Friday July 31st 2015, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

If only I had thought of it a day or two earlier I could have shared some of this with Ellen–and likely there would have been more. She, though, gave me a nectarine from her travels in the Central Valley and pointed out the tiny dimples: the farmer had told her the unusual rain striking the skin had done that.

So the story: I exchanged emails last winter with Andy Mariani, the owner of a well-loved orchard a ways south of here, and he was delighted to find someone who knew of and liked Loring peaches like he did.

I didn’t think we got enough chill hours for them to grow here. (But he’s in a slightly different subclimate.)

Yes he did have a few trees. Get back in touch with him come summer and he’d be glad to put some aside for me.

A tad late, I remembered all that and shot him off another note.

The market stand was sold out, he answered Thursday, but if I could come Friday they would be picking the very last few that morning. Maybe three pounds’ worth.

I don’t care if it’s just one single peach, I said, for my first Loring in thirty-eight years it’s worth the trip!

And so they managed to find ten peaches for me tucked among the leaves and set them aside. Michelle and I got there, and the woman at the counter asked, You’re Alison?

She offered samples of a Silk Road nectarine, too. I prefer peaches–but that was like no nectarine I’d ever tasted and would have been worth the trip down all on its own. I’d never had one run juice to my elbows before and I did not know they could have such an intense, interesting flavor–so some of those came home, too.

I did not get the name of the dappled, pretty, ripe, green–cherries? So they were. In almost-August. I’d never heard of such a thing.

We came home with our treasures and cut up our first Loring. That first picture is not a trick of the camera angle–that thing was 508 grams.

Michelle closed her eyes a moment and pronounced, Now that is a peach!

Relief! After all that buildup, it just couldn’t be a letdown, it couldn’t…and it wasn’t.

We took one to Timothy at the chocolate shop. “You didn’t go to Andy Mariani’s, did you? You did? Yes!” He shared it with his employees. Our favorite hot chocolates showed up at our elbows.

The one I later shared with Richard needed one more day to ripen perfectly but it had bruised slightly from all the juice and a little jostling and needed not to be wasted. He too pronounced it good, though I told him Michelle’s was even better.

At least I got to send Ellen off with homegrown Meyer lemons. She’ll just have to come back next July.

Thursday July 30th 2015, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

She sent me a picture and Richard sent me some from his phone and they’re too big to go here and I’ll try to shrink them tomorrow for you.

But let me just say that Ellen is absolutely as wonderful in person as I always knew she would be.

She’d had a huge drive from her trip to Fresno to make it here. The funny part is that at three and a half hours into it my doorbell rang and I opened it with You’re here!

And it was my next-door neighbor. And so Richard and I got to talk to her a little while and I was halfway walking her back over to her house when Ellen pulled up in front of it. And Ellen? That’s the neighbor who just missed being in the big tsunami in Phuket and who then spent a month driving a relief truck to stricken areas long after her vacation was supposed to be over. Because she could.

We had such a good time! She and Richard and I went out for chocolates and sandwiches at Timothy Adams, then dropped him off at home and headed for Purlescence.

I had no idea one of the regulars listens to Ellen and her twin sister Jan’s podcasts–she did quite a doubletake and went, Are you–are you–!

It was a treat to watch Ellen belong on the spot among my friends just like I’d felt with her as she’d stepped out of her car the first time. Heather got to tell her she’d knit a hat for the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign. Everybody introduced themselves.

It was late by Ellen’s time but she let me bring her back inside after the shop to dip some of the strawberries she’d bought us driving across the Central Valley into some sour cream and sugar as we three chatted some more. It was a struggle not to be selfish with her time. I am so glad she came.

And she brought nectarines and a melon and plums and tomatoes and good news about a good farmer who’s making a difference re water usage there.

Richard took pictures of the two of us….

She’ll be comin’ ’round the valley when she comes
Wednesday July 29th 2015, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Politics,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

Drying: a warm hat in half bamboo half pearl flecks. (My airport project a few weeks ago, finally blocked.)

Yet more zucchini to ditch somewhere on someone. Maybe I’ll take some to knit night tomorrow.

With Ellen. Twinset Ellen of Minnesota, who propelled the whole Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign, where she got about a hundred knitters together online, with India T of New Hampshire as our third organizer/cheerleader. The idea was to create a hand knit hat for every member of Congress to send them tangible testimony from their constituents that we wanted them to stop fighting and to sit down and do their jobs working together, and one House member actually referenced our campaign in a speech on the floor! He wanted us to succeed and that did us a ton of good. We felt heard.

