Saturday November 15th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Mugs! (Re yesterday’s post.)

Tonight: the annual fundraiser for the Scouts, with a silent slideshow going  of their week-long stint at Camp Oljato high in the Sierras this past summer.

The boys made and served a spaghetti dinner and ice cream and cookies and, mercifully, there was no program to have to sit through–they went straight to the dessert auction. TwentytwentyfivedoIhearthirty!thirty!thirty!doIhearFORTYFIVEanyoneFIFTY!FIFTY!

And so it went.

Dave was keeping them back a bit and I thought, C’mon, Dave, there are two there.

Now, you don’t want uncooked cream sitting around at room temperature a long time so we had decided to wrap up and freeze the chocolate tortes after I’d made them–but we didn’t have the freezer space. We arranged with one of the scout leaders to store them in his for two days, and the guy’s wife had written the 4×6″ note covering each describing what the item was.

Not my handwriting. Not my description. Dave hadn’t been sure.

Finally he picked one up, lifted its card off and looked across at me, questioning; yes, that’s my chocolate torte, yes, I made those.


And so the bidding began.

Clyde, a former scout leader himself, had told me last Sunday that he was coming to that dinner IF he would get a chance to bid on one of my tortes. He refused again and again and again and again to be outbid. SOLD, to Clyde, for $75!

Wait, there are two? We get a second crack at it? And so, SOLD!, for $85.

That’s half a scholarship to that camp right there. Man, that felt good. I may not be the biggest Boy Scout booster in the world but I know my sons got a lot out of going to that camp and it’s good to pass the experience on to the next.

The super-heavy pure cream I use to make those comes in half gallon amounts only. And so I had just baked and glazed two new tortes this afternoon and gotten them in the fridge when it was time to go.

There’s a family here on a visiting-professor sabbatical that will end next month. You know how some people just instantly make it into your heart? They couldn’t leave without sampling my torte.

And so I pulled them aside when the bidding was over, invited them to drop by our house on their way home, and when they arrived I handed them their own dose of high-octane chocolate, telling them that it had been my signature dessert at church dinners for about twenty-five years and they couldn’t leave without having some.

It was also my way of saying, y’all come back now, y’hear?

Table to table
Friday November 14th 2014, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

There’s a Harvest Festival in San Mateo this weekend and Mel and Kris are there. (See Mel in action here.) It’s indoors? Cool! So I drove up there today to see them.

But before I did, I put the two biggest and best looking persimmons in a small bag to take them–wondering, because you never know, people love’em or they hate’em.

And then I put a third one in.

One of their sons was with them–well, that worked!

I handed the bag to Mel, who handed it to Kris, who looked in and right back up in a surprised, thrilled grin. She said something about how having moved from California to Oregon, persimmons and pomegranates growing were things they never see anymore.

They had the cutest toddler-sized mugs, and oh goodness, a sweet little light lavender baby one, all of them as perfect as I could possibly have hoped for. They’d had the toddler size before but I’d resisted, thinking I didn’t want to worry about the little ones breaking them; then, seeing my grandsons at my table a few months ago I so wished I had something that rose to the moment. Such a rare and fine thing to have our grandchildren here, we should be celebrating with the best, and now we can. (And lavender, and our granddaughter due in six weeks, and then one to match her brothers’ as she gets older…  I’ll get that mugshot when I’m not quite so tired.)

We chatted awhile, and then I got out of the way.

Oh that totally does it: I found myself stumbling into the Skylake Ranch booth (I didn’t know you guys were here too?) and stocked up on some of their syrup and fruit spread and the like.

“It’s a special, three for twenty.”

“I still want four.”

She grinned.

And then I went back to Mel and Kris with that fourth jar of fruit spread made from the pomegranate trees of the woman I’d just been talking to.

And there you go. Take a little bit of California home with you while I feed my family in Mel and Kris style.

