So here’s what happened, now that the blog is working again
Monday December 15th 2014, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

I should have been clued in when a certain someone started working on organizing and clearing his electronics projects from the kitchen table.

I should have been clued in when Michelle came over, got out a clean tablecloth, and harassed her dad gently for not having the table ready to put it on there yet, but then, I’d been encouraging the same step forward myself, so, hey.

My birthday was over and done with, a good day enjoyed much and that was that for the year.

Not to them it wasn’t. Lee called it a flash mob surprise birthday party and that’s precisely what it was. Chocolate cake from The Prolific Oven, a goofy headband-hat thing put on my head first thing, ice cream, Martinelli’s apple soda, dairy-free cookies for Michelle, the co-conspirators had thought of everything.

Phyllis (Lee’s wife) had already doorbell-ditched flowers a few days before, which was birthday surprise enough. The lilies in that arrangement were in full bloom and the heavenly scent totally covered over the stopped-up sink behind us that thankfully wasn’t too bad yet. There’s still a towel kept on the floor because the icemaker on the fridge still has that slight and random leak.

My daughter, niece, husband, and they and a lot of other friends were in on the whole thing and Christmas season busyness or not, they totally pulled it off.

When Richard got up this morning the ganached cake in the fridge was a little smaller and there was a slice waiting at his place on the beautifully clean table on top of a second fresh cloth, last night’s having been put to its appointed use. “Somebody loves me!” he crowed in delight.

Yes, honey. Someone sure does.

(Yes there are pictures. I had been outside chasing after escaping styrofoam peanuts from unpacking the mango tree before it got any worse (and STAY in that bag!)  I’m sure there was a spiderweb or five and I had not so much as brushed my hair out yet. No you can’t see.)

It came!
Saturday December 13th 2014, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Last night thankfully we decided to stop by home before running one last errand for the day–because when we turned that car off it stayed off and that was that.

Today the Alphonso mango tree showed up at noon as planned, the one thing I had so wanted out of my day and there it was! We immediately planted it in the paper pot up against the house in the alcove of the patio, the most protected spot it could ask for while it recovers from its long truck drive, with walls on three sides while still being outdoors.

Then we were finally ready to call AAA. The tow truck driver determined that the main Prius battery was fine but the 12v that powered the dash and locks, not so much, and jumped it.

How often does one jump-start a Prius. I know.

Now, when you drive a hybrid, the motor turns itself off when you’re idling so as to conserve energy–not such a good idea when you’re trying to recharge a battery, so, Richard asked me, Freeway time! Where do you want to go? Nothing too close!

It was his idea to offer to go to what is my favorite bakery, the one in Burlingame, and we were off. He circled the block, car still on, while I ran in and bought what I wanted, and then off to the Costco in a different town–with me quietly hoping we would run into someone we knew. We did. Old friends. We were so out of context in that place that the guy didn’t think it was really me at first till he saw me talking to her.

The car has been running ever since, my tree is beautiful, I told Dani it was here and he was as thrilled as I was, (the friend from India who knew exactly what the most perfect variety to get was), we Skyped with our sweet grandsons and talked to all our parents and the kids and laughed that,  no, looks like the baby wasn’t going to come today after all. We’ll just have to hope that Parker, too, gets to keep his birthday all to himself next week.

And life is good. And I am aiming for 10:11 12/13/14 to hit post on this. How many birthdays get that as an option?

(Edited: Hah! Never did update that time stamp after the time change. But it really was 10:11…)

Saturday December 13th 2014, 12:03 am
Filed under: Life

There was a box. Via Amazon, so I opened it thinking it was something I’d ordered.

No shipping slip, no name, nothing–just a hummingbird feeder inside with no way to know whom to thank. I would if I could!

Cold rain and good warm foods
Thursday December 11th 2014, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Recipes

I woke up this morning and grabbed my glasses. Through the clerestory windows I watched the tops of the trees duking it out with the near-hurricane winds.

