Dr. Y the art historian
Monday May 02nd 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Today was one of the great honors of a lifetime: we got invited to attend a friend’s doctoral thesis defense today. Zoom was an option.

And so I did.

I kept my camera on during the introductory remarks and then, fearing I might in any way be a distraction, turned it off and just watched, needles and hat project in hand. I and so many others had been praying so hard while he’d been so worried and had worked so hard to be ready.

But now it was happening. Once he was actually up there facing the faculty for it, he knew his stuff, he knew what he was going to say, he knew he could answer their questions, and he just nailed it again and again and again with the confidence he had put the effort into earning.

Congratulations, Eric! filled up the chat sidebar at the end as I turned my camera back on long enough for him to see the huge smile on my face.

He did it!

I will forever wish he’d gotten a chance to meet my dad–they so much would have hit it off.

Wherever he and Aubrie and their two young sons go next, if there’s room in the car, a little Anya apricot tree will start to set down roots along with them.

And if when they get all done packing the space just isn’t reasonably there, I’ll send them some kernels from this year’s crop. They want one as a memory of California, I want to send a bit of my heart into their future, and we can make this happen.

Every baby deserves something handmade just for them
Thursday April 28th 2022, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

The young couple across the street.

The husband showed up on our doorstep about a month ago with the misdelivered birthday box addressed to us of Hawaiian-grown chocolate. It was clear what was inside. We both had a good laugh as I thanked him for being willing to give it up.

A Pod storage unit showed up in their driveway two days ago.

Yesterday evening, I saw her briefly across the street in silhouette: she was!

This morning there was a truck.

I spent too long diving through stash, looking for that perfect skein in my head, sure it must be there, and finally thought, C’mon. Speed. Speed is what matters. Hurry. The undyed (and thankfully already-wound) Rios won, even though my brain was in anything-but-white mode after two months without colors on the needles, and I cast on. It’s more formal anyway, they could use it for more places and to match anything.

The truck with the Soft Air Pac writing (?) left, a different one arrived. Box trucks, both of them, big ones.

I took a break only because my hands demanded it and fed Richard the fastest microwaved lunch I could think of. (Sorry, dear.) I got back to work. It surprised me how long this was taking me. Go go go. You don’t have time to stop. Go.

1:00 pm: I DID IT! I ran the ends in, wrote a quick note of washing instructions and tucked it inside the hat, found a gift bag, and went over there and knocked on their door.

The mover guy opened it with question marks all over his face: who are you and why are you here now of all times?

But she saw me from across the room and her face lit up as she quickly took his place at the door.

Me, stammering: I saw yesterday–pregnant? Are you–? holding out the bag.

Her: Yes! Thirty weeks. It’s a girl!

Me: I didn’t know your tastes, so, y’know, frog? puppy? lace?, so I just made it plain, but I’ve been knitting like crazy since I saw you.

She laughed with so much joy in her face. So much happy anticipation: towards the next two years abroad, towards her daughter, life, everything, made all the sweeter as she looked at that hat all squished up in a ziplock. It wouldn’t take up much room.

She declared it perfect. She said Oh thank you! when I assured her it was superwash wool, so that while it would fuzz out in the laundry, it wouldn’t shrink, even in the dryer. She saw I knew and still remembered what it’s like with a new baby.

She was so glad to see me to say goodbye before they leave on that temporary assignment and the hat just topped it off.

I didn’t keep her but a minute. I knew she had a ton to do.

The moving van pulled away a half hour later.

An early start
Saturday April 23rd 2022, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

When Richard and I had been married about a year, I discovered a farmer whose wife had a few apricot trees that were for her personal pin money and she was offering 27 lb wooden crates (with a strong request that you return the crate) for $5.

I brought that crate home in great anticipation and glee at our adulting–all that fruit from pick-your-own farms in my childhood that my Mom had put up every year, and now we got to do it–and my husband and I spent a Saturday in grad school jamming and bottling and creating rows of all those gorgeous jars of summer sunshine.