Branching out
Friday November 14th 2014, 12:19 am
Filed under: Garden

I love love love my new toy. Persimmons way up high, perfectly in reach, 5’5″ of me and 12′ of it: put the prongs over the fruit, pull gently, un-extend the thing back down and roll the persimmon gently into the waiting bag.

Actually, it took me a few stabs on some of them to get the prongs on that thing just so around those leaves as I teetered around with that unwieldiness. Still. I love love love that I can reach things and it got easy fast.

And I now know that, unlike down below, there are some way up there where they get more sun that are already tree-ripened and perfect and one of those was the single best persimmon I have ever tasted. (As I wiped my hands on the grass, wished for a towel for my face, and laughed at how undignified Hachiyas are.)

And I also found out that those are an impromptu way to out-redhead Lucille Ball.

Have some more
Wednesday November 12th 2014, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

So there was a bag, not a big one but it had persimmons of course for offering around at my lupus group today. The number of people who might come is always random so I tried to make sure nobody would be left out. And so there were enough.

It was fun to see every single face light up.

And then everybody was being too polite and the things just sat there.

Our allotted time in the hospital conference room was ending so I declared flat-out, I am not taking these home. Meaning, I know you like them but I will hand them out to random passers-by in the hallways and that is a threat.

And just like that they were all spoken for and everybody who wanted some got some. (One person would have loved but could not eat them.)

A young man whose Mom’s baby shower I got invited to when we first moved here (I knew nobody–it was very kind of her friend at church to welcome me in that way) making it real easy for me to remember how old he is knocked on my door this afternoon, and so we helped the neighbors get rid of some more persimmons. He’ll be sharing too.

But it’s not fair to take all the low-hanging ones, and so this evening Richard and I went off to the hardware store and bought an extending-arm fruit picker, one of those useful things that you only have to buy once, and I sent them off a note offering to use that to pick some for them to give away, too. It’s not fair for me to have all the fun.

As I was typing this the oven timer beeped.

I will glaze the chocolate tortes tomorrow and you know where one of them is going.

Tuesday November 11th 2014, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus,Wildlife

First, a side note to Peter and Terry if you should read this: my father would like to offer you written memories of Marcelline, if only he knew where to send them. If you leave a short hey I’m here in the comments section, your email address will come to me and I will pass it along but it will not show on this site. Thank you so much.

Meantime, hawk sightings nearly every day of late and quite the territorial displays. Glorious. The male flew in next to the window this afternoon and–well, he was saying something right at me, but you’d have to ask him. He seemed to wait for an answer but all I could offer was that I loved having him there.

The crows are staying well clear.

Speaking of which. There are neighbors with a tall old persimmon tree that bears heavily this time of year.

The last year or two, whoever had been helping them harvest didn’t and once the fruit was overripe and grossly sweet, every crow and raven in miles was going at it for several weeks, the whole tree one loud heaving mass of flapping black wings, and when that source was spent they went looking for more to claim in the near vicinity–and they drove out my Cooper’s hawks for a goodly while. Hunting doves is enough work without being constantly mobbed and stolen from.

So I confessed to the one neighbor that I’d had an ulterior motive in asking his wife if they needed help with the picking: I love Hachiya persimmons, and I wanted to thwart those corvids.

Boy were they with me on that one.

And so it was that near dusk today, with their strong encouragement (Please! All you want! Take it! Give lots to your friends!) I went in their back yard and picked a big bag’s worth and then walked from house to house, offering it out.

One took the whole bag. Cool, that works.  I started over.

I was amazed at how tiring picking and carrying the stuff around could be.

They will ripen (they’re almost there), I will puree, and I shall have frozen persimmon for whenever I need a fix out of season. As long as I don’t inflict them on my husband, we’re good.

Tuesday November 11th 2014, 12:16 am
Filed under: Politics

Maybe I shouldn’t write about Open Enrollment. In some ways it’s worse than doing taxes, isn’t it?

