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!



Bringing out the best in it
Friday November 27th 2020, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Now that we’re officially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t think I’ve told this story here before, and it’s worth telling again if I have. With thanks to Anne for sending me a video of someone playing an intense organ piece and prompting this; my son Richard minored in organ performance.

My grandmother was a concert pianist. I inherited her musical talent but my hands did not–they’re the one dyslexic part of me, wanting to reverse notes at random until I practice and practice to the point of forcing muscle memory on them.

My son Richard is all Gram. He’s good. Hum a tune, he’ll embellish it at the piano with all ten fingers going at once and improvise it into a whole new thing, any style you want.

In college he had to go to a practice room on campus in order to play. Those are reserved for music majors at all times–in four years on that campus I found an open piano room twice. He *needs* his keyboard time in a way that I didn’t quite.

Coming home at Christmas meant the piano was right there and all his. It’s an old one of Gram’s; she bought it for their DC apartment when her husband was elected to the Senate before I was born, a very good upright, but it just wouldn’t do and she had to have her grand. She gave the upright to my folks and it got passed down to me.

One holiday season when Richard was in college, the guy I’d hired to tune it ever since we’d moved here just didn’t have time to fit me in–right around Thanksgiving he gets booked up fast because everybody wants to be ready for get-togethers.

And then, bless him, Neil decided he would squeeze me in anyway. It would be a quick tune-and-run, though, no time to catch up on life.

That was fine, and thank you!

So he came. He tuned. I thanked him, we wished each other the best and he was off.

A few days later my son flew home, finals done, the house ready for Christmas, and sat down at that piano and let’er rip in loud, exuberantly happy music all over the keyboard.

About a minute into it (and having him in on this with me) I dialed the phone and when the call was answered, said, This is Alison–and held the phone towards the piano as Richard grinned and really let’er rip. That piano had never sounded so good.

Neil, listening, said with great emotion, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me!”

The music got just a little softer (because the kid knew his mom needed the help hearing on the phone), I wished Neil and his a Merry Christmas and he me and then we let each other go back to our families, the moment never to be forgotten. I was and am so grateful for his kindness.



The fruit of the tree
Friday November 06th 2020, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Ours is a sweeter variety than some.

It was facing the house so I could see the line across its deep pink fruit from inside, the sign that it was just starting to split: that this one was ripe. At last.

Would you like a pomegranate? I emailed my elderly neighbors who are both fighting cancer while doing all they can to dodge this virus; I haven’t seen her at all in awhile. I said, I’ll put on gloves and mask to pick one. I won’t touch it or breathe on it.

She answered. It seems a lot of bother…but they would love. And could I take the vase she would put out on her front step? Someone had brought her flowers. She knew I liked to give flowers from my garden and she knew she would not be using it again.

I’d love to, I answered, my heart stopping a little at that last line.

Latex gloves, mask, pruning shears because the tree requires it.

The vase was already there as I stepped through our gate and over to next door. It was beautiful. I left the fruit at the bottom of their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to bend down quite so far as the single step below.

And came home grateful that my toddler-aged tree had given us such a gift.



Happy Halloween
Saturday October 31st 2020, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I figured there would certainly be no trick or treaters this year of all years.

Till the new next door neighbors set up quite the Halloween display. It’s marvelous. Maybe some little kids would get to enjoy Richard’s pumpkin after all? Since we’re right next to such awesomeness. I had to go out to pick up prescriptions anyway, so I finally bought some Halloween candy.

I decided to sweep away the cobwebs along the front walkway: you’re only supposed to have fake ones up to celebrate with. Might as well do that part over there on the other side of the gate, too, even if no one will see it but me.

There were sounds of happy kids in their back yard as I worked and it took me straight back to when our kids were the little ones and the empty-nester in that house had been the one enjoying hearing them all those years ago. The Halloween where they didn’t show because the three who were old enough to had stomach flu, we found out she’d been waiting waiting waiting for them to come by. But they hadn’t. The next day she knocked on our door with the See’s Candies treats-filled paper haunted houses she’d bought just for our kids, one for each, and she was hoping they were okay? Sandy rocks.

Good people live in that house.

The last section of fence between us fell down months ago in the taking out of the silk oak that had been lifting it up; it was repaired, it went splat again, it just needs an entire do-over. We’ve talked about jointly replacing it, but for now there’s six feet at the corner left simply open. My house and yard angle away from it such that you can’t actually see much from there anyway unless you come through from their side.

I always wondered when curiosity would get the better of the nine year old and tonight it appears I got my answer: when someone else’s kid wants to.

I looked up to see turquoise shorts starting to come my way through the wispy drooping leaves of my Chinese elm and exclaimed cheerfully in surprise, Well hello!

They had clearly not known I was there. Two sets of legs scrambled back out of there so fast. I figured if I went to the gap and said, No it’s okay c’mon over you want a tour of my garden? that it would only have gotten them in trouble with their parents and I didn’t want to stomp on their rare and fun get-together, so, hey.

I set the bowl of candy outside next to the pumpkin with the light on.

There seem to have been no takers. There are peanut butter cups but the squirrels are asleep.

It’s getting late enough that I’d better bring it in before the skunks say thank you don’t mind if I do. Or get in a fight with the raccoons trying to beat them to it.



An answer
Sunday October 04th 2020, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Politics

Pence thought flying to Arizona would get the Mormon vote to turn the state their way.

And on a different note having nothing to do with that…

This was General Conference weekend for the Mormon Church, broadcast from Salt Lake. There was no in-person audience, the speakers were masked while not speaking and sat socially distant, and the Tabernacle Choir was pre-recorded songs from previous Conferences.

