Amber waves
Saturday April 17th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Mexican Feather grass, as near as my googling skills can decipher it, is what the neighbors added when they relandscaped a few years ago; they had this clump that waved in the wind.

A year or two later they had five of them in a line as the breezes blow, quite a bit taller now, and then there was one that jumped the fence and was growing right in front of my pomegranate tree, shading out the bottom half somewhat. I debated what to do with it; it was allegedly pretty to some. Not my thing, but not bad.

In retrospect, I should have cut it down immediately. Note that the neighbors finally took out all of theirs this past winter. Mine had become a clump about ten or twelve inches across so dense in there that a bug I watched couldn’t crawl between the stalks till I’d cut open a path for it, with the inner circle dried, tall, and ferociously flammable-looking.

So I decided that today was the day and it had to go, all of it.

It defied my loppers (I need to replace them) so I used them to hold on tight and twist twist twist and that got small clumps to come away all at once. I spent about an hour at it.

The Australians consider it a dire threat and are trying to stomp out every single plant that might yet come up. Someone had mislabeled an import.

Green new stalks on the outside. It seemed like slightly sticky thick 3′ tall grass, jointed here and there. Right?

I wish I’d found that Australian link first. It seemed fine but when I went to pick the clumps up to throw it in the bin my hands running down some of the stalks got cut open fairly deep. I didn’t even realize immediately that yes, it was those stalks that bit me, not something mixed up in them–it hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to need gloves. I hadn’t ever before, but then I hadn’t ever actually touched the stuff much other than to push it out of the way so I could pick a pomegranate.

That single invasive plant filled the whole yard trimmings bin, which is about twice the size of our trashcan. I did not get the bottom of the clump out and I think it would take a stump grinder. I would spray it with vinegar to kill it off if it weren’t so close to my fruit tree.

I tried to get every seed poof floating away but you know I missed some somewhere. But at least I stopped the tens of thousands that the growing season would have produced.

The neighbors don’t know it snuck over the fence. I think we’ll leave it at that.



Collaborative
Wednesday April 07th 2021, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Seven miles instead of 75. It delays his being fully vaccinated by five days, but still. I conferred with him and then grabbed it. I also immediately canceled the original. The site said Sutter would offer it as a first shot to someone else and asked that that be made possible as soon as we could, which was only reasonable.

Immediately after I finished that up, the doorbell rang: my friend Constance, who lives hours away these days (there’s a shawl in my book named after her.)  She had been in the area on a work assignment and was stopping by on her long drive home.

We ended up on chairs in the shed. It was trash day but for obvious reasons I had not put the bin back right away. This gave us a spot that was outside, as one should in a pandemic, under a ceiling-height roof and with sides, as my lupus needs to be out of the sun, and it was perfect enough of a spot for visiting that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that a whole lot sooner. Anyway. We had a lot of catching up to do after not seeing each other in person for too many years.

And then I sent her home with a 5 gallon fiber pot full of new topsoil and peat moss and a baby Anya apricot tree to put in it, kind of a grow kit. Just add water. After you get it back out of your car.

And on a totally different note. My late father, a modern art dealer, would absolutely have howled. Sometimes the art world can get a bit precious, and that poor innocent couple who picked up a brush from somewhere in the spilled paint on the floor and scatterings of paint cans and such in front of the mural and added their touch to what they thought was a public-invited graffiti project, well…wouldn’t you?

(When in doubt read the little white box on the wall next to the art in the gallery, but never mind.)



Alliums among us
Saturday March 27th 2021, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

I have this plant that grows next to the house. I didn’t put it there; it was a surprise. It simply showed up one spring and every one thereafter, leafing out of the ground and then sending up a purple flower stalk next to the walkway. I had no idea what it was. It never spread–it was just the one plant. For easily twenty years now.

Last year there wasn’t much of a flower to it at all, which made me realize how much I’d been looking forward to it. Oh, well.