We’re at 3.84″ of rain with another .5″ to go for the day, and then next week it will rain again. We just need snowpack in those Sierras, too. I’ve been watching my downspouts going crazy and wishing we had the means to capture our roofprint’s worth up there.

And so we stayed out of that and at home, grateful for power and heat, listening to it rain, rain, rain. The water came up a foot in our street. Not as bad as the happily boogie-boarding kids in ’98 and the homes across the street with water up to the electric sockets that we had then but threatening to be. The storm drains are old and long overloaded and one neighbor waded out into that water to see if he could save those homes from it and he quietly cleaned the leaves out of the way, here, here, here and if a fourth spot needed it he did that too. We would never have known except that another neighbor ratted him out online so that everybody could thank the guy.

One friend who did leave home said there was water sloshing right over the center divider on the freeway.

I’m fine with marveling over the photos rather than experiencing that sort of thing in person.

Our mail service has had issues, as I’ve occasionally mentioned, sometimes major issues, but today our guy was totally a hero: he came at about 7:30 pm despite the fact that most of the roads between the main post office and here were shut down by flooding and fallen trees, including the road it’s actually on. We heard him and I ran for a rain jacket and struggled to get it on fast enough and then called out into the night as I lifted the lid on the box, “Thank you!”

He answered from over next door, “You’re welcome!”

The CSA (community-supported agriculture) guy made it in, too, dropping off our farm-to-fridge veggies in the dark of the early morning, and in honor of his effort I had to use his greens at their peak. Fresh-picked red chard. Strip the hard thick lower parts of the stalks out of your way, saute the greens in a bit of very good *EV olive oil, that’s all it needs. A small amount of bacon bits topped it off in a perfect winter dish against the cold.

And who knew that slicing ripe Hachiya persimmons in half and roasting them at 450 for fifteen minutes would give them a texture and taste like Thanksgiving sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted in. Peel the skins off that were holding the stuff together and there you go.

It was a thought and a whim and something I will definitely do again.

They must have run out of the spinach that had been on this week’s checklist. They keep making me try out new things. Rapini greens? Looking at the bunch, I’ve never eaten…spikes…before. It’s just the smaller leaves acting all edgy like that, though, y’know, ’80’s punk style.

Not that I’ll mind breaking out that olive oil again.


*EV–extra virgin. By lax Federal law, an imported olive oil can be labeled as such no matter what its actual grade as long as it’s food grade, but California requires that if the olives are grown in this state, the bottle must contain what the label says it does. Buy Californian.

Stanford earns top billing
Wednesday December 10th 2014, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Lupus,Politics

Got some bad guys and some good guys for you today.

Back in September, when I caught the flu with all the autoimmune flaring that went with, I was barfing nonstop from the Crohn’s. The lupus was going nuts, too, my blood pressure was tanking, and I needed IV fluids, fast, just to start. (There would be chest and abdominal x-rays too.)

There were a lot of other people around with early-season flu, too, but for whatever the reason, when we called my doctor her nurse emphatically told my husband not to take me to Urgent Care but rather straight to the ER.

This was not a decision made by us. She insisted. She said if we went to Urgent Care they would simply send us over to Stanford, and we knew what the co-pays on the ambulance they would insist on would be, not to mention it would tie up that ambulance unnecessarily.

Turns out Anthem Blue Cross requires in their fine print that you verify with each health care provider before seeing them each time that they are still in contract with Anthem. Doesn’t matter if they were in-network for all the years you’ve had a policy with them, they reserved the right to yank that at any time. Doesn’t matter if you’re in an emergency with no capability of sitting on hold on the phone for two hours. Etc.

Now, by the contract we’d signed at open enrollment, if you go out-of-network in an emergency they’re still supposed to pay such a percentage and even though it’s less, it’s still a substantial amount.

Anthem and Stanford were in a contract dispute. Anthem never notified us in any way, not so much as an email, nor by their terms do they have to, and our trip to that ER was a life-and-death emergency with my already-very-low blood pressure. As far as I’ve been able to tell since, that day we had and we still have no in-contract hospital to divert to, either; I could be wrong on that but Anthem certainly hasn’t offered us any information to the contrary.