The system I’ve been trying to work through seems particularly opaque to spouses this year: it appears that only the employee is allowed to view the options. Hello, community property state? This does not seem to me the most productive use of his time; why wouldn’t they want the free labor I could give them?

Remember this guy? I did get to see one page that I believe was talking about continuing the employer’s plan we’ve been on.

We finally wouldn’t be making the deductible the first time we fill a prescription come January.

Twenty. Six. Thousand.  And since that’s not enough, and four hundred dollars.




(Editing the edited comment: finally found that page again. That number was the out-of-pocket maximum for out-of-network. Given that our insurer and Stanford Hospital were out of contract last I heard, we could actually hit that number.)

A tree to life
Sunday November 09th 2014, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The box was sitting there on a little table outside the women’s meeting room. Enticing–but there was by no means enough for everybody in the congregation and people were being polite and not taking any and the things were just sitting there.

No note on who they were from.

There was a visitor sitting next to me at church and she remarked on how good those pomegranates looked.

Please, go take one! I urged her. That’s what they’re for!

Now, I had never seen pomegranates like this: if you remember the game from when we were kids where you fold a piece of paper just so so that you can put index fingers and thumbs into the four quarters of it and move them up-and-down or across, tightly shut or open, this way, that way, this way, till the big reveal as you open the paper up?

The pomegranates looked like that. Most were split clear open into segments, there were some random quarters, and Jean (it was Jean who’d brought them) had also placed small paper bags at the ready for people to put them into.

All it takes is one person going ahead to offer a sense of permission to others to do likewise–I mean, you just can’t disappoint the giver by making them cart it all sadly home, rejected.

Jean later apologized to me for having waited maybe a week too long, for having let them split like that, but they were her first crop and she’d wanted them good and ripe after her three years’ wait.

And she wanted to share.

I got one that was cracked nearly around its globe but it wasn’t wide open like the others–I figured, with my deep sense of klutz, probably best that I get one that couldn’t spill seeds around should I drop the bag.

When that last meeting was over and it was time to go home, Jean was explaining to someone who hadn’t seen them why she was carrying away this now-empty box.

And I reached into my bag and, knowing my hands couldn’t do this, said to the guy, Here, if you can split this for me?

He did, and Jean got to see her sharing growing into more sharing.

And so Richard and I took home a half of the best pomegranate we have ever tasted.

It was a revelation all around: if all the varieties grow like that one, that would mean you can never buy a truly ripe pomegranate because shipping split ones would be a nightmare.

Because here was the other thing new to us: the seeds just poured out. There was no effort to it. They just came. Wow. Cool!

At church I said something to Jean about growing mangos too and she exclaimed, “I tried three times! My brother sent me a Hayden.” Having grown up in Hawaii, she added wistfully, “I love Haydens.”

Turns out she had never heard of the Christmas lights trick for keeping the trees from freezing. (LEDs need not apply.) She was intrigued. She might need help with the planting but it looked to me like she was ready to go try again.

Jean is a Pearl Harbor survivor, a young adult coming out of church that day in time to look down the hillside to see the bombs falling below.

And she planted that pomegranate tree towards the future three years ago and she got to pick and to share that fruit.

I tell you, order her Hayden and my Alphonso, we will have mango-growing stories to swap, there’s no stopping her now.

Loving memories
Sunday November 09th 2014, 12:20 am
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Lots of living crammed into a single day.

I went to the funeral mass of the woman who had been my dad’s last surviving high school classmate, a beautiful service for a woman who’d lived her 88 years loving every person who’d crossed her path. Every time my folks had flown into town Marcelline and Bill had invited us all up for lunch and Dad and she had swapped stories in that beautiful home overlooking the Bay far below and we’d had a grand old time. Many fond memories.

Bill passed earlier this year and now he has his sweet wife back.

The family invited me on up to her house afterwards and I was glad to go. I’m going to link to a blog post about Marcelline and Bill here so that they can find it.