This year, the rainy season is nearly over and we’ve gotten about a third of normal. Dry dry dry. My allium did come up under the sidewalk light as always but it’s tiny, with no sign of any flower to come, but at least it’s still alive.

I ordered some cream with my groceries. I had a craving for making chocolate tortes. I wanted to run the beaters, melt the chocolate into the cream, mix the one spoonful I like to make of leftover ganache into my hot cocoa the next morning, all of it.

The new next door neighbors, as it turned out, do indeed like chocolate and are not allergic to dairy.

She opened that door in excitement before I could even knock.

She’d had to work today and it had been a long hard day and then she’d just gotten home to my message. Not five minutes later I would get a text saying how good that torte was.

And as I kind of floated down the sidewalk, there it suddenly was.

Wait. Where did you come from? What…?

It was a new allium. With the tips of its unusually short leaves just brushing the sidewalk. There had been so little water there was almost no stalk, either, but there it was, radiant in the late sunlight.

And it wanted me to notice.



Rising
Sunday March 21st 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I offered a neighbor an apricot seedling and found out she grew up on an apricot orchard and has a bountiful tree in her back yard, to our mutual delight at the shared enthusiasm.

Meantime, two people in two days asked a variant of what came down to the same question, when I thought about it: what are you not doing that you wish you were?

One of those wanted to know if I was knitting anything, and I admitted I hadn’t been of late; there’s no happy anticipation of making someone’s day, no way to know who needs that pat on the back. I guess we all do right now.

Well, huh. I couldn’t fix everything, but there is now some cranberry pumpkin sourdough rising overnight in the kitchen, the smell of cinnamon on my fingers, and I am looking forward to the smell of it baking filling the coming morning.

It’s a start.



The frosting on the cake
Saturday March 20th 2021, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

(With the weekly apricot progress picture.)

Some had flowers in their gardens too good to only keep to themselves.

Some offered to bake. And it’s always more fun, not to mention safer calorie-wise, to bake for others.

And so we had a drive-through Relief Society party (ie for the women’s organization) at the church parking lot. You stop your car–sometimes it was a line–you say from a safe distance your preference of type of cupcake, everybody with masks on, or whether you’d prefer flowers to calories; one person brings your choice to you (if a cupcake) in a little box with a heart at the top so it won’t smush all over the inside of your car or make you have to hold it while you’re trying to drive, several people at social distances away from each other are bringing more to other cars and nobody breathes on anybody.

So-and-so pulled in to park and could you move just a bit so they can get out. Sure.

We could actually some of see each other’s faces for real for the first time in over a year and we did chat a bit from there; not too long, more are coming, we let them have their turns.

Man, did that feel good.

The response to the original query was such that not only did I get a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese layered in the filling, I was offered to take a random one home to Richard along with a blue hydrangea stem.

His turned out to be vanilla. With sprinkles. Which made me laugh. Our kids memorably swooned over sprinkles on a cake someone brought us when they were, well, kids.

All the leftover cupcakes were going to end up on the one family’s doorstep if we didn’t rescue them.  No! It’s okay! Him, too! Take one!

After tasting mine, I understood the danger. Man, that was good.



A bucket of Kernel Standards
Monday March 08th 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

Ellen was wondering how best to plant her newly-arrived Anya apricot kernels at the very moment I was scrolling through my phone, got distracted, and butt-dialed her. She FaceTimed right back and we both had a good laugh. The answer is, I don’t know what the precise depth one should plant those is but I do know I had to tear the top of the Root Riot to get a kernel in–they’re latex and peat moss if I remember right, kind of an odd combination–so I didn’t put mine in very deep, afraid they would have a hard time fighting their way out.

As they swelled to sprout the kernels kind of worked their way upwards slightly and the seedlings have the split-open sides angling upwards from the surface like flower petals.

And it worked just fine.

Plant and root both will be growing from the pointy end of the seed.



