Upside-down pie
Wednesday February 21st 2024, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I’m knitting all these peach and apricot trees and wishing for summer fruit.

So: take a bag of frozen fruit, berry mix, peaches, cherries, whatever grabs you. A typical one here is 12 ounces. Mix about a tablespoon of cornstarch (depending on preference, size of the bag, juiciness of the fruit after thawing–it’s all a guess anyway) with sugar. A quarter cup sugar with 12 ounces of tart berries begged for ice cream, a generous third cup sugar was too sweet for me and he thought it was great. But I interrupt. Sugar+cornstarch, then pour in your bag of frozen fruit and mix it all up really well in that two quart bowl made by Mel and Kris since you want to do visual justice to the goodness to come.

Cover with a plate and microwave. Stop and stir every few minutes, especially at the beginning. Remember that the cornstarch will thicken as it cools, especially if you put enough in but the amount really doesn’t matter all that much, you just want to make sure you get that fruit good and cooked.

Spoon it into pretty bowls. Mentally thank friends Kris and Mel again.

Take the good excuse you have right there for buying those Trader Joe’s cinnamon graham crackers that are so crunchy they shatter: break them up over the top of your bowl of what’s essentially now pie filling. Eat it before they get soggy.

The kind of side effect you want
Tuesday February 20th 2024, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Life

7:20, right on time even though my alarm hadn’t gone off (the sound, yes, the vibrations I needed to know that it was sounding, no) and it was a mad scramble.

The antibiotics, started Friday evening, had helped some. Not quickly and not entirely but most of the swelling, which by Sunday had gone from a half inch above the eyebrow to most of my cheek, was gone on Monday. Just the upper eyelid still. Yay.

She had wanted to see it.

And so bright and early she was physically removing that persistent infectious thumbprint’s worth. A new, topical antibiotic (but continue with the oral one.) Come back Friday.

And hopefully that will end that.

But you know what? Back in–October I think? October’s when my sister got her afghan. But just before I sent it off I found the big metal yarn needle I’d dropped by getting up from the floor and putting my knee on it.

Two or three weeks later that knee started being achey and a little stiff–but on the side now, not where I’d skewered it, which was healing. The pattern of hurting in the morning and then easing off was typical of lupus, so, eh. It wasn’t terrible.

Still, I’ve thought for months now that I really ought to drag myself to the doctor over it just in case something was going on because none of my other joints were doing that.

Those antibiotics that are only mostly-helping on my eye socket seem to have completely cured my knee. All that time and it was that easy to fix? At long long last all that is entirely gone and it is wonderful.

Monday February 19th 2024, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

 There are a lot of palm products out there these days, which means there’s a lot of coconut coir looking for a market. It’s being sold as a substitute for peat pots for gardeners, among other things.

But according to one gardening forum, it removes potassium from the soil, which keeps your plants from being able to create leaves. They’ll be stunted at best.

Which is why this apricot seedling grew all of three inches last year and looked like this.

Once I’d read that warning, I peeled the coir away from the two apricots so afflicted and hoped for the best. (Most of my vegetable sprouts in those pots simply died.)

It also explained why nothing ever grew within five feet of the trunk of the date palm we used to have and not a blade of grass grew there for five years after it was gone. Bare dirt. Even Californian weeds couldn’t take it on.

In its first day of the new season this Anya descendant grew leaves that are about as big as last year’s ever were and it was such a treat to see the first sign of spring–and from that particular plant. I think it’s going to be fine.

The history
Sunday February 18th 2024, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Years ago, San Jose had a new city hall with an HVAC ledge with a half-wall eighteen stories up. (And every time I look at it I think of whoever didn’t bother to smooth that sloppy upper surface down because surely nobody would ever lay eyes on it. Hah!)

A yearling female peregrine falcon spotted it, decided that cliff would make a great and well-protected territory, and claimed it. A male peregrine spotted her and it and decided that was a deal worth waiting around for a year for while she grew up. Peregrines were still vanishingly rare then as the species recovered, and who knew if he might ever get another chance at a mate and a territory.

Remote-control cameras were set up, and by the time they were actually ready to nest a biologist had put a wooden box with gravel in it for them to lay their eggs into. Wildlike.

And thus began the San Jose City Hall peregrines. Some may remember that I was on that camera crew for a season.

Last year with the avian flu decimating local populations we had a pair and expectations of egg laying any day–and then the female was found on the ground dying. Positive for flu. The male apparently did, too.

Another pair came in. Courtship ensued. The male vanished.

