Monday September 21st 2020, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

My hair broke the spatula.

It took some doing. I was about to reach forward into the mixer bowl to scrape the edges when, in that movement, my hair, which, granted, has gotten a bit long these days, suddenly wrapped itself around my wrist and it and in that moment of surprise (I’d love to see the slow-motion video of just exactly how) the spatula went flying. The silicone head, the reason I bought it two years ago, ran off from the cheap plastic handle from that Amazon set.

I picked them up and looked. This was no trial separation. They were toast.

The bread dough will be, too, but not till tomorrow when it’s good and ready.

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.

She wrote love to the last page
Saturday September 19th 2020, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Life

For those who have not yet heard: author Cat Bordhi was a master teacher, both in knitting and in life, and her daughter worked from home from her home with her young son these last few months, keeping his grandmother company as she gradually slipped away from us all. I’ve met Cat. She was a lovely, loving soul.

I have a pair of socks she designed, socks like no pair I’d seen before, and it is a fitting honor to her that they were knitted and gifted to me as a complete surprise by a friend who knew I would love them.

Justice Ginsburg
Friday September 18th 2020, 8:28 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Who had just too much laid on her frail, aging, but willing shoulders. It’s up to us now.

I am gutted.

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.)

Today is for the color blue
Wednesday September 16th 2020, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

I went to pick a fig or two this morning and saw a few speckles on the ground and wondered at the idea that it had rained a little in the night–it was not in the forecast.

And then about halfway to the tree it got through to me that the rain was getting through to me–it not only wasn’t done, it was just getting started. I got my fruit for breakfast, hurried back inside, and found myself not soaked but wet and cold enough that I was definitely changing out of that.

It didn’t make it to even a hundredth of an inch.

But the air cleared up and the sky turned a forgotten blue. We can breathe again.

Meantime, after wanting to for a long time I bought a silk comforter six months ago and after watching this video of mulberry leaf to finished quilt, am utterly in awe of those who created it.

Sweetness and light
Tuesday September 15th 2020, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

So many things to catch up on that I’ve been trying to figure out where to start.

And then I discover it’s not letting me add pictures now.

The next fish just needs that little bit of yellow wool that I never got around to buying, because I don’t, but I will.

Last Wednesday you couldn’t tell where the sun even was, and we’re far better off now, but still, the figs have been refusing to really sweeten in the heavily filtered sunlight; they ripen and split open and I pick them early in the morning but they’re not what they would normally be nor are they going to be.

A squirrel got to one–I opened the bathroom window and scared him into dropping it and running so he was totally busted–and then the half a fig lay there on the ground, untouched, for two days. Finally something sampled the edge. Nope. Left it there.

The day after that it finally disappeared so I guess something got hungry enough but in the meantime no other fig was touched because man, if they all tasted like that one why let those clamshells snap against one’s prying paws.

It amused me.

This morning I picked two that were split badly, curling in pieces from the bottoms up; I figured this was as sweet as they were ever going to be.

Not much. All the color and fully formed, though, so they were, y’know, healthy. After I washed the ashes that had gotten into those clamshells away.

The air quality index is 40 points better now than this morning, meaning it was unhealthy rather than dangerous to water my squash plants this evening.

I’m going to wait till we have brighter sunshine for a few days before I harvest that first one, and then, if need be, I’m going to sweeten the heck out of it and enjoy it because we’ve been waiting for it for so many months. Honey, brown sugar, or maple–it’s all good.

Tuesday September 15th 2020, 9:33 am
Filed under: Life

I started to sit down at my computer just now and Richard, working at his next to me, pronounced, Your blog’s back.


The company that hosts it did a major update and broke it and there was nothing we could do at our end but repeatedly remind them day after day that they had a problem and needed to fix it. (While praying they could and would.)

Pass the chocolate, we’re good to go here. Onward!

All things in Mordor-ation
Wednesday September 09th 2020, 11:21 pm
Filed under: History,Life

My alarm went off in what seemed to be the middle of the night. (Pictures to follow.)

The Bear Fire, the Oregon fires, all those others that are still going or just starting: smartphone auto-filters just weren’t up to it. Holly did a good job with her good camera.

It wasn’t night, but it wasn’t really day, either, with the sky a deep deep dark orange overcast–and it stayed that way. We simply weren’t going to have any day today, rather, it was as if it were about forty-five minutes past sunset all day long. It was very weird. At noon it seemed to let up enough that you could see more clearly across our small back yard for a few minutes, and again around five, but that was all the light we were going to get.

The air quality actually registered as moderate with the marine layer between us and the towering smoke, but the national weather service sent out a tweet saying quite honestly that their instruments were not designed to measure from fire and as far as doing anything outside, use your nose as your guide.

Be careful.

I went out anyway at 1:30 to pick up a prescription to if nothing else stop the annoying auto-calls about it, and to get a flu shot as long as I was out there.

Our (admittedly understaffed) local CVS takes an excruciatingly long time to do the simplest things while studiously avoiding customers. And so even though the Rx had already been filled it was well over an hour later that I came back to my car.

Where the ash was already re-coating the windshield. I looked around and thought, if fire ever actually broke out around here right now, how on earth would anybody know?

Miss Agnes
Tuesday September 08th 2020, 10:11 pm
Filed under: History

Every few years I go back and re-read Agnes Morely Cleaveland’s “No Life for a Lady,” her 1941 autobiography of growing up a cowpuncher on the New Mexico frontier, with a huge mental thank you to my friend Scott who gifted me with a copy some time ago. I’ve passed along a few copies myself. It’s a great read.

It starts off just a bit slow with the sudden death of her father in her childhood by way of explaining all that follows, but then, wow. She is *funny* and sharply observant of her very different world–while able to move easily in one more like ours after her mother sent her back east for high school and eventually Stanford.