Covid covetings
Sunday March 07th 2021, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The closer we get to being vaccinated, the harder it feels to wait. I’m trying not to be antsy.

We had a great time Facetiming with the northern grandkids today–but Lillian wanted us to BE there, not just be pictures that interacted with her.

With you all the way, baby girl, with you all the way.

The state is allocating doses by county and has decided that ours having had the best compliance and the fewest cases and deaths with ample resources to deal with the illness means we’ll be the last to get the vaccine.

Which feels a little like punishing the well-behaved, but on the other hand there are so many people whose circumstances put them in so much more need than us. We can simply stay home and wait a little longer.

We’ve proved that.

But I do not blame the friend younger than I who drove into the next county and got his first shot. I so get that.



Not an angora
Monday March 01st 2021, 12:01 am
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Someone in a breakout room after Zoom church said something to me about someone’s video and I explained about not hearing well without closed captions.

This is someone who’s known me for 34 years but she was astonished, and tried to explain how watching a video works. You just listen! Like we’re doing right now! Not noticing that I’d asked for repeats quite a few times while trying not to dominate the conversation by my deficits.

I explained that my hearing aids need to be replaced, my audiologist just retired, and with the pandemic I just haven’t gotten out there. I have to make do with these for the moment.

Still she stayed baffled, and hearing-splained it to me again how simple it was: you turn on the video and you listen to it. While I was sitting there thinking, wait what? Are you okay?

Then later she said something that was even more off–such that for the first time I found myself counting up to figure out how old she was (80 can’t be too far off) and wondering how her family is doing if this is becoming their normal. Huh.

It was that or be offended. Actually I confess I was, while trying hard not to be–not so much for myself but because I knew it could hurt a friend who has a lot on her plate right now.

It helped that the woman was struggling to remember if she was getting this right. She wasn’t.

I shot off an email to my very patient friend Afton and tried to be over it.

And then the doorbell rang.

It was a new couple from church whom I’d only seen by Zoom with their young son: they had baked us some bread.

I had seen their son helping his mom working on that loaf at the end of the Relief Society Zoom because that’s when the meeting was and they wanted to get it to us before dinner and the timing was what it was, but I didn’t know any of that.

The kid had the bread. The dad was holding…

…A beautiful, big, tawny-colored rabbit about the size of a Maine Coon cat. Who was absolutely chill with having a complete stranger pet it behind the ears and down its soft back. I asked if I should have it sniff my hand first like a dog would want and they said, No, just go ahead and pet him, he’s cool.

Little tufts of light and dark blondnesses wafted into the air.

I mentioned the spinning wheel and the hair scrunchy I once made from a friend’s dog.

They got pretty excited and there are now definite plans to comb the rabbit. It’s not a long haired one but we can make do.

They had no way to know they had totally saved the day. The worry over that thing someone had said who probably really isn’t responsible for it anymore? It went poof with the lightness of bunny fluff floating on the breeze.



Thank you, Ruth
Monday February 08th 2021, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Eleven years ago Scrabblequeen Ruth very generously gave me her treadmill so that I could get my exercise while doing the no-sun lupus thing. For which I have been very grateful and I have put it to use day after day year after year–if nothing else, I had to make it worth what to me was her sacrifice.

Starting a few months ago, the belt gradually got a little off-center, but it didn’t seem to hurt anything.

Two weeks ago it was suddenly slowing down intermittently just enough to risk throwing me off it and then it would get going again. A few days later it jammed. It started up again, jammed again, and with that I turned it off afraid of burning out the motor and went and googled treadmill problems.

I think we can fix it, or at least, he can.

We haven’t, though. I am intensely grateful for how much good that exercise has done for me for all this time.

But let me try this a bit longer first.

It wasn’t till I stopped using it–while still having the habit and the need to–that I let myself fully consider the thing.

The floor holds still.

My compensation for my destroyed sense of balance is purely tactile and visual and the treadmill is a distinct challenge on the tactile feedback part. I got good at it–but it required constant paying attention to where and how my body was so as not to fall, and you don’t want to on one of those. There’s more than one way to get tired.

