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:

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, 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.

Thursday August 25th 2016, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food

Today’s peaches from Andy’s: they really are that big.

And that good.

Peach sorbet
Monday August 22nd 2016, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

“Oh, you do it fancy,” said Michelle as I got out the wire basket to lower the peaches into the boiling water with; “I just use a ladle” at her house.

One one thousand two one thousand…  Sixty seconds, lift, and quick into the icewater.

And then the peels just kind of melted off. I squeezed one lemon from the tree, she added just a touch of sugar–not much–a taste test all around, just a spoonful more from the sugar container and then we food processored the heck out of those four or five pounds of perfect peaches.

Plug in and wait.

Direct side-by-side comparison between the plain pureed mixture and what came out of there and all I can say is it was magic. That electric ice cream maker is suddenly going to get used a whole lot more.

I get buy with a little help from my friends
Sunday August 21st 2016, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

Our friends Phyl and Lee came over tonight bearing newly picked, perfectly ripe figs from their friend’s tree, sharing the bounty that had been shared with them where they would be appreciated and eaten in time. So good.

In turn, we fed them peaches picked Friday morning at Andy’s Orchard. Michelle had called ahead the day before and been told, Don’t come down today, we’re about out–wait till tomorrow, we’ll be picking first thing, and whatever all else they said was such that Michelle told me, We need to be there at eleven.

We got there at 11:05 and two people in line ahead of us already had three boxes and a bunch of people who came in after us wanted some. We were allowed three boxes, too, and a few extras because we’d called ahead, and because we were buying not just for us but for a friend with four school-age kids who’d tasted some of what Andy grows and definitely wanted us to bring her more.

But I asked around the room first: did everybody have some that wanted some and did they have as many as they wanted. I’d never seen the place so crowded and we didn’t want to be greedy. It was clear they were running out fast. We had a heat spell in the hundreds early in the summer and it sped up the ripening process so we were near the end of the season early this year and clearly, people knew it.

Those CalReds were even better than the variety we bought the week before.

That afternoon, looking at those rows of beautiful fruit, I thought, y’know…if I ever needed an excuse to stop by our neighbor’s and check in on her that’s a good one right there.

She’s been fighting cancer. Knowing how careful you have to be when you’re immunosuppressed, I told her, These have only ever been touched (to the best of my knowledge) by the picker this morning and by me.

She was surprised and happy and anticipating just what those could be like and I wondered why on earth I hadn’t done this before.

Phyl, who grew up with two peach trees herself, remarked tonight, Now *that* is a peach.

As my cousin once remarked, Adam and Eve could never have been tempted by an apple: it had to have been a peach.

Monday August 15th 2016, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Life,Wildlife

I picked up a peach this morning from last week’s box from Andy’s and put it right back down: an impressive puddle had been hidden under it–we should have eaten that one four days ago. I guess we handled it too many times trying to find the softest and ripest. There was a heartfelt thought of, oh if only…

I don’t feed the squirrels but I just couldn’t toss it. Not one of those peaches.

Maybe it would encourage them to search for food away from my ripening figs? Right? So I put it in a bowl so it wouldn’t weep across the carpeting and took it to the farthest point in the yard from my figs and the neighbors’ tomatoes over yonder and put it on a stump, the remains of one of the fence-threatening trees we cut down two years ago to make way for replanting in fruit trees.

I went out this evening to check if it might by any chance still be there, unnoticed.

As if!

You can see where more of that pink juice ran out onto that stump. It took me a moment to find the pit a yard away and yes, it really is that red.

But what is funny and intriguing and quizzical is this: a gently rounded stone with no sharp points had been placed right where I had put that peach down. It was definitely larger than the pit. It couldn’t have gotten there without that peach having been gotten out of the way first. Wherever it had come from it had not been there before and I don’t know how far they’d had to carry it and it would have been heavy in their mouths for getting it up and onto that stump.

But they did.

They left me a tip.

And they’re big
Wednesday August 10th 2016, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

A few warm days in a row and while all the others sat there green, two of the figs decided it was time to turn reddish brown: one on this branch, one on that. Just like last week. They’re not drooping quite enough yet, though, and when I tested by lifting each one to horizontal they did not come away from the tree.

But one has two tiny droplets of sugar on the outside of the skin halfway down already, something the ones I’ve picked so far have not. I was tempted. It wants to be sweeter still? Okay, I can wait–probably won’t have to for long, like, tomorrow, probably.

My birder friend Alice told me that I would find the birds would go after them but the squirrels somehow really don’t seem to like figs, to which I say well Hallelujah for that! I guess they don’t like the smell of the latex in the sap? They tend to walk carefully around the mango tree not too close and that’s the one thing those two trees have in common.

One of the ripening ones hadn’t even been covered in a clamshell but I guess the jays hadn’t figured out how to get at it among the ones that were. It is now.

