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.)

 



Yesterday, today, tomorrows
Thursday February 14th 2019, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Surely there’s got to be some protocol or rule about a trash truck not blocking a fire truck and an ambulance on a call.

But the dang thing came anyway yesterday morning and had all kinds of fun getting back out of their way, and after all that didn’t pick anything up.

Clearly they came back later, though. So why didn’t they just choose to do the other street earlier in the first place?

The storm let up to a misty drizzle at the right time while I hoped, aching to know that my neighbor was still alive, glad that at least the stretcher didn’t have to come outside during the downpours we’ve been having.

After they left I emailed the spouse, having no idea what access to that message they might have at the hospital: I said that I assumed they’d gone together in the ambulance and that I was ready and waiting to be their ride home at any time, any hour and making sure they had my phone number with them (as best I could, not knowing if they would see my saying so.)

The paramedics had foreseen that problem–this wasn’t their first case–and so at their urging the one had followed the other with the car, separated for that brief time when surely what they most wanted was each other right there.

Hours later I did get a return email: a fall. 24 hours observation. Expected home Thursday. Terrible, wonderful news. They are not young.

Their car was gone again today but by late afternoon was back, and neither of them would have left the other alone in that hospital during visiting hours. And so I can only assume that there was recovery enough for the hoped-for discharge.

I’ve already said I would run any errand so they don’t have to. Especially in all that rain.

They know we know, and they know we care. And for now that is enough.



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.



Pen pals
Friday February 08th 2019, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics

I’m going to let my dear friend Jennifer, whom I met when she went to law school here, tell this one. And I quote:

“Last summer, a friend I was visiting held a house meeting to find ways we could take action against the administration’s inhumane immigration policies. From that meeting, @Detainee Allies emerged… and today, The New York Times featured our organization and the incredible stories we have been honored to hear, witness and hold.”

Pen pals. They simply wrote letters. To people who had sought asylum and found themselves imprisoned for it, who needed simple human compassion. It made all the difference in the world to those receiving them. Somebody out there knew they were there, and cared.



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.



At the edge of the polar vortex
Thursday January 31st 2019, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Yay for tracking numbers. Yay for the post office. That sweet little girl got her baby blanket back Wednesday, cold weather or no.



Around 4 pm
Tuesday January 29th 2019, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Friends

The doorbell?

Flowers?!

It was from B & N. 



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.)



January fruit
Saturday January 26th 2019, 12:11 am
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Mango tree

Hey, DANI! This is all your fault! Thank you!

Wondering if it was ripe yet, I just barely touched it and to my great surprise it fell right off in my hand.

My first. Alphonso. Mango. Ever! Already, six hours of being inside the warm house and the fragrance has started to bloom.



Aftobered back
Friday January 25th 2019, 12:02 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The stump. The concrete floor of the shed and the roots below it: he came, he quoted, he said they could do it all, and then he said wait, the crew could probably do that–today, actually, if you want, let me check and I’ll give you a call.

And so they did! (The white stripe is a shaft of sunlight on the now-dirt floor and they have to come back in the morning to collect the mulch.)

I’m still trying to grok the idea that I don’t have to worry about that anymore and that it didn’t cost near what I thought it would, it’s just plain done.

Meantime:

The day I discovered that such a thing as a melanger exists I happened to be in the middle of an email stream with my friend Afton. At the height of being giddy over finding out that not only did such a thing exist but that my husband wanted to use our points to buy one too, I sent her the link.

To which she answered, quite reasonably,

W

A

N

T

And with that a plan began to hatch.

Afton is someone who wholeheartedly befriends every person she meets, both in person and online. She is a born comforter. She flew to Wisconsin to be there for a member of our knitting chat group who was losing her fight to cancer. She drove a long distance several times to another friend in her illness. She drove from New Jersey to Maryland to meet me when I was in town.

And she is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

Humor and empathy together are a powerful force for good in this world.