Race-walking in circles entryway/living room/family room/kitchen/dining, I find I’m free to walk faster and take longer strides than I dared before and am comfortable doing so for a lot longer–it’s so much easier for the three-dimensionally-challenged. In these two weeks I’ve doubled my exercise time without having planned to.

But none of that would have happened had that machine and even more, the generosity of the gift behind it not gotten me to establish that good habit in the first place.



Feed His sheep
Sunday January 24th 2021, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Finished a hat last night.

One thing said in church today was that in this time of so much isolation, write someone a note. Reach out.

And so a note showed up on the doorstep next door, thanking the neighbor for opening the door to my daughter at 11:00 at night so that we could retrieve our groceries that had been dumped there, and with the note, a plate of homemade biscotti by said daughter. Who took great delight in going over there again, and then in anticipating their coming home to the surprise.

They were gone all day. They called to tell us that that plate of excellent cookies had been devoured the moment they’d walked in the door.

Second thing said in church today: one of the members had splurged on some food that was to be a particular treat for the husband, who’s been working covid cases in the ICU for long, long hours–but it got stolen off their porch.

The first reaction was anger and upset; the second was, but what if it was because someone is hungry? Because there are a lot of people going hungry right now. She tried to do a little something about it.

The end result was–well, it made the local paper.

And now excuse me, I’ve got me some more note writing to do while there’s a little time left in the day.



It’s all a crock
Tuesday January 12th 2021, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So if someone loses/breaks a favorite thing, not an expensive thing at all but with consternation because they really liked it and it’s not made anymore–and you can do something about it, I wonder: after jumping through the hoops to have something sent to someone else’s house on a different person/address’s credit card, does the packing slip give you away? Does the credit card company?

Because in these days of isolation and missing people, to be able to make that right and anticipate the surprise just felt so good. And it was enough.

I know, I know, writing about it here kind of misses the point there but it’s way more fun than talking about oh hey I patched up that divot in the yard I tripped and went splat over yesterday.



It was the Monster Mash-up
Sunday December 27th 2020, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Going back to last Sunday: the Primary, ie the kids 3 to 12, put on most of the program for church via Zoom of them singing and describing Christmas to us.

One adorable little girl of about five pointed out her family’s tree decorated with lights and balls and a prominent construction-paper garland and the presents beneath and explained to us that the Wise Men had brought the Baby Jesus their treasure chest full of Frankenstein.



Clafoutis for all that ails you
Friday December 18th 2020, 12:14 am
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Food,Friends,Recipes

At 9:55 this morning there was one customer being helped and three clerks, the easiest December post office run ever. I told Anne her apricots were on their way and she told me those are the best she’s ever had, she can’t wait. She made my day.

That was just the start.

This afternoon I got a text from a friend: he’d heard Richard was sick; how was he doing?

Definitely getting better, thanks.

Next thing you know there was a second text saying he’d dropped off a little something for us.

I opened the door. He was already gone–which makes sense, because, exposure. There was a bag with eggs, veggies, grits, butter, juice, milk, just because he could. Wow! I was gobsmacked, and so was Richard.

His stomach’s still a bit tender, eggs are easy on it, we were running low, and now we aren’t.

A little history: years ago I got sent to Urgent Care with what was clearly the start of a Crohn’s flare. It’s not like I didn’t know what that was at that point.

To my great surprise the doctor who saw me was dismissive of anything I had to say about that; all he wanted to know was, had I eaten raspberries.

A day or two ago…

He insisted I had salmonella poisoning from Mexican raspberries (who says they weren’t US grown? There was no recall nor mention in the press in either case) and he sent me home without doing anything about the Crohn’s, which is indeed what it was. My GI doctor rolled his eyes with a bit of suppressed indignation at that when I ended up in his office, which made me want to say oh thank you thank you.