So we are paying for insurance to cover things they will not cover despite selling us a policy on the grounds that they would. I’d call that fraud, myself.

So, out of network, painful, but I thought we’d be out about a grand. Someone on the phone at one point said three. Ouch. But we waited for a bill. And waited. And waited, while the two sides hashed it out.

We got a notice finally last week from Anthem, and a day or two later a letter from Stanford.

And this is what Anthem said:



Except this one unclear thing here that was probably that IV and only that IV, or maybe one individual doctor they were not in dispute with. But whatever, so, one thousand paid towards the claim and that was all it was going to be. “Your responsibility”:

Twelve thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars.


Hello? Out of network percentages, at least? How can they…?!

They don’t care.

Then came a letter from Stanford Hospital.

And they said, It is not your fault that we and Anthem Blue Cross are currently out of contract, and your health is more important. We don’t want you to be afraid to get medical care when you need it.

They said they will only charge us what our co-pays would have been had everything been as we expected when we went in there, as if all prior contracts had been in full force.

Multiply that times the whatever number of patients, given that Anthem covers something like a third of all the people in California, and what their bills could be and that Anthem should legitimately be covering and refuses to… Staggering. Just staggering.

I just felt (and these words look so faint on the page compared to how I feel) that Stanford deserves my praise and my thanks as loudly and as publicly as I can offer them.

So much to learn
Tuesday December 09th 2014, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Garden

Clicking on a gardening forum site looking for information on mango trees is like wandering over to Ravelry and asking randomly, Do you knit?

Managed to get some of that done today, too. But it was a near thing for awhile there.

Papering over the differences
Monday December 08th 2014, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

The squirrels still haven’t dared touch anything near any bubblewrap ten days after it first appeared outside so I added some to the upstart tomato plant today, given that there are several in there big enough for them to think about stealing.

It is December and for all the flowers on that September Surprise I don’t want my chances of tasting whatever variety it is and saving seeds to be any smaller than they have to be.

Meantime, I saw some photos online from Florida of individual mangoes hanging off the trees encased in produce clamshells and grinned, See? See? I’m not the only one who does that!

But dang. The squirrels in Florida like mangoes. Well, they don’t know a thing about them here–yet. My mother reminds me that they never touched the Page oranges in Maryland back in the day when the trucker dropped off all those cases in our carport when I was a teen, citrus wasn’t a food as far as those knew.

Re the Alphonso. The instructions that popped up after checkout last week said, Plant in a plastic pot with straight sides and keep out of the sun for 2-3 weeks while it acclimates to its new environment and to being out of that box after traveling by truck across the country all squished and in the dark. It will need to recuperate. Do *not* pull the tree out by the trunk to re-plant it into the ground; rather, pull or cut the pot away from the roots so as not to harm the tree.

Or words to that effect.

Me: hmm, how about that recycled-paper pot that demanded I buy it when we were at the hardware store a few weeks ago, before there even was a definite plan to buy a mango tree. And definitely before I knew I would need an in-between stage. We were there, buying stakes and a cover blanket for the Page orange and that out-of-season pot was sitting on a high shelf looking down at me, going, Well?

Well what?

Well it felt like the right thing. Richard asked me simply, Do you need it? and I said yes please, wondering why but going with the feeling (and it was going straight back up if the price was outlandish. Instead, I’ve seen packets of seeds that cost more.)

So he reached it down for me and so far it’s just been a holding spot for that anticipatory frost cover, unopened with the temps in the upper 50s at night. (Normal is 39.)

If we hadn’t bought it we’d be making a trip to go back to buy it. It’s too perfect. We’ll be able to plant the mango straight into it and then the whole thing straight into the ground in a few weeks. Under the awning, on the patio, right outside the window, the first little bit–I get to watch my birds trying out the strange new tree close up before it moves further out into the yard. (Note to Coopernicus: You Must Be This Small To Board This Ride.)