I like this idea of them ripening a good snack worth’s for two at a time. I don’t know how long the process will stay that way, but if we get a whole bunch at once I will roll them in melted butter, roast them, and drizzle honey on top. If they need it. Which clearly they won’t.

Monday August 08th 2016, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

A few more thoughts on Saturday: my hubby wanted the traditional family Emergency Room Medicine–which means a cone of ice cream on the way home. I had no interest but he’s the one who went through all that, so, hey. Tradition. Sure. I stopped at a Coldstone Creamery, ran in, got his favorite and ran out.

Then to the drugstore to get his phoned-in prescription at the only pharmacy for many miles around that was open at nearly 8 pm on a weekend.

Your insurance will refuse to cover it, they told me, because we’re not in their network.

You’ve filled it already?

They had. CVS *might* still be open, he said. Probably not. (The doctor had said he was phoning it to that Walgreens because he thought they were the only place in four cities that would be.)

And if it’s not… And even if it is. I was so very very tired, and more importantly, his very life might well depend on getting that med in him quickly. “It’s under a hundred? Fine. Go.”

I got back in the car where Richard was still trying to keep his foot propped up as best he could in that space and went off to Trader Joe’s: we had to do some grocery shopping, and we had to keep going while we were going because collapse was so close.

The innocent clerk with the gentle smile asked me, “And how was your day?”

I will forever be grateful for that and for his listening; I tried to keep it brief.

I started loading the car and Richard said Michelle had gotten stranded and had been trying to reach us and we had to go get her right now. He was worried and pushing me to hurry.

I stopped right there, having not had lunch yet and the sun was nearly set on this fine summer evening and said firmly, “I am going to drink something and I am going to eat something or I am going to burst into tears.” I considered what I’d just bought and realized it was his favorites to make him happy with–but no drink. I have this drink 8 oz every two hours or your kidneys fail thing going on for life, this was serious. The clinic’s drinking fountain had been awhile ago at this point.

He handed me a ten and I dashed back inside. I grabbed a mango smoothie and another clerk saw me coming and opened a line just for me and got me out of there fast (blessings on her! I think she’d overheard the earlier conversation.) I chugged it fast, we got to Michelle in no time, and then at long long last we made it home.

Where I wondered why on earth I hadn’t bought one of those two-minute bags of microwaveable dinners they sell, and generally pretty good, too.

Actually yeah I did. Richard found that grocery bag the next morning after it had been left out all night.


And then.

Then there was the respite of the rest of Sunday. Church. Old friends, new friends, the services themselves.

A couple was visiting from out of town and I had this flash as the man’s eyes briefly met mine, of, Wait. I know you. Weren’t you at BYU with me? (I didn’t quite say it out loud. I’ve pattern-matched wrong on faces before.)

And thought, naaaah, couldn’t be, that guy’s way too old.

….. *blink* ….

But surely he…the Wilkinson Center, yes…

As it sank in: Wait, *I’m* that old. (Did you forget that little detail, hon? I mean, really?) Helped by the fact that meantime he’d done that same double take and flash of recognition.

Oh well, by that point it was too late to chase after them with any sort of dignity, so, that was that. At least now I know he grew up to be someone with deeply kind eyes. His wife does, too. It helped so much, and they could never know.

This morning the deep purple in the toe area, the fierce swelling in the reddened foot and lower leg: those are gone. His color is normal, normal everything as if all that hadn’t happened. He was still wiped from fighting back the infection along with the antibiotic, but he’s going to be okay.

It was one of those times when life says, Take nothing for granted. Hug your dear ones. Be kind. Be grateful.

The Bradfords
Friday August 05th 2016, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,History

Last year they had a drought and a poor crop and weren’t selling the seeds and I just had to wait.

But guess what I just got in the mail. They even came with two empty seed packets to save your own in later. If you want heritage varieties, this is definitely a heritage variety: a soft-shelled watermelon that was the best-selling one of the 1800s and considered the sweetest.

Until the arrival of the railroads induced breeding that was shipping-centric at the expense of flavor (sounds like tomatoes) and the market bottomed out for these.

Just this one family kept growing their ancestors’ variety, 170 years on their land. They got discovered. It had been thought to be extinct.

You can read their story here. And the Bradford Watermelon’s Revolutionary War history here.

They say they get an average of one watermelon per plant. How many gallons of California water to grow a single one? I’m not sure I want to know but I know I want to try. Re saving the seeds, they can cross-breed with any squash plants that might be around and although that might make for some really odd and curious future food I’m not sure I’m that adventurous. Half Bradford and half zucchini? Wait–it IS intriguing…  Baseball bat size for the win! (Yeah, but.)

I’ve got almost a year to figure out how I’m going to keep the critters from eating them.