She’s also the instigator of Aftober, the KnitTalk tradition of her cheering us on to learn something new and to finish a project before the end of October, before the holiday stress sets in–and if you do she would mail you the Prize of Insignificant Worth ™. A different thing from year to year, some small fiber-related thing tucked in an envelope decorated with a drawing of and allegedly by her cats that is always so perfect that many of us have saved those envelopes for any time we want cheering up.

This last fall saw the deaths of those two woman she’d cared for and the Prize turned out to be something that she spent a great deal of time and expense to create and share with us in order to bless more people going forward, in their names.

Everybody was, as always, to be quiet about what we got until everybody had gotten theirs.

And then this happened: her beloved boy cat took sick, so much so that she rushed him to the vet instead of going to synagogue that Saturday in Pittsburgh. Yes that synagogue.

Her cat’s final act was saving her life as his slipped away in her arms. If only he could have saved her friends’ lives, too.

At last we of her online longtime knitting group had something to quietly work together on to give to her in thanks for all she is and for all she does and all she gives. So many people chipped in. Someone volunteered to handle the logistics. Nobody told.

Today her mail came. I got an email: Beans (they were nibs) and book? Were these misdelivered? Weren’t they supposed to go to me? Should she send them on? (My daughter, husband and I had gone to Dandelion Chocolate specifically to get her a signed copy of their open-sourcing DIY book for her.)

I checked the tracking numbers, grinned, and quietly waited.

It took UPS a couple more hours (and a bajillion page refreshes on my part as concrete smashing sounds went on in the background, then a, YES!)

My phone suddenly blew up in stunned thrilled capital letters, and I told her happily, You’ve been KnitTalked.

Because it wasn’t all just from me, not by a very long shot. Margo Lynn has the names.

Nibs, book, molds, melanger: only the cocoa butter didn’t quite make it there in time for her to start right away.

My fervent, heartfelt thanks to all those who helped make this happen for her. And just like knitting: every time you start a new chocolate batch, you learn something you didn’t know before.

But I don’t think there’ll be any problem finishing off any of those kinds of projects before the end of October.

And the bars are so easy to share.



Shedding
Wednesday January 23rd 2019, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Lupus

I didn’t think I could do that.

Somebody had to do that, and he of the formerly broken back has a hard time bending. I told myself that having raised four kids, I knew how to be the mom when I had to be and to go just get it done. Time was running short.

Well, good thing it’s January and not June, UV-wise, and at 4:00 I started in on clearing out the shed that the redwood tree had been trying to grow through. Turns out the neighbor’s trees had punctured the roof at the back and there was a great accumulation of needles and twigs and downright compost growing behind our yard stuff that we hadn’t used in ages.

Good thing that broken elbow’s had a month’s healing at this point. The push broom was beyond me but I could scoop stuff up and bin it. Go figure.

Do you know how much an ailing towering redwood can do?

Well let me tell you a story, and maybe I have before, but, my friend Kevin once told me of growing up in Humboldt County and climbing redwoods for fun as a kid. At twelve and a little too adventurous he found himself higher up than he had any business being and while assessing his situation–he lost his grip and he fell.

While I sat there bug-eyed at the telling, fully aware that he had done this and he was here to tell me he had.

“So this is how I die,” was his instant thought, a surprisingly calm thought, and he spread his arms wide as he went down down down.

And suddenly bounced hard and found himself upright, staggering a few steps forward from the momentum.

There had been a barbed-wire fence laid out there about a hundred years earlier, it turned out. He hadn’t seen it. He hadn’t known it was there. It had had so many years of redwood needles and redwood dust raining peacefully down on it that it had been totally obscured and he had landed with his back immediately lined up to that wiring and it had gone sproing. The barbs had bitten him but basically he was fine.

I was agog. “How did Darwin MISS you?!!!” Probably not the most polite blurt I’ve ever blurted, but he laughed, agreeing with me.

So. No idea how many years our shed was open to the above, but clearly, redwoods shed like Samoyeds in spring. And this one had had a lot of brown, falling needles for some time.

I did it.

Tomorrow morning the guy comes to give a quote on taking out the enormous stump. Whether he’s going to try to do anything where the roots raised our concrete floor a foot in that shed, whether he’ll tell me we have to jackhammer it all out of his way first, whether he’ll walk away from that part, I don’t know, but either way I had to be ready for him to see it.