A yearling male found the place and a female who gave him the side-eye at first. But sometimes yearlings can pull it off and there were no adults around fending him off or trying to take over so she let him stay, and the one viable egg she laid may have been his or may have been the previous male’s–but whatever, they were an established pair with a territory now and they raised young together.

He’s an adult now and they’ve been having a good start to the season.

Today a yearling female found this great place to claim!

Now, a good reason why juvenile raptors have different plumage from the adults is so that the adults won’t attack them, just give them notice that this is taken, mosey on along now, young’un, shoo.

But she didn’t want to.


(She’s a teenager.) No! Not gonna! You can’t make me!

At first it was just the male swooping at her; then the female joined in. They didn’t go talon-to-talon attacking, they just dive-bombed close enough that she ducked again and again and again, her feathers a-kimbo, nearly falling off the ledge but determined. It was quite the show.

But at last she went on her way.

Which means, if anything happens to the current female, there will be a new one likely watching and waiting to step right in. And peregrine falcons, even juveniles, will adopt and raise any nestlings if they don’t have any of their own to watch over.

That male’s got a pretty sweet deal going.

And our nest just got a bit of an insurance policy.

Barking up the wrong tree
Saturday February 17th 2024, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Knit

Actually, the bark part is fine.

The left side of the (creek–East Coast description, river–West Coast description) has peach trees, with two strands of orange for the fruit, while the right side has one strand of that orange and one strand of a lighter shimmery silk/cashmere for the apricots.

The distractions of pain and feeling unwell played into this (they’ve put me on antibiotics now after all), but, when I started in on some new branches this morning I used both oranges and didn’t notice till after three rows.


Well that felt dumb.

I could spend five or six hours ripping and redoing it; intarsia is slow, frogging intarsia with fragile yarns is even slower.

Or not. I decided early on with this project that there would be no mistakes here, just new ways of looking at things.

One of my kids did a semester abroad living on the Left Bank in Paris. Now it’s your turn, little apricot!

Check’s mate
Friday February 16th 2024, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knit,Life

(I’ve never seen an amaryllis quite like this before. I was going to take its picture outside but this is as far as it got.)

So it turns out the rules have been changed re those phytosanitary certificates: credit cards only. Which was the opposite of the previous rule and it surprised me because usually government entities in California don’t want the surcharges from the banks. If I could come back down, I was asked–or, she offered very generously, she could drive to my house for it.

It seemed a very small amount of money to waste that much of her time over and they were busy; I could come, no problem.

So there I was again.

I waited till she was done and then said, I don’t know if you’re allowed to accept it in your job. But I like to spend my Zoom meetings making simple hats that I don’t have to look at my hands for, and then find people to give them to. I’d love to offer you one.

I’d brought four to choose from, and she oohed and aahed over how pretty they were.

It looked like a work-from-home day for everybody else I’d seen the previous time. As we chatted briefly I bragged a little on my afghan project; she considered that a moment and said, It’s like a quilt, only in knitting.

I thought that was a really cool way to look at it.

But she said reluctantly that I was right, she wasn’t allowed to accept one. I tucked the hats away and said that I was going to think of her, then, when I looked at them.

With great fondness, too. I was glad I’d not only gotten to meet her but that life had offered us that little encore. All the best to her. And Ellen had gotten her tree safe and sound!

Making faces
Thursday February 15th 2024, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

(Medical stuff. Sorry. Here, let me throw an afghan picture in there. Wait. Does that creek look like a top-down sock with the toe needing kitchenering to anybody other than me?)


It’s weird, I said.

It IS weird, the doctor answered.

The lump started growing back last week. At first I thought it, nah, couldn’t be, that’s just from the biopsy.

But then it grew by the day, quite a bit faster than the first time (which was Thanksgiving to Jan. 9), going from a hard little round thing hidden under the skin to a large swollen angry red spot that someone in a lupus group Zoom meeting yesterday commented on–she could see it.

The original had never gotten to that point.

I messaged the eye doctor two days ago. This time it wasn’t an occasional small twinge, either, it was definitely painful and itchy. I got an appointment for next Friday.

By yesterday the only reason I wasn’t running to the clinic to see any doctor, anybody! was that I had a long-scheduled dermatology check today. And dermatology seemed a logical place anyway.

So there I was.

She looked at the pathology report to reassure herself of the biopsy having been negative. But then how–?

So. The lump is gone, the lump is back, it’s thumbnail sized and the eyelid is red and puffy. I picked up a prescription for a steroid cream and came home exhausted and starting to feel a little feverish.