I lined them up, tired and proud and admiring what we’d accomplished, when my sweet new husband turned to me with a smile and a half-apologetic half-bemused confession: “You know what? I really don’t like apricots.”

He’d waited till we were done. He hadn’t wanted to wreck my enthusiasm. We gave most of it to his older sister when we moved away and she was quite happy to have them.

I remembered that day when I read last week someone saying she’d picked a hundred pounds of apricots off her four year old tree. At least mine were growing from seeds, not nursery stock, so I figured we wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that for awhile yet. Besides, all you have to do is ask friends to come over and help themselves and a good time will be had by all.

He has actually tried the Anyas from Andy’s and though not as bowled over as I might have hoped, he conceded that for an apricot they were good.

I have six seedlings left, with two spoken for.

I figured we have several years before I even get to taste from the two I intend to keep long enough to find out which one has the fruit most like its known and loved parent.

This evening, I saw, really saw for the first time, and how had I missed this? My third-year has this one branch near the top that hadn’t been sprouting any leaves off it, and it was now quite a bit thicker and browner than all the young ones around it growing straight and red.

What had happened was that we had our first warm day in awhile today and the buds had burst out from it. Thus the nubbly randomness that had caught my eye at long last while the other branches around it had grown past it and obscured it.

Those are flower buds!!! That’s a fruit spur!

I wanted to jump up and down like a little kid.

I don’t get it. Not that I’m complaining! My cherries, peaches, and plum, my other stone fruits: they all bloom first and then leaf out as the petals begin to give way in the spring. That apricot was the first one to leaf out starting over a month ago and there were no signs of flowers then. As a matter of fact, I had thought that in years to come it would be more likely to lose its crop to the weather because it had leafed out three weeks before the second-year seedling.

Granted, it’s still a baby and its timings could be random for now and time will tell.

But an apricot that doesn’t bloom till the end of April or more? If that holds, that would be a highly desirable thing indeed.

Edited to add: I just heard back from the friend I gave a Blenheim to as a housewarming present several years ago. She told me that the lower blossoms do open first in the spring, before the leaves, but that there’s often a few fruit spurs at the top of the tree that open up at the very last like mine is doing.

Well there you go.

My orchard is your orchard
Thursday April 21st 2022, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

These first three are in identical pots, 14″ across: a yearling, and two that were planted in February.

It wasn’t till I asked today and she answered with an enthusiastic Yes! that I remembered and connected all the dots.

Last summer we went to go visit the up-north grandkids, after our two shots and before Delta hit. But during a heat wave.

Aubrie and Eric volunteered to come over and water our garden while we were gone and to keep my tomatoes and tree seedlings alive for me–a drive halfway across town each time for them, but they were so wonderful about it. This is when I was growing veggies in those fabric pots, which do live up to their billing and help create great root structures–but they dry out in a day.

It happened to be when the Anya apricots were ripe at Andy’s. I gave them a box in thanks and some of Andy’s cherries before we left–with the one request that could they possibly save the Anya kernels for me?

They and their two boys did.

I gave quite a few away for others to grow and kept three, which got me two surviving baby trees, pictures two and three above. One is fast and upright, one is very slow. Just like the previous two years’ growth patterns. Picture #1 is of a slow one on its second year.

I told her that the vigorous one is growing like my now-48″ tall 15-month-old one, fast and steady and, going by this guy’s experiences, it will probably be quicker to fruit than the smaller year-old ones. But any apricot will be easy to keep to whatever size she wants because the branches that are pruned during the growing season do not branch out below that point; they just stop right there. They wait for winter’s reset on the growth tips.

I offered her her choice, and that I’d be happy to take care of it here where there’s sun until it’s time for them to pull out of town.

I expect they’ll take the two month old vigorous one. I would. Four feet tall a year from now with a gorgeous form.

None of us knew last summer when they were saving those kernels as a favor to me, back when it felt like the dad’s doctoral program would go on forever, that they were helping to create the tree that would someday grow in their very own yard at their first house. That the fruit they’ll pick will come to be because of their generosity.