And as I was typing this I got an email from FedEx notifying me shipment has commenced, with the expected delivery date.

Which would be my birthday.

I like it.

(Oh, and, I knitted today, big surprise. Ho Ho Ho. Pictures? C’mon…)

A Christmas present no one else she knew could give
Sunday December 07th 2014, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

A snag on a favorite sweater that dropped the stitch almost the whole way down the armscye. A Christmas stocking handknit by my niece’s grandmother (or maybe great-grandmother) that their dog had gotten into.

My sister-in-law doesn’t knit but she knows I do.

So here are the two arms side-by-side afterwards. I was working up the purl stitch on the left closest to the seed stitch area.

Except that when I started I was doing it stockinette side out rather than purl side and I had to drop it back down again and start over.

If you look down to eleventh row above bottom left, you’ll see where I goofed–I needed to have dropped back again to one stitch more than I did: there’s a knit where it should be a purl, and I didn’t notice till I had sewn the last, topmost stitch up with a bit of matching silk and tied it triumphantly off.

Given that I couldn’t entirely see the tiny stitches half the time and dropped individual ones repeatedly, we’ll just take that one knit one there as a kind of proud signature.

Then I tackled the dog-clawed: with a matching white yarn (yay stash! Oh wait–I know it does in artificial light, didn’t test it in sunlight but that’s as close as it was going to get, and yes, there are many versions of white but it felt like I matched fiber content too so it should stay matched) I first connected all the open loops top and bottom, making a square, and then I tried to reroute back up the various loops complete with my strand still in the uppers and lowers as reinforcement.

The first area looks very good, the second one, which had more damage and didn’t still have the sideways bars to work with (I should have made some, in retrospect) looks repaired. But it’s repaired. And it certainly passes the galloping-horse standard. (If you can’t see it from…then don’t sweat it.)

And now it has love for the young woman whose name is knitted into the cuff of it from a second woman joining the original knitter.

Tiny stitches, slippery yarn, slippery overly-reflective metal darning (because we’re too polite to call them d**#!ning) needles and a death grip on such–but I did it and it is done and it is deeply gratifying to know mother and daughter will have those home in time for Christmas.

And that it’s all over with.

Nineteen days minus shipping time
Saturday December 06th 2014, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Can’t blog now must finish knitting nieces’ Christmas presents….

How are you guys coming along? (Or is it fair to ask.)

Edited to add… DONE!

My five siblings and I do a round-robin on Christmas gift giving and this year it’s our turn for my brother with four daughters. Here, let me just block this one and then run in a few ends and they should all be in the mail come Monday.

The mailman
Friday December 05th 2014, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It was dark and rainy out so this time I gave her a call first rather than just knocking on her door.

“I’m a bad neighbor.”

She did a doubletake–What?

I explained that I’d torn the plastic cover off the magazine that came in the mail, thinking, oh, they sent me a free copy to try to get me to subscribe (given that they’d pitched me an offer just a day or two before in the mail) and so I’d started reading it.

Then I went, wait a minute…and looked at that plastic wrap again, looking for the label. “It was your magazine,” I told her– “and then I read it anyway. It was Consumer Reports. I’m a bad neighbor.”

She laughed and told me I could read it any time and I said no, it’s yours.

She wanted to walk over so I wouldn’t have to get my hearing aids out in the rain and I wanted to show her the new apple tree and so I stepped outside anyway with a wool hat on and we met up in the middle. I handed her her mail and as we chatted we walked around to that tree (well, stick) right next to our property line.

Tart. She loves tart apples. This one will be so perfect.

I explained that given how invisible the little thing is in the dark, I didn’t want people walking into it, so that’s why I’d skewered this (now bedraggled, wet, droopy little) piece of white paper across the top.

“Is THAT what that is? I’d been wondering!”

We rolled our eyes at the fact that our mailman misdelivers between our two households multiple times a week–it’s been a regular, ongoing thing, but when she growled a bit at his incompetence I laughed and told her, I want to thank him, because we get to spend all these times talking that we would miss otherwise. (Adding quickly), But I wouldn’t want to give him any ideas!