After about an hour with my feet up, without even having done or taken anything yet, there was the most unexpected sensation: like it was receding. A little, but, hey! I got up and looked in the mirror and my eyelid did look less puffy and it hurt less. Huh! Yay! I’ll take it!

But now my upper cheek was. And it wasn’t when she snapped a picture for the other doctor. Doesn’t hurt, though.

So weird.

At least everything’s still working fine.

The dermatologist is going to keep close tabs on this with the eye doctor. She made sure I knew I was to call if I needed it for anything, any time.

It’s surely a complete non-sequitur, but I am so glad I got both my Shingrix shots!

The best things in life…
Wednesday February 14th 2024, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

The good news is that if you pay for Priority Express Overnight they guarantee it will get there when they say it will.

The bad news is, when it doesn’t, you have to wait seven days to file while they hope you’ll forget or lose the receipt or interest and go away.

The good news is that the apricot tree arrived safe and sound.

The bad/good news is, but not till this afternoon, which means I now have to remember where that receipt is (it’s tucked in my Sierra Club Engagement Calendar by the computer to make sure it stays right there and in mind.)

So that splurge of a shipping fee won’t have been after all. If they only refund to the difference between the timing I paid for and what I got, I’m fine with that, but it sounds like the full fee.

It came! She got it!

Blooms by day, folds up quietly at night
Tuesday February 13th 2024, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree,Wildlife

I am grabbing onto a little sunny Spring here before the new atmospheric river goes Niagara on us Wednesday through next Wednesday.

This was taken four days ago; the oxalis is a solid blanket of blossoms now. They were the first thing I saw when we were house-hunting, absolutely celebratory. Sold.

There was a flock of crows yelling in the air. I looked: nope, they’d picked the neighbor’s overripe persimmons clean weeks ago. Thought so.

To the left, there it was: the hawk they were screaming at, soaring higher than they dared go, but they were making sure it knew they could take him on, for sure, them and their best buddies down here. Go! Shoo!

There were reports from San Jose that the peregrine falcons have begun the countdown towards the eggs to come.

And then of course this guy suddenly showed up. Hadn’t seen one of them in awhile.

Maybe the hawk noted its escape route past the mandarin tree, since rabbits always run for the same exit. Cute little guy. Future raccoon food. Or great-grandparent by August.

Last year there was a rabbit that would dash under the mango, and I’m guessing it chewed on it because the tree’s not been doing so well ever since. Not dead, not growing, no black spots of sickness but not deep green anymore either, not flowering, just sitting there on the edge of the bed deciding whether to wake up along with everybody else.

A little fertilizer for the season’s breakfast and we’ll see if that makes a difference.


The plant speakeasy
Monday February 12th 2024, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knit

You’re their best but also worst nightmare, he told me over dinner.

Me: –?

Basically, he said, because I was a nice person to deal with–but could I imagine having to deal with every.single.plant.sent. individually?

Here’s what happened. You know they would have looked at me funny if I’d said she’s an in-person friend, but she is, and she lives in Oregon now. And she and I wanted to get one of those super-rare super-good apricot seedlings to her.

So I looked up what the rules are, because the last thing I would want is its being confiscated at the state line and destroyed after I’d nurtured and grown it this past year, not to mention the disappointment to her.

Oregon has a long, long list of banned plants you cannot bring in. That’s okay, California does, too–like the gorgeous understory-level mountain laurel that I grew up with that is a silent carrier for the Sudden Oak Death disease that began in the last 30 years or so, and they’ve discovered that the redwoods

I seriously had to stop typing a moment

but it’s true, Sudden Oak Death kills the ever-unkillable towering, majestic redwoods, some of which are older than Jesus’s time. We could lose every one. California has been throwing money at research to solve that and experimenting with tossing antibiotics around tree drip lines.

I’m not about to mess with Oregon’s forests nor crops. There are so many variables added when it’s not just a kernel anymore–I wanted to do this right.

Our county agriculture office seemed a bit bemused that I was so enthusiastic about my particular apricots–and maybe at my willingness to follow the rules? How many people do? But for respect for the redwoods if nothing else, was my point of view. Do unto others. Etc. (Maybe I was atoning for those kernels I did mail the last few years?)

They were certainly willing to help. No, apricots did not show up on the banned list. Soil was, though, and inspection for a long list of diseases was required.

They told me the fee for the phytosanitary inspection. No problem.

They walked me through my part of the forms: I was being an exporter because I was sending it out of the state. Yes write one box and one plant in that one box and how I was going to ship it. (Unspoken: because that’s so not what they usually deal with.)