And the song they started out with (video link) was, “Oh Say What Is Truth”. The sheet music is in the link below.

31243, Hymns, Oh Say, What Is Truth?, no. 272

1. Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.

2. Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.

3. The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.

4. Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

Text: John Jaques, 1827-1900

Music: Ellen Knowles Melling, 1820-1905

There were messages of inclusivity for all and they meant all in order to measure up to the teachings of Jesus.

President Nelson said, “I grieve that our black brother and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”

One of the other things he said leaped out just for me. “We can do hard things.”

I instantly decided to take it personally for my right here and now. My back has been so bad that I couldn’t roll over and get out of bed by myself, which wasn’t helping Richard’s iffy back any. Alright, consciously loosen those muscles. No tensing from fear it’s going to hurt that makes it hurt. You can do this. And yes it will still hurt some, but it won’t get better without doing that.

Richard five minutes ago, watching me rise from a chair and turn to go in the kitchen to get a glass of milk: “You ARE feeling better!”

Better being a relative term, but, yes I definitely am and I’m not afraid of it anymore.

I will add two things: I’m still not stupid, though, and, I have very good friends. Phyl and Lee walked over, watered my wilting veggies and a few trees that needed it most, harvested the four butternut squash that were ripe and at my previously-stated insistence, took one home. I waved thanks and goodbye through the window so as not to give them my flu.



Big red truck
Tuesday September 22nd 2020, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Taking the recycling bins to the curb, my neighbor was returning home. It was good to see he’s still getting his daily walk in.

He stopped a moment, wanting to explain that the firefighters had been in front of our house because his wife had fallen and he had not been able to pick her up. But it’s okay, she is fine; that’s just something they do when you need them, he told me gratefully.

I came away thinking, we went to their 50th anniversary party long enough ago that I cannot be sure how many years it’s been. Fifteen, easily.

They still have each other, and that is something to celebrate for awhile yet.



Firstfruits
Sunday September 20th 2020, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,History,Life,Mango tree

My mango variety drops its fruit just before they’re fully ripe, and I’ve learned that if you just slightly brush the bottom of one with your fingertips and it falls into your hand, you got it when it was ready to let go.

Two were like that while the fire sky had been gray or worse for three weeks. They were good, but the intensity of the perfume was not at all up to last year’s–they’d needed that bright direct sun the ashes were filtering out.

The third and last one that had survived what the winter had thrown at the tree waited till there was bright sunshine again for several days. It was very small, but held great promise in the palm of my hand.

Like Alphonsos do, it needed a few days indoors. I put it in a beautiful hand thrown rice bowl from my friends Mel and Kris which displayed it with the majesty it deserved.

And man, was I tempted. More than I’d like to admit. I’m not proud of that.

But I was hopefully going to get more mangoes in future years.

There is never enough time, there is not much time, there is hopefully as much time as she and her family need. Her granddaughter gave her a new great-granddaughter this weekend, and there is joy.

I checked with her daughter, who assured me that there was a caretaker there who would open the door; just tell her I’m Jean’s friend from church.

There was no plan whatsoever of my going in and actually seeing and risking her, but I could at least hand something over to them from there.

I had a card that popped up a bouquet of paper flowers for this lovely master gardener. The woman who shared her pomegranates that are why I have such a tree in my yard too, now, having never known before what a pomegranate was really supposed to taste like. Who was eighteen when she witnessed Pearl Harbor, and lived.

Twice she had tried to grow mangoes like back home. Twice the trees had died in our cold. She knew what a homegrown mango could taste like. If only.

At 94, she finally got to have one again.

And I suppose the fact that the sky took away a little of the perfume and presumably (like my figs) some of the sweetness (although it still smelled wonderful), she gets to still believe her childhood Haden ones were the best.



A boost
Thursday September 17th 2020, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Afton mentioned Aftober, the race to pick up and get to the end of some unfinished project by the end of October, and suddenly I have incentive to knit not just another hat (there’ve been two of late) but that endless intarsia afghan.

I needed that incentive. Alright, then! Thank you, Afton!

(Maybe the still slightly broken blog will let me post celebratory pictures by then.)



Bench pressing
Sunday September 06th 2020, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

And yet another announcement of friends moving to where housing is more reasonably priced to work remotely from there.

And so there is now a quite lovely wooden bench under the elm tree for enjoying a good book from, for those who can do the sun time and as our grandkids get older. I quite like it.



Maybe that’s where it all started
Wednesday September 02nd 2020, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Spent a long time going through yarns and fish photos and measuring and eyeballing and I think the next two are figured out. I kept thinking, as I often have, that what I really need is my friend Lee’s pictures from his dive trips. (His ability to sketch would be nice, too.)

He and Phyl have from time to time offered us much-enjoyed evenings of seeing his underwater photography and one of those times was not long before Crohn’s put me in the hospital the first time. The doctor had me on morphine, and this time I was the one on a trip–with Lee’s tropical fish lazily meandering around me in the very brightest colors against a turquoise background, keeping me company all night, keeping me amused and distracted from the severe pain and feeling less alone because all of that was because of happy memories that had come from them.

A friend dropped by this afternoon with homemade jam from her fruit trees; I sent her off with a cooled loaf of cranberry pumpkin sourdough because I always know that one will be good.

We were kind of ready for something else, though. I was paging through my Artisan Sourdough Made Simple tonight and I didn’t really want to do it this way I wanted to try that and now there’s an experiment in the kitchen rising overnight and if it turns out fabulous you’ll hear all about it tomorrow. And if it doesn’t we’ll pretend this paragraph was never written.

In my dreams.