Not just parroting her speech
Tuesday January 22nd 2019, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

My late friend RobinM told me of a book she’d loved and thought I would, too.

I finally did. “Alex and Me,” by Irene Pepperberg, a researcher who has studied the intellectual capabilities of birds, most notably one named Alex.

To quote from page 68: “My proposal was simple: I said I wanted to replicate the linguistic and cognitive skills that had previously been achieved in chimps in a Gray parrot, an animal with a brain the size of a shelled walnut, but one that could talk.”

Grays flock in the wild and are highly social, and the typical animal research of the day was to isolate the animal when you weren’t running experiments. Her take was that socializing was the point of communication–and that previous failures in research could be attributed to a failure to meet that part of the parrots’ needs. They need interaction. They need stimulation. They demand attention.

So she does it her way, and boy does she succeed. Like the time she was trying to demonstrate to a visitor that he could count small numbers. She wanted him to say two, but he kept switching between one and four. She knew full well he could do this. Without giving away the answer she tried again.

One four!

Alex!

He gave her that insouciant look she knew so well when he was going to do things his way right now, thankyouverymuch. He liked being the boss of the lab. It wasn’t till she told him he needed a timeout and started to take him out of the room and away from this brand new interesting person to people-watch that he pleaded, Two! Two two two two…! to their great amusement. He was a character.

I’d say skip the first chapter, which gets a bit maudlin re his death when the reader hasn’t even met him yet, and get on with the story. But I found the story was well worth the read. Alex kept me laughing.

And hey, Constance? Your dad’s name’s in that book. Who knew?! You get my copy.



And because I should send my Mom some
Sunday January 13th 2019, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

A friend asked us how much chocolate we planned to make, after savoring the small bar we’d just handed him to try.

The answer, it seems to me, is, enough to make sure we always have at least a little on hand whenever we might like to have some for someone who stops by like he’d just done. Right?

The extra sets of molds should be here tomorrow, at which point we’ll be able to start a larger batch than the previous one-pounders.



Malabrigo to the rescue
Saturday January 12th 2019, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

Today we picked our daughter up on the way and discovered for ourselves why she loves Dandelion Chocolates in San Francisco so much. Wonderful, wonderful place: happy people, great pastries, and you can watch the chocolate coming to be, right there, while they offer you samples. Yum.

More on that later.

And then because my husband and daughter really love me they humored me in letting me spend a few minutes at Imagiknit nearby.

Before we left for the City, having read the weather reports, I grabbed a Malabrigo hat that matched my outfit just in case. The coldest winter Mark Twain supposedly spent was a summer in San Francisco, but the winters right by the ocean can be pretty brisk, too.

It came home again and got put back away unworn with the feeling that that just wasn’t quite it yet–but, something…

This evening we were heading out again and I found myself going back to that ziplock of recently-knit Malabrigo Mecha hats that were still here. I looked at the two teal ones and went no… They’re close, but not the one from this morning; this one instead. And stuck it in my purse.

We went to our Saturday evening stake conference (ie a semi-annual multi-ward meeting) and offered a ride home to a friend whose car had broken down.

We needed a few things on the way and so did Karen so that was easy; we stopped by Safeway.

She got a little ahead of me–there’s always something to be distracted by in a grocery store–and she stepped into a line behind a couple Richard and I recognized but don’t really know. She did, though. They had been at that meeting, too, and the wife turned to us and said she’d shivered through that whole thing and was still cold and wondered if we were as well? She was clearly seriously uncomfortable.

I was already silently noting how the hat in my purse matched her outfit.

How often do you get a chance to actually rescue someone from being cold in California? I told her happy birthday as I handed it to Karen to hand to her.

She tried to turn it down but when she saw I really and freely meant it she let me give it to her, gobsmacked and thrilled. It went right on her head and it was going to stay there. Her husband exclaimed over what a beautiful color it was.

Who else could it possibly have been for?

Besides, Karen (who had such a big grin on her face while being happy for her friend) already has hers.