And they know how good those Anyas are.

Wednesday April 20th 2022, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

A friend stopped by for a visit today; she and her family will be moving soon, and I will very much miss them. Her husband’s defending his doctoral thesis next month and I told them I would bake a chocolate torte in celebration.

With coconut cream. He’s allergic to dairy. We know all about that, I said, no worries, coconut cream substitutes one for one with heavy cream on the ganache.

The bonus is that it comes in small containers that don’t have to be refrigerated till I open them and use them all up. No churning butter in the washing machine.

If he passes (he will!), if he gets the job he’s interviewing for, if they don’t get outbid first on the one they’re hoping for, they will then buy their first house. They will anyway, just, they’re hoping for that one.

And if they want it, an Anya apricot seedling will go with them. They’ll be leaving the state just before Andy’s crop comes on, and they know how good those are–they’re fans. And I’m fans of them. Not to mention they volunteered and kept things watered for us while we were out of town last summer and definitely earned their baby tree.

I couldn’t let them and their two boys miss out on what those are growing up to be.

More and more and more
Tuesday April 19th 2022, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

One and a half milk chocolate tortes were still in that fridge. After our big Easter dinner, even with all those people here, we’d only eaten the other half.

I put a note on the ward chat explaining what they were, why they were there, the fact that they freeze easily whole or by the slice, but that they were milk and not my usual dark chocolate and that I had no freezer space for them.

Please rescue us from these calorie bombs, I wrote.

It took no more than the time it took him to type it for the first response to come in, where the guy said he was so glad he’d been on the computer just then. He’d love to share one with his neighbors. He knew what my tortes were like.

He got the whole one.

I write notes in my cookbooks, which is how I know that the first time I baked the original version before it morphed over time into richer and darker was in June 1990, and the person who answered next had been enjoying them that long; she got the half.

Her husband stopped by to pick it up on his way home from work and by the quizzical look on his face I’m not sure she had told him not to expect a whole torte. But he was certainly willing to let me give him that one.

The third person wished so hard and was a dear enough friend that I measured the cream I had left, found a half–I never have a half, but there was a half, and only a half–of a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar for the glaze and there was enough cream for just one plus for whipped cream on a certain somebody’s birthday cake tomorrow but there was not enough cream to glaze two tortes. So that settled that.

A few hours later I sent her a note.

Wait what?! You did not!

Did too.

So she stopped by a little later to pick up the one I baked this afternoon, a proper bittersweet chocolate this time, and she surprised me back with her favorite balsamic vinegar plus a jar of honey from her bees.

Because if I can do it to her she can do it to me. So there.

And then she told me her family was going to share it with a mutual friend whose husband has been in the hospital for some time. I’d had no idea. So glad that torte got baked and ended up where it needed to be. (And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the second set of recipients shared theirs with that woman, too.)

Sunday April 17th 2022, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Easter Sunday at church, lunch, dinner: today was our day with the grands, and a grand time it was, starting with their discovery of the kids’ corner by the fireplace. Legos, Play Dough, Hot Wheels, something for everybody. (Let’s take the Play Dough outside, said the wise mom, looking at the carpeting.)

While every now and then the three year old simply took off at a run across the back yard because we had the space and the fencing and he could. He and I played Chase Me and Peek a Boo that involved blowing kisses when you showed your face.

So. Much. Joy.

I told Hudson the chocolate torte was for his birthday this month. He thought it would definitely do.

I texted my neighbor afterwards, telling her, I don’t expect so but just in case: over at the half-high fence section, if you should by chance happen to find a pair of toddler shoes, the three-year-old was throwing things near there and there was no sign of his sneakers when they had to go.

She laughed and said she’d look–and mentioned that her son’s baseball had gone over the fence there a day or two ago.

So that’s where that came from! I told her the grands had been playing with it and I’d had no idea where they’d found it.