Given that our by-mail meds went to her last week, it was a very good thing for us that she hadn’t flown out of town.


I wish the guy would do his job, I mean, how hard is it? And I’m glad he doesn’t. Just don’t tell him that.

I hope she’ll like mangoes
Thursday December 04th 2014, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

A little more medical product testing today (the gizmos, not any drugs) which means I got to thank the good folks at that place: a few minutes there for my lifetime’s and my childrens’ and possibly grandchildrens’ lifetimes’ worth of the best mangoes out there. Quite the tradeoff.

Richard, on vacation, was having a grand time tinkering with gizmos and ideas towards keeping that tree warm when it gets here. Plumbing-warming coils going up the trunk? Here, he showed me, a thermostat with this and connected with that he could get…finally he grinned and let on that the old-Christmas-lights idea was actually quite a good one.

Whatever we do it’ll be because it was the best way to do it.

Went off to knit night and Juanita was there and it was so good to see her and everybody else. She pulled out her Schacht double-treadle, the wheel of my dreams (I have my plainer-jane Ashfords, sold to me used as a pair twenty years ago) and she starting spinning fleece into gold as I knitted and thought about how long it had been since I’d really put my Trad to major use.

I showed her my blue shoes that didn’t quite entirely match my outfit but they did match my project; I told her I’d found the way to get the thing done was not to have my clothes clash with my knitting. She laughed. And thought a moment. And went, yeah. Yeah, I can see that.

Another hour and a half and I think I’ll have this one Christmas present nailed and mailed; meantime, just in case, you never know, given how early her brothers came into the world, I checked my phone before I left Purlescence.

Nope. Not yet.

No hurry, little one. Take your time.

Tomatoes at ten weeks
Wednesday December 03rd 2014, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Almost as much rain in the last two days as all of last year. Flood advisories have been in effect.

And yet, when the sky held its breath a moment I did finally risk it and run an errand today. I could have waited a few days but it just felt like, go.

Which means I was in the right place at the right time to run into a woman I hadn’t seen in several years, a widow of my parents’ generation. “Marilyn?!” It did us both good.

When I pulled back into my driveway, there was–this is getting to be a daily occurrence–my Cooper’s hawk right overhead, free from any corvid harassment this time, simply seeing and being seen. Loved it.

Back to work. I wondered if I should join the ends of a scarf that came out a tad short and call it a double-over-able infinity scarf for a niece? It was a Stitches splurge two years ago and one skein was all there was or ever would be. (Handdyed cashmere, people.) I should ask Morgan what his youngest would think since it’s in her color. She’s old enough to take good care of it. (Handwash. Tepid water. No agitating around.)

Tomato plant: this is the one that sprouted three weeks into September that the squirrels planted. Now I just have to keep them from it so I can begin to guess what the variety is as it grows. December tomatoes! I guess I can’t complain about how it’s been 15 degrees warmer at night than the norm for weeks.

Anyone with any experience growing cherries, meantime: do you get individual flowers per each growth bud in that cluster of four or do you get clusters of flowers from each growth bud? I assume the single ones here and there will be next year’s new limbs.

Half the fun is watching and finding out but I wouldn’t mind flipping ahead in the book.

Wednesday December 03rd 2014, 12:00 am
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Wildlife

So FedEx said last week that my columnar apple tree was supposed to arrive tomorrow.

I happened to have someone here today who was digging the hole for me in preparation; schedules being what they are, this was when he could do it but I could hopefully handle it from there.

Yeah, and that’s what we did with the Page tree and I don’t think I mentioned here that I actually briefly knocked myself out cold doing that. One good push on the tip of the shovel to widen that hole and suddenly I was on the ground facing the other way, sprawled over it and scraped up with no idea how I’d gotten there. None. I still don’t know.

I was quietly not eager to do that again.