We didn’t quite make it before the weather got too warm to consider wearing hats and people kind of gave out. But we got one for every Senator and at least half of the House and mostly coming from the members’ own districts.

It’s all her fault. I threw out a stray what if/if only and she went YES if, let’s *do* it!

A huge thank you to every one of you out there who knitted those.

She’ll be here. I get to finally meet her in person, and we’re going to Purlescence together. To say I. Can’t WAIT! does not begin to tell it.

Tuesday July 28th 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Nope, no sign of basal-cell recurrence here, and the dermatologist liked how the scar on my scalp was healing at my yearly checkup today.

Mentioning again in case someone out there needs to read it: my oldest had a highly aggressive melanoma diagnosed at 27 years old. They apparently caught it in the first two weeks and were able to operate it out of there without her having to go through chemo or radiation–speed and a doctor’s intuition about that mole six years ago saved her.

Get checked.

And then I went home and made an appointment for the next mammogram, as long as I was being all grownup about it.

Flipping in
Monday July 27th 2015, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Sunday night, just after the lemon pie launching: a Welcome Home party, old friends, a bunch of Mormons.

There were more people than seats outside so a bunch of us simply plopped down on the grass  in a circle off to the side to chat, surrounding a thirteen-month-old at his level. He was just starting to take a few wobbly steps (you can do it you can do it!) and the grass was soft on his feet and cushy for falling. Grass is a rare and wonderful thing these days and I think we were celebrating it, too. Formal we were not.

Out came one of my Peruvian finger puppets, one of my brightest and prettiest. A parrot. His toddler big brother got a puppy.

And that puppy never again left those hands no matter where he ran, jumped, or skipped–success! New favorite toy! I told the young parents the puppets were theirs to take home and that hey, I had just ordered sixty more.

And I thought they had when they left early to put their boys to bed, even though the baby was totally at the hold, look, and drop stage. We all glanced around and it seemed to be gone and that was fine and we went back to our conversation, but a few minutes later I spotted the parrot still there next to the guy furthest away from me.

I motioned towards it in the grass. “Hey, would you flip me the bird?”

Startled, and then the both of them totally cracking up, the guy next to him pronounced: “You did NOT just SAY that!”

“Hey, anything for a good pun.”

Such a rebel.

(Oh, and, I can’t take its picture because it went off with another three-year-old today during his family’s farewell party as they move away. Someday those kids will all have a grand reunion and compare finger puppets.)

Making lemons…
Sunday July 26th 2015, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Michelle had us over for homemade lemon meringue pie and sent us home with the rest and it was very, very good.

Looking at the overly full fridge, I put it at the back of the top above the fruit juice and milk that I knew wouldn’t be moved or touched for several days till the stuff in front would be used up. Knowingly, not a bright move, but I had cleared out the lower shelves a few days before and still there just wasn’t room for the height of that pouffy meringue.

This would do. Be careful, is all.


Before I even had that fridge door open again all the way the entire right side of the top shelf dominoed over and threw itself down towards my feet. Lemon makes a great cleaner, so, hey, it was just being helpful, right? The sides, the drawers, the door shelves, the floor, my feet, my clothes, even somehow underneath the fridge. If it was possible within the realm of physics for pie to land or bounce there it did.

The most points of impact! Olympic gold! And the crowd goes wild. The Blobsledding champion!

Knitting mojo returned in the mail
Saturday July 25th 2015, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Note to myself: needle size was 7 for Karin’s Wink yarn. The shawl came out absolutely glorious, just perfect.

I wound Melinda’s Merino Lace yarn with Karin’s blocked and drying tonight. I can’t wait!


We play our parts
Friday July 24th 2015, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Music

I was at the satellite Stanford clinic today for the first time in maybe a year and a half? I wondered if he still played. But it was Friday afternoon, one of his times, and when I walked in there there he was at the piano in the atrium still (intro to Piano Guy in that post).

His face lit up when he saw me, and after finishing one piece he made a point of getting up and coming over and telling me he’d worn that hat I’d knit him just last week.

There were cushy couches and chairs and elderly patients who were taking the time to listen, like I was; it’s not often you get offered a live concert simply for being present.

One woman walking past saw the knitting in my hands, smiled, and pulled out the burnt-orange wool in stockinette stitch from her bag. We had that moment of mutual recognition that knitters everywhere get to share before she continued on her way.

Piano Guy came over to our little