I walked it back over to her on the spot and we looked in the dark for the shoes and topped off my day with a great time visiting with each other.

As I told her, when I was three I floated my shoes bye bye down the creek in back of my parents’ first house. It’s genetic.

Got that one
Sunday April 10th 2022, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Yesterday there were two massive fires in the Bay Area: one that utterly destroyed a Home Depot in San Jose that thankfully everybody in the store escaped from; there were two other small fires near it whose connection is unknown yet, and a few hours before that, a fire at the Port of Benicia in the North Bay that destroyed a pier, an important deepwater dock that imported cars are loaded onto, and damaged an oil refinery.

You know how California gas prices are super high because we require a cleaner version that’s only made and only sold here? Just on a side note.

Today I heard from another one of my old Purlescence friends.

She’s a recent cancer survivor, so when she went to Costco, the size of the crowd (Palm Sunday? People preparing for Easter?) was just too much; she turned right around and headed home.

She found herself at a particularly long red light with time to look around–and she saw him. She called 911 and said I don’t know if he’s setting a fire or trying to put one out, but here’s where he is.

The light turned, she pulled away.

The police called back to ask her to come make a statement, and she did, and they were done and she was almost to her car again when the cop got a message. He asked her to come with him in his cruiser.

Was this him?

Yes that is him.

I’ll be curious to learn how many of yesterday’s events they end up connecting him with. But they know he’s responsible for the one he didn’t quite succeed at.

I thanked her for doing the right thing and she was like, how could one not.

For the birds
Saturday April 09th 2022, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Friends

But no really, it was for us.

Kathy came! I wrote about the nest-makers taking the last of her dog’s fur I’d had tucked away and she told me, That’s a renewable resource!

And an excuse to see an old friend from our Purlescence days. So much to catch up on. She’d made it to Stitches, I had not. Both of us stayed carefully masked (while succumbing to the temptation for a hug at the door.)

We talked pandemicnesses like wanting a haircut, noting each other’s longer locks these days. Her stylist was careful; mine…there was only once. And that was between the vaccines and Delta.

I learned more about what it’s like to be a schoolteacher through all this, the hybrid classes, the kids whose needs to be in a classroom with peers was so great vs the ones who just couldn’t for health reasons. Those weren’t statistics to her, they were kids she loves. They are lucky to have her.

She had a goodly distance for the drive home.

We parted with a mutual, Let’s not make this three or four years next time, okay?

My thanks to that sweet goofy-eyes German Shepherd (the pictures were so funny!) for giving us an excuse to do what we’d long wanted to do.

And for taking good care of the chickadees and titmice, too.

Kids don’t try this at home
Tuesday April 05th 2022, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Sara and Matt used to live fairly close to us; he was at Stanford and she taught dance at San Jose State and was advisor to one of my girls at church. When they moved away, Matt sold his most excellent bike to my then-teenage older son, who was grateful to have one from a fellow tall person and bike enthusiast.

Not long after that, we discovered that the man we all instantly adored whom my cousin was marrying was Sara’s brother. Small world. So the connection continues.

Sara was running an errand yesterday, the kids were in school, and Matt just happened to be in the one place in their house where he didn’t know he needed to be.

The next door neighbor hadn’t wanted to pay an arborist $4k to take out that 140′ pine and so decided to let some random guy with a chainsaw who was offering to help in exchange for the wood have at it. Video here. No license, and apparently no insurance nor bond.

We had a neighbor’s major tree limb take out a line of the fence and punch a branch through our roof years ago and that was LOUD. Even to my ears. I can’t imagine….

Last fall, due to the supply and labor issues and lumber prices of the pandemic, while we were changing insurance policies we were told that the estimated cost to rebuild our house from scratch just then–and it’s certainly no mansion–would be a cool million dollars.

I think forking over that four grand just might have been the better idea to go with.

There’s a reason we have regulations. They protect both sides.

Fellow enthusiast
Wednesday March 23rd 2022, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

The now-friend who got those freecycled paper bags last week? Turns out she grew up in my town with an apricot tree in her yard and wished she had one.