Then just before I went there I had to carefully take the baby tree out of its pot, get rid of every bit of dirt bigger than the equivalent of a hole left by a size US 8 knitting needle without shredding the roots, wrap them in damp paper and then into a 2 gallon ziplock zipped most of the way for the transportation time, and I was off to San Jose. Across the street from the hazardous waste plant.

One of these things is not like the other…

They had told me they would prepare their form and mail it to me afterwards, shouldn’t take too many days.

Visitors were clearly rare. Signage was sparse. I climbed the steep stairs and went oh okay, there’s where I’m supposed to go.

You call via a wall phone with a number posted by the desk opposite, once you find it, and wait for someone to come out of the locked area.

I did and pulled out my knitting.

A few minutes in, someone came out to use the restroom across the hall. On coming back, she stopped a moment and asked, Was I making a cowl?

The secret word!

She told me with a big smile that she was a knitter, too, and you could just hear the capital in that K.

I told her, I miss Stitches, wondering if she got the reference; she instantly responded, Oh, I do, too! We were in strong agreement that someone had to re-start that business. There were so many of us! Clearly enough to make it worth someone’s while, and with that she headed back through the door I was waiting by, having enjoyed the conversation thoroughly.

I don’t know if that made the difference. I don’t know if word was conveyed by the five other people who went through that door in that time that I would not be antsy at the wait, to say the least.

All I know is that a new person came out that door, inspected my plant with its roots dangling nakedly in her hands and healthy as could be, she made me wait awhile again–and then chucked that thought, opened the door again, and invited me back there while she finished the form and double-checked with me on the name and address it was to go to.

I paid. I was done. It was done. I was free to mail it, just make sure that paperwork is inside because it could be opened at any point along the way and checked for that phytosanitary report and certificate.

I had been saving a long narrow box and the cushioning for it since Christmas.

Between yesterday’s full dormancy and this afternoon’s 64F, it had started to show the first tiny signs of spring and it could not safely spend three days in the dark.

They promise me it will be in Portland tomorrow.

Bonne Noel!

Sunday February 11th 2024, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Knit

Photo from yesterday, actually, but I’m out of daylight. Side edges to be added later.

That was the hook
Saturday February 10th 2024, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

The other thing I did yesterday was to go to the Social Security office.

I officially changed to my married name with them years ago but the IRS never got the memo. Social Security always had it right, at least, and I no longer had to worry about the state refusing to cash the check for my driver’s license renewal. (Checks. Boy that *was* awhile ago.)

It finally tripped me up again. The person told me the only thing for it was to take my documents back to their office and walk it through.

The Social Security people told me to take the taxes under my full name problem to the IRS office, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Given Jean’s funeral, I went in the afternoon, a little afraid they would close promptly at 4 and kick everybody out who was still waiting. My previous experience had been back when W Bush signed the Patriot Act and messed over millions of women over how official their married names were or not: the databases had to match.

It was hours and hours in a building and part of that town I’d never want to be in again among people who really didn’t want to be there nor work there.

This was closer and much nicer–nothing fancier than a good paint job and decent flooring and no dirt, but what a difference that made, and they were much more efficient. And actively helpful.

But since I didn’t have an appointment there was still about a 75 minute wait. I pulled out my purple cowl project.

A woman about my age (I can just see her smiling on reading that) walked in, saw how closely placed the connected chairs were, saw that there were only a few individual seats here and there but it was all definitely going to be too close to strangers, and hesitated and nearly walked out.

I smiled, “I don’t bite,” and she chuckled, looked relieved, and sat down next to me.

We made friends on the spot.

Turns out she’d always wanted to knit or crochet. She had even bought a crochet kit for–I think she said a sweater project?–and she’d tried a few times to teach herself how to do it, but it seemed too much to master all at once and it had sat there for years.

I told her, sometimes you need to simply start with something else, maybe something smaller, and then come back to it.

She looked at me. And the small, make-time-useful portable project in my hands. Yes. Yes, that made a lot of sense, thanks.

Eventually they called my number, they called her number, and that was that.

I walked out of there regretting that I hadn’t offered her my name or email so that she could ask any questions or get help getting started; it was the crocheting that had stopped me from offering, it’s been so long I’d be looking at YouTube videos myself.

On thinking about it later I realized the difference would be that I only need to refresh the memory on what term goes with what and the rest would come right back to me.

I did mention to her that I’d found knitting easier on the hands.

The SS office’s website had warned that there was very little parking but I’d pulled in going, Four spaces?! There are only four spaces?! How does that work!

Turns out the rest of them were on the far side of the building, y’know, where I ended up finding the front door, too. Oh.