So. I found myself thinking, well, you know, though. My husband does not have Crohn’s and he did eat a lot of raspberries when I didn’t.

We had more of them. I wasn’t taking any chances–I baked them into a clafoutis, with some blueberries to get it up to four cups of fruit. Cook’em. They’re probably innocent but this way I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

The recipe calls for whole milk. I substituted the last of some cream 50/50 with the 1% that’s always around and was surprised at how much of a difference it made–it definitely improved it over my usual low-fat ones.

And it’s a good way to get fruit and protein down a whiny stomach.

Thanks to our friend, if Richard wants more, and he’s quite fond of it, I have whole milk in my fridge now and I can make it come out that way again tomorrow.

Clafoutis recipe: butter a 9″ deep-dish pan, not smaller, whip three eggs a goodly while, add 1/2 c sugar, beat, then 1 c whole milk, still beating, a small pinch salt, 1 tsp vanilla, a tbl melted butter, still beating, and then at the last beat in 1/2 c flour. Pour it in the pan quickly, put the fruit on top, bake about 40 minutes, 45-50 in my ceramic pan or till a knife in the center comes out clean. (Ed. to add: oven at 350.)

And then try to wait till it cools, but I won’t blame you if you don’t.



Sock it to him
Tuesday December 15th 2020, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Maybe I should add to that last post that after 40 years of marriage we’ve learned we each know best what we want and so “go buy it and it’s from me” is the norm here re gift-giving. Yes it’s great fun finding that one most perfect thing–but there’s no reason to sweat over it.

He was working again today, sitting up. His feet were getting cold, so I’m going to give a shameless plug here for my friends Ron and Teresa’s bison silk socks, because they were that one most perfect thing I found a few years ago and after trying them out he asked for more. He had a pair blended with merino, no silk, but after that first softer upgraded pair that was all he ever wanted on his feet again. Socks for Christmas was a longtime in-joke between us–until those. It’s still an in-joke but with definite appreciation thrown in now.

You can throw them in the dryer as well as the washer, but I don’t, and they were hanging where I’d left them drying waiting for him to be up to needing them again. I ran and got him a pair.

It was nice to have something so easy to do to make him so much more comfortable in his day.

My 6’8″er is a big guy and he’s been walking around the house in those pairs of socks since our quarantine began in February and they show no signs of wearing out. I’d say that over time they’re proving less expensive than wool ones.



Worth a try
Saturday November 28th 2020, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

The problem with buying pie crusts and liking yours really thin so that you really only use half of a one is that then you have to do something with the other half.

In other words, Thanksgiving was two days ago and with no company to serve it to, today’s when I felt like baking pies.

The cherry one: I told Richard its heart didn’t break, rather, it was waving an oven mitt, saying, Get me out of here before I overbake!

The date/pecan one, done in part because I bought a five pound box of dates for $12 and now I have to use them up: both in appearance and texture it takes me straight back to our grad school days, when a friend from southern Virginia shared a version of pecan pie she said everybody made around the area where she grew up. She wondered if it was specific to there, though, because since coming to college she hadn’t found anyone else who’d ever heard of it.

Instead of the usual corn syrup, it had…

…are you ready for this?

…A drained large can of pinto beans run through the blender for some time and two sticks (!) of butter.

Enough sugar and butter and just about anything tastes good. I even made it a second time, but pecans were expensive and I really felt I should use them on something more universally celebrated at our house.

So, this pie: two tablespoons of butter is a lot easier on the guilt. Ground dates/corn syrup/eggs/pecans–I think we can justify having that for breakfast for a few days.

And then it will fade into history with those pinto pecans.

—-

Ohmygoodness. Judy’s recipe and name are forever written in the back of the 1952 Betty Crocker I bought at a garage sale when I was a senior in high school in anticipation of college. It was THE college cookbook for me. I wrote this post wondering where life had taken her over all these years, and then went over to Facebook–and found her! That was worth baking a date pie for, for sure!