It did mean that I ended up spending twenty minutes out in the late-afternoon sun.

I came home and checked in with Richard. He’d wanted to go but his job had done the two-ended candle thing of late, a lot harder to do when you’re not in your 20s anymore, and he was simply wiped–he was sound asleep when I walked in.

An old friend of ours from back in his doctoral days at Stanford was in town to give a lecture tonight, one of several, and again, we wanted to go.

And again, Richard had to pass, and at the last second I called a friend nearby and asked if she were going? I’d done sun time so I wasn’t sure driving home after ten was going to be wise; could I bum a ride?

Sure! (She knows my lupus re the sun.)

And so I went, again offering Richard’s regrets but glad he was finally getting some rest.

I came home to find the phone had rung after he’d woken up: our niece was stranded and could we pick her up?

Because I’d caught that ride he had the car now and he could. He could always rest again afterwards, and did.

I can just see Marcelline, who so adored her nieces and nephews, making sure ours got taken care of too when she needed it. Looking out for others was the way she’d lived. Go call Phyllis. (I thought of it and didn’t do it and then I felt it more persistently.) Go call Phyllis. I called Phyllis.

Good friends make for, as Chan likes to say, no coincidences.

Anyone, anytime, anywhere
Friday November 07th 2014, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I love getting a bunch of these for Christmas but my supply was getting low a little early so I ordered a few. Not from my usual source, where I know pretty much what to expect–they were temporarily out.

Now, much as I love to knit, I’ll let someone else make the toys on the super-tiny needles. Let’s see, we got some funky ones in this batch–someone started with a penguin and finished with a horse’s face and what kind of bird can we pretend that is? Toucan play at this game. Up top, a fox’s face with a cat’s whiskers and a horse’s tail. Maybe someone had knit so many of these things that they decided to, y’know, mix it up a little bit. After all, it’s all about kids and their imaginations.

But one must never run out of handknit finger puppets for waiting rooms, lines at Costco, and once so far, the go-stick on an elderly man’s scooter. The women in Peru who have the patience to knit them must never run out of the means to put food on the table. And tired, hungry toddlers who need a hug most of all need the distraction of a cute little animal surprise (with their parents’ okay) hugging a finger and dancing with them and changing the world right there in that moment. Happy Birthday! Oh, today’s not yours? Well it’s someone’s–let’s celebrate! No, no, (as the parents try to get them to return them) that’s for you.

I was the mom of four kids with the oldest just shy of six. I know what it’s like.

Okay, world, ready when you are.

(p.s. Courtesy of Lynn in Texas: don’t miss the cabled-skull sweater picture.)

Betsy’s Spencers
Thursday November 06th 2014, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

An old classmate from long ago now lives near where we used to in New Hampshire. I was reminiscing over a fruit stand on Old Route 3 back in the ’80’s and their Spencer apples–the best apples ever, and a variety I’d never found since we’d moved to California.

A box showed up on our doorstep today. …Betsy! Thank you!

Just look at those fingers barely showing around that Spencer.

There are a couple other types for us to taste test to see if the real thing matched the memories and how they compared to, say, Honeycrisps. Dunno–because I waited till Richard got home so that that first taste would be a shared experience and then we polished off a Spencer each.

Managed to get a little dinner in, too.

Ooh, Maai
Thursday November 06th 2014, 12:09 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Purlescence recently got a new yarn in, as in brand new, only just released. And I bought a skein of it in Blueprint to try it out.

I had a person in mind, I had a deadline in mind, I had a project in mind.

But as I tried to get the thing going it did not seem to want to mind me.

I had not swatched–I mean, when you’re knitting a one-skein cowl with only so much yardage at hand the thing is the swatch since to me knitting is not some new thing: you can eyeball so many cast-on stitches and get a rough guess of what a certain pattern will come out to, size-wise, pretty much.

So (whistling) when was the last time I knitted a chainette construction in a dk weight? There are not a lot of those out there. This both compacts down into its stitch space because there’s so much air squishing out and yet it blooms out without going all angora on me. Curious. I like it.