Civilization starts to discover their area as she and her siblings reach adulthood. Model Ts start to show up and the cowboy genre becomes popular in movies and books.

An author who wanted to get in on the trend managed to get Agnes to read her manuscript–and it was so screamingly off that she howled, but trying to be charitable, sent off some authenticity pointers.

Agnes got a telegram back almost immediately telling her that she was to put the woman up while she came and stayed to see the local flavor for herself and would be at the post office on this date for Agnes to come pick her up there.

A trip that the family made once a week to pick up the mail given the distance.

Holy cow. Like, right now. Presumptuous much?

So Agnes and her brother decided to offer her that authenticity she craved: they would take her on a buffalo hunt.

They did not tell her there had been no buffalo for years at that point. They simply got her a horse and set off and gave chase to the beast.

Which was a horse with a bear hide strapped to it, running for its life to try to get away from the scent and weight that so terrified it.

Yonder author went home in a huff.

But at least someone got a great story out of it!

Gone fishing
Monday September 07th 2020, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Knit

The wrasse of Khan.

A soft answer turneth away wrasse.

I’ll wrassel you for it.

Wrasseberry jam.

The neighbors with their bees and fish pond: they thought they had hives, but it’s just a wrasse.

Those don’t do it for you? I’ll have to wrasse-sort to something else. Just let me finish that last row first.

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.

Might as well run with it
Saturday September 05th 2020, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Family

Him, looking at CalFire pictures of where his friend lives up in the mountains and finding things mostly okay in that area: “There’s the poultry farm.”

Me, being deaf: “Upholstery farm? Is that where they tan the naugahides?”

Vote for the fourth-year cure
Friday September 04th 2020, 5:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Politics

Back when our kids were teens, Richard’s older sister had been feeling unwell and after running lots of tests, her doctor sent her to a hematologist.

Her first inkling of what she was in for was when she had to walk past the oncology sign to get to the man’s office. Nobody had said anything about cancer. It was her fortieth birthday.

And thus began her fight with a type of lymphoma that, at the time, had had zero cures and three known cases of remission ever, and it was not caught early.

They can cure it now. Back then, they kept coming up with new treatments that kept giving her a little more time. Her youngest was eleven, and while they were telling her to put her affairs in order she wanted to see her kids grow up.

Eight years later, she got her youngest off to college and saw a son married to a good woman. Six weeks later she was gone.

Richard had just started a new job when he heard her diagnosis and had no accrued time off but his boss’s reaction was, Go. Now. Go see your sister. I don’t want to see you for a week.

The fact that it was summer vacation made it easy to throw the kids in the car and drive to Salt Lake City.

We did that long drive so many summers after, wanting to see her while we could, wanting to be supportive in person as much as possible.

And every time we drove home, the Sierra Nevadas gave way to flat farmland and signs like the ones beckoning, Pistachios $2/lb!

(Those were the immature nuts that were closed as tight as a fist and a royal pain to crack. You want the ones that smile for the camera, you pay $3 but they didn’t tell you that till you got out of your car, and if you wanted them shelled that was a whole ‘nother thing altogether.)

The family of knitting friends who immigrated from Iran own one of those pistachio orchards, that being a traditional crop back home, and I’ve often wondered if we ever passed their farm. Wonderful people.

Michelle is doing the long drive home from her sister’s and asked us if we wanted her to pick up anything along the way. We knew where she’d be coming through, so I said something about maybe pistachios–don’t take the time for us, take care of yourself first and foremost, but if you want to stop and if you’re interested, sure, I’d be interested.

Some hours later the phone rang.

She was sorry but there would be no farm stops on this trip.

No problem at all, we weren’t counting on it–it was just wistful memories.

Because, she said: farm after farm had great big Trump signs. And she just couldn’t.

And I wondered, do they want so hard to stay unconflicted and unchallenged in their bubble that they’re willing to kill off half their summer tourist income for it? Not to mention, and all that for someone who’s tried so hard to take away the healthcare they maybe have no idea how much they might need someday?

I guess they do.

How it came out
Thursday September 03rd 2020, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

So, yeah, I never made the connection between that night in the hospital, Lee’s photography, and the need to knit fish on a turquoise background before, but what was supposed to be a post about sourdough last night suddenly helped me connect all those long-time dots that were back there somewhere in my brain waiting to be found. Who knew.

On the food experiment: Trader Joe’s sells a frozen spinach artichoke heart cheese dip that’s quite good. I had some thawed and ready in the fridge.

Yesterday was about seeing how well that would go with sourdough.

I let the dough rise overnight as one does with the thought that I would mix the stuff in in the morning (and give myself one last chance to back out of the idea.)

Which means it was cold right out of the fridge going into the bread dough which wanted warmth.

Which meant that, since I didn’t do the smart thing and nuke the dip a bit, the usual one-hour morning rise was going to need to be a whole lot longer. But that would have made it really sour and taken an unknowable amount of time and I had plans for the day, so I just popped it in the oven anyway. I ended up with a dense focaccia variant. It was good but not excellent; next time just make normal sourdough toast and dip it in the dip.

And then on with the morning.

Man, I have never seen a line like that at Goodwill to drop stuff off! At least they let us–they weren’t taking any more donations for awhile there. Closets are definitely being cleaned out.

There were two fire trucks parked on the road a half block from Andy’s. It was hard to see if there was smoke in a pocket of the hills above or if that’s just where the wind captured an extra bit of what was everywhere anyway, but either way, CalFire was ready to be right on it.

Ripe Green Gage plums are one of the best fruits on the planet and well worth the trip to Morgan Hill.