And so as I was wishing I could ever see her again, walking along the outside of what I now knew to be Windows 5-12 inside, a small red car about the age of my Prius slowed down.

And there she was, waving hello, glad to see me again, too. My face totally lit up and so did hers.

I really hope she gets her sweater and her new skills she’s long dreamed of. I think the chances just went way up.

May her wisdom live on through us all
Friday February 09th 2024, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

People who grew up here. People whom I hadn’t seen in twenty, even thirty years and probably won’t ever again. A guy I dated briefly in college. (“Wally.” He looked behind him and didn’t see anyone he recognized. I pulled my face mask down, said his full name this time, and he exclaimed, Alison!”) My kids’ old middle school art teacher, long retired. My daughter-in-law’s dad and uncle, who grew up here, and her brother–we surprised each other.

Jim flew in, too, and played the organ. Ruth Ann flew in and played her violin: friends of Jean in her later decades. The chapel’s folding doors at the back were opened to make room for the overflow of people celebrating 98 years so lovingly spent.

The friend doing chemo for Stage 4 whom I thought didn’t come out in public anymore sat a few seats down from me: this, she had to be there for. She had grown up here and never left and people she knew came and what a reunion it was.

I mentioned to Wally that her brother had married someone I grew up with in Maryland. He liked that.

And of course, wait for it, there it was: the toddler great-grandchild who started to pitch a fit at the front and his mom reluctantly started hauling him out of there. A vivid orange octopus with eight i-cord-knitted tentacles and suddenly they were seated next to me near the back and happy and the mom got to hear the rest after all.

The final speaker was one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as he told us more about his beloved mother.

The room was full of people who’d known him as a boy and who get how he’d become someone asked to share the love from Christ with the whole world: it was his mom. Pearl Harbor survivor, third grade teacher, surrogate loving mother-figure to all.

And his dad, too, gone these many years now. Much was felt and said of his being able to embrace his sweet Jean again at long last.

Super blooms
Thursday February 08th 2024, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

I bought these bulbs in early Fall of 2000. I will always know when. The bag was a mixture of types and I should have realized they wouldn’t all bloom at the same time for the look I was hoping for, but over time I’ve been just as glad. All these years of mostly drought and a few of heavy winter rains later, they just keep coming up, staggered by both time and its inadvertent spacing rather than a tidy row all at once.

And every year they remind me.

I had so been looking forward to having them blooming along the walkway.

Then my car got rear-ended and slammed into a third car and the world spun around and it wouldn’t stop. Bright and shiny things were RIGHTTHERE at my nose and dull things were far away and my eyes tried to argue but my brain would collapse my left side.

That speeder had taken a lot away from me but he was not going to take away my daffodils. I got down on my knees and with my left hand held onto the ground (held it up, it felt like) that wanted to smack me in the face and with the right hand I dug down and planted. It was frustrating, it was hard, it took a long time, and my brain didn’t know whether to throw up or just cry.

But then there was the satisfaction that I had done it. I had planned it, I had made it happen, I had done the work no matter how hard it was to do and I was going to get to see flowers every spring. Tulip bulbs, I had learned, were total squirrel catnip but daffodils they won’t go near.

My eyes gradually learned how to overrule my brain. Balance is still tactile and visual and a cane is my extra sensory perception mode, my left side still sometimes goes wonky–bump me from behind where I can’t see you coming and we’ll have our own sudden game of Calvinball.

There was the extreme drought year where I got leaves but only a single blossom at the end of the walkway–and it disappeared while we were at church. The then-toddler’s mom laughed with me years later when I told her where he’d absconded with it from.

These were knocked down by Sunday’s huge storm. They picked themselves right back up–not bolt upright but neither are the flowers smacked face down in the mud any more, either. They want to be seen.

While the next patch is getting ready to open up. There will be another bunch after that, and another after that.

They are a forever reminder of the passing of time and how good life has been. Even that was worth it. It has to be, it’s not like I had a choice so it is, but, it actually is.

It helped me learn which way up is.

Part silk makes the apricots glabrous
Wednesday February 07th 2024, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Knit

(I.e, glossy and smooth.)

I’ve now finished the tree nearest the water up there and the fifth one at the end of the row has begun. Slowly, the water is channeling right and towards it.

The sandy areas on the left are from the force of the water coming against that turn before relaxing below.

Do I continue with the apricot (right) and peach (left) look, or do I throw in some red fruit in the next set? Cherries? Purple plums? Or Golden Nugget plums from Andy’s Orchard in yellow. So good!

But then you’d have to explain them all the time. Nah, probably not.