him that she was sure he was going to grow his own tree from it. They’ve told me their condo doesn’t have enough sun, but hey, if he wanted to badly enough. Right?

They headed out after a bit and I got a message from my daughter: could I bring…

She’d been spending all her free time of late helping some friends pack up their house. Their moving van arrives tomorrow bright and early, and they were glad they had that one last weekend to finish everything up.

Except that yesterday morning the guy’s father, a farmer, dropped dead, utterly unexpected, and they dropped everything and ran for the airport knowing how much his mom would need immediate help. There were still two baby bottles in the sink. Michelle was trying to finish what they no longer could and needed something to package some of their papers that they hadn’t intended for the movers to touch.

Sure, I can do that, and I headed off to San Jose with the requested bin.

I took one look around when I got there and knew that this was where I needed to be for the next little while.

I washed all the dishes, by hand so they would be seen on the drying rack and not forgotten in the dishwasher, I folded the clothes that had been washed, I sorted all the socks of all the sizes. I did not find the key to the firesafe that the toddler had run off with, but we were all in each other’s good company on that one. I remembered the days of one child of mine in particular who was always finding what squeezed into what and the hairpins we shook out of a ride-on toy years ago.

We’d been working for some time when…

The baby blanket! This is the couple I’d knitted a cashmere/cotton 50/50 afghan for, and it was their now-toddler’s favorite blankie. It was there. Michelle called them: I was offering to mail it to them tomorrow if they wanted. (Their stuff was going straight to storage given the new circumstances and it might be months.) Or I could keep it at my house till they were ready, free of moths or loss.

Her friend burst into tears: yes please send it?!

First thing, honey, first thing. That, at least, is something I can do.

(And hey, now I know: after 18 months of it going through their high-end washer and dryer, it’s still so very soft, the excess fluff is gone, and it has shrunk only a little. I pre-shrank that yarn hard before knitting it up and it basically held, while the essence of the cashmere endures. And it is THE beloved blankie. I’m quite pleased.)