And then I read Stephanie’s post and just laughed–okay, I’m not the only one here.

And so I was coming out with what would make a good hat. Assuming it didn’t stretch much once it hit water. Which I would not know till I finished but no, it would make a very pretty hat, definitely, yeah, that would work.

But did I have enough yarn? And I had not set out to make a hat. I live in a climate where people do not mess up their hair with hats, generally, since there is no great need to. Here the citrus trees wear more layers in freezing weather than some of the people do.

Did I want to buy another skein, then, and would the shop have the same dye lot still in stock? (Are you kidding me? Did you see that stuff going flying out the door after that much-anticipated box finally arrived?) It’s not that a hat takes a lot more yarn, it’s that a hat has to continue till it’s finished instead of at some random point that works for the knitter.

But even though it would certainly go over the head, or at least mine, it seemed a tad small for the top of a cowl for a larger person (which I am not), the yardage was disappearing fast, and I’m afraid of emphasizing the size of the person because of the smallness of the cowl–and so it stalemated on me and simply sat there most of today.

But it’s a gorgeous yarn and a soft yarn and ooh-fuzzy feeling without being fuzzy looking and it wanted to be knitted and finally I picked it up this evening and finished my pattern repeat–and then I did that increase and declared to myself, there: that settled it. It is to be a cowl.

(Well, it could still be a big poofy hat if I bought more yarn…)

She’s going to love it. Even if I have to find me a different she. But I don’t think I’ll have to. Either way, I’ll let her settle it for me.

Eyeing that gorgeous big skein from Abstract Fiber, because, y’know, I can always knit another cowl.

Run run run
Wednesday November 05th 2014, 12:15 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life,Politics

High-energy days are a wonderful thing.

Got up early this morning, voted first thing, (epic photobomb here. Look at that guy’s eyes!), was glad to see that the ballots were paper and verifiable and wore that little sticker proudly all day.

The cowl and my cousin’s hat and scarf are now in the mail.

I participated in a product testing trial, one of those quirks about living in Silicon Valley where there is always some new thing to prove the merits of and got paid just enough for my time to cover a mango tree with FedEx shipping from Florida. I like the idea of trading a little time for something solid and present and lasting that could grow and produce great fruit for a hundred years, with thanks to Dani from India for the guidance on what variety to get. (Yup, I still want my mango tree. So there you go.)

I headed from there to my audiologist to get the wax out that was blocking up the hearing aids–I once broke an earmold trying to do it myself. Um. Now they’re sending in for a new one. (It’s not just me!) There was a spare on hand that’s not a great fit from when I was very thin post-op but it’ll do fine for now.

There is, so far, a particularly bright spot in the election news here: the one-term Superior Court judge who repeatedly simply did not know the law, who did not understand why people were upset when she asked a criminal defendant before her–from the bench, in court–for a date–she seems to have lost. Her opponent, who by all accounts is very well qualified, spent almost nothing. That he is winning is a great justice. (Update: he did win. Good thing.)

And it is past bedtime and the local newspaper hasn’t updated any election totals in three hours. Time to give it a rest.

V O T E !
Monday November 03rd 2014, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Politics

Prop 45 is too much power! to give to one man! in Sacramento!

Yeah, that he would be able to say no to Anthem raising its rates 40% without justification? We gave that same officeholder that same power over car insurance rate increases and now Californians have some of the lowest auto premiums in the nation.

The phone rang. Richard picked up the receiver and actually listened to the robocall.

Then he said the candidate’s name to me, questioningly, not sure he’d quite heard it right.

I had read every article over the past month about the various people running but that wasn’t enough: today I spent hours rereading them, sample ballot in hand, going for second sources, researching the propositions on the ballot some more and trying to feel like I would be using my voting to the best of my ability come the morning. It is a sacred responsibility.