It wasn’t very big, and it had only just started to wake up and take on the new growing season, but it was one of last year’s and when I transplanted it into a  bigger pot, I noted the good root structure. It reminds me of my third-year one, that was tiny the first year and took off the second. This one has started to, too.

And so an offspring-of-Anya has found a happy home and we got a chance to sit and visit a minute.

She asked if I might like to see pictures as it grows?

Is this a trick question?

And that’s all you have to do
Monday March 21st 2022, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(English Morello tart cherry flowers.)

With a heartfelt thank you to Ellen for this: a brief explanation and exercise from an ENT that you can do to get those wandering inner ear particles back over to where they belong and away from where they make you dizzy. Hold this position, this, this, this, this, and done. Vertigo gone, or it might take a few tries. My neck muscles agree with her that one should wait fifteen minutes between.

She figured out the mechanics of the thing and how to address it. Easiest cure ever.

Whether they deserve it or not
Sunday March 20th 2022, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

By way of introduction: Dave, who’s lived here most of his adult life, was a teenager whom we knew when we lived in New Hampshire 35 years ago. His oldest is in college now. His grandfather was a rabbi who fled the pograms in Russia.

He’s a lawyer.

So he prefaced his remark in Sunday School by saying that when you think of pardons, we generally think of a Presidential pardon. The difference between a pardon and forgiveness?

You don’t deserve a pardon.

You deserve forgiveness.

The person forgiving you deserves that they do so.

To which I would add, and of course forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning, it means I recognize the humanity in you in spite of what you did. If nothing else, to keep from pulling me down to your level.

Dang. I wrote all that out because his words sounded so brilliant at the time and, Sunday School lesson or no, I still can’t find it in me to forgive the murdering little warmonger over there. I am willing to turn that job over to Christ because it’s frankly well beyond me. I just want him stopped.

I am so glad Dave got to be born here.

Because sour cherry pie is the best kind
Monday March 14th 2022, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Wildlife

My friend Sue, recently home after two years abroad, put out a note that today was going to be Pi Day and she’d left her pastry blender behind in South Africa; could she borrow one?


And so she was the other person who stopped by yesterday, briefly, but it got me thinking I wanted to celebrate the day, too. I had prefab pie crusts in the freezer and could cut to the chase instead of the butter.

Last year when we had so many tart cherries on our tree, I pitted and bagged them by the quart so that they’d be the right size to pop right into a crust. I grabbed a ziploc out of the freezer this morning.

But it was the season’s remainders and the amount a bit random, about half, which explained why it seemed so small.

Well huh. I’d forgotten about that.

I rolled the crust out very thin and lined four large ceramic bowls with it: two for cherry, two, peach slices, and, just for fun, folded the edges down galette style. They took about 45-50 min at 350.

Each of the four Mel and Kris cereal bowls served two.

Meantime, on the peregrine front, Grace the falcon is trying to get that gravel just so for the eggs that are about to arrive at City Hall. She’s had several tiercels (males) fighting for the territory and her and one was the victor long enough to get a name and possibly future progeny–only to be ousted the next day by a new new tiercel.

Who so far is TT, for, The Tiercel. Much bonding has taken place and he’s definitely the victor of the year.

They’re really going to have to give him his own name before they start naming the eyases (babies) to come.

Sunday March 13th 2022, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Friends dropped by for a visit; we hadn’t seen each other in awhile because we’ve been doing church by Zoom so as not to expose my mom when we finally get to go see her, but with Tony’s death they just needed to come make sure everything was okay.

We’re fine, no worries, great to see you.

She’s an avid gardener so I showed her the littlest apricot seedlings: This one’s a week old, this one’s a few days.

They’re so cute!

Aren’t they?!

I offered her one for their condo patio and she’s considering it. But then she made clear what she really wanted: to know when the peaches at Andy’s were coming on, because I’d given her some of those last year and she couldn’t wait to go buy more.

We are looking forward to it together.