While the guy was digging the FedEx guy went past him and there was a thump at the door. And there was the Stark Bros box! My gardener took great pride in being able to put that thing in the ground himself and being a part of it after I told him why I’d ordered it, and so, it is done. (He works for the lady next door, too. He was very pleased that it was for her to be able to pick apples again.)

I thought about it tonight and impaled a piece of white paper at the top of it so that people wouldn’t walk into the little thing in the dark and the rain.

So much rain. Such needed, wonderful rain.

A little later I stepped out in the back yard for just a second–and heard the birds. Looked up in time to see the three of them passing directly overhead, and whether the two were crows or ravens I couldn’t tell from below.

But they were chasing my Cooper’s hawk out of my yard. They looked flimsy, he looked massive, but he was outnumbered.

He swooped up and into the redwood just across the fence; one veered off to I don’t know where but the other divebombed him again and again, daring him to strike out or take it, always threatening, never quite landing talon or beak on my bird. Who sat there and watched the show for awhile.

Finally, tiring of it, he took off but unfortunately in the general direction of yonder persimmon tree and suddenly we had the two of them hard after him again.

Go Coopernicus go!

And thing the third…

I had signed up to be notified. It had been several months and it was winter (albeit an unseasonably warm one here, even for California) and I wasn’t holding my breath, but this evening suddenly that notification came in: the seven-gallon size Alphonso mango trees were back in stock at Top Tropicals. I double-checked quickly with Richard.

This is the variety that the local ex-pats wait for cases of via the once-a-year plane from India, too fragile for supermarket distribution, picked that day and flown straight here. The one that Dani swooned over and told me passionately that if I didn’t plant one, “You will never know!”

And now we will.

I emailed him a thank you.

Almost immediately another Alphonso tree got sold and they were almost gone. Word was getting out.

Oh holey night
Monday December 01st 2014, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Wildlife

I went outside this morning to set out some suet crumbles for the wrens, the juncos, the white-crowned sparrows and the towhees: the ground birds.

Coopernicus appeared out of nowhere (hawks are good at that) and fluttered at ease down to the top of the tomato cage to get a better view.

He was relaxed as he watched me.

I, not wanting to scare him away, though, rather than being interesting, froze in place, marveling: he had never before come closer in while I was outside. In no way was he threatening me out of his territory nor was he in any hurry; he looked curious, is all.

The angle of the sun had his chestnut feathers and gray wings in the best light–all he needed was MJ telling him he was gorgeous and has he been painted? Photographed?

Having said hello, he lifted off easily after a minute or so in a bird version of ambling away.

Meantime, on a more down-to-earth note, a well-aged UFO got excavated and finished today because someone asked if I might have a rustic, handspun, undyed, earthy-looking yarn? They were helping set up the annual Creche Exhibit and I had just the thing–it just happened to be attached to a project that only needed 3000 more stitches.

Had I done that particular math I’d have just broken it off and handed the ball over and reattached it later if later ever happened, and if not, eh. That project was a UFO because it and I were not friends. Handspun and rustic? Definitely. There were enough really thin spots that I never did trust that yarn to stay in one piece. After four years, a bug could have contributed, too, but the ziploc looked clean of such.

It and I were less friendly after the second big madly-running break suddenly showed up. I repaired both, finished–that thing on my needles was a ruffly scarf? Who knew? Washed and laid it out ever so carefully, carefully to dry, no tugging.

And boom there was the third. This one is definitely not gift-giving material.

When it is dry I will fix it. (I tried not to resent the Christmas-queue time spent.) Oh well. *shrug* I wound off a bit from the remaining ball to use for hopefully all repairs it may ever need from here on out, and when they come to pick their yarn up I will tell them sweetly and firmly to never, ever bring it back in my sight.

Hopefully that scarf will be good for more than bird nesting after this.

And while I was fussing with all that, I got an unexpected email from my friend Mari in Wisconsin who’s been fighting breast cancer for some time (get checked!) She validated my grumping without judging, heard me out, and offered perspective.

I wanted to be a better person in that moment.

Hers was the true gift-giving material.