Note to this election’s big spenders: I read every flier as it came in the door and only one single one gave me any actual and factual information. Thank you for keeping the Post Office solvent but every dime you spent on those was wasted.

He wrinkled his nose going, Tell me that wasn’t someone I wanted to vote for because I don’t now.

Yeah, I told him, that’s the one running against Tuck. Tuck is supposed to be competent, thoughtful, and honest, vs the guy you just heard who has vowed to waste more taxpayer money to appeal that teacher’s tenure case rather than fixing the problems in the system that got the case filed. Here, I can pull up the article and you can read for yourself.

We both agreed that teachers need to be protected from bad administrators and bad parents, very definitely. At the same time…

We had some of the best teachers you could ever hope for for our kids, but just a very few who…

Let me say it flat out, you have to be able to get rid of the terrible ones. (The one who accidentally blew up her classroom during a sixth-grade demo of science that she did not understand did get, and it is a very good word for it, fired on the spot. No injuries. Other than that, she was actually a strong improvement over a particular one I’m thinking of.)

Then there are the candidates who will be deciding what our new voting machines are going to be: a previous Secretary of State had approved Diebolds that could be hacked in 30 seconds; the one after, a career politician termed out of her previous office, had run on a campaign of fixing the mess but then had done nothing. She updated nothing. She left cities and counties with unusable machines and no means to get out from under and oh look, we have an election again, don’t we, well now didn’t see that coming.

Who we vote into just that one state office impacts all the others. If you’re in California, here’s what the Merc had to say. Vote Pete Peterson over Mr-where’s-my-next-campaign-contribution.

To my American readers, change millions of lives for the better including your own Tuesday. Vote!

Smash hit
Sunday November 02nd 2014, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

She hesitated to say it at first today–it was not quite the typical uplifting experience one usually hears in a Mormon first-Sunday-of-the-month testimony meeting–but finally she did.

She and her husband had decided to take their little kids and go up to San Francisco to watch the parade for the Giants, victorious in their World Series win.

And I’m sure they had a great time doing so–but then they came back to their car.

Not one, not two, but three windows had been smashed in, probably in vengeance that all there had been for the thieves to steal was, if I heard right, a soccer ball and a My Little Pony.

THEIR car.  I mean, we’re talking a carseat and innocent little kids and broken glass and thinking of the drive home down the freeway hoping for no still-attached-but-unseen shards shaking loose at their children. (I don’t know how much the first responders were able to do about that.) I can’t even imagine what it was like to be trying to fix that enough and to reassure their kids while staying calm themselves.

And yet.  She is the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. She said that yes they called the police and the insurance company and all that, but first, they said a prayer together.

And their hearts went out to the person who, as she put it, was going through such a life that they thought that this was the best choice they could make now. They prayed for him or them, whoever they might be; they had to live with what they had done. “It’s so sad!” And she shook her head, wishing there were something she and her family could do to help them have  a happier life than that. She grieved that, should they ever successfully come back around to where they should be they wouldn’t even know whom to apologize to in order to see themselves being forgiven, to have a chance to accept the grace (that word being my description of who she is and what she lives by) waiting for them.

Cars and plastic ponies, fix them, get another, they’re just stuff. Her older children will remember that prayer and that thought and their mother’s example and their father’s steadiness in the face of such a scene of personal, deliberate destructiveness for the rest of their lives.

There is no way a criminal with a crowbar could have known he was helping raise young children to be more compassionate future adults. But with those parents in charge, he was.

How now brown cowl
Saturday November 01st 2014, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Picture taken before I washed and blocked it so it’s still in free form here.

I had almost forgotten just how good worsted-weight baby alpaca feels running through the hands on comfortable-sized needles.

It won’t get there the same day as someone’s terrible-rotten-no-good-I-think-I’ll-move-to-Australia day that happened this past Wednesday, but it got started then and it’s blocking now.

For someone who didn’t know I was a knitter.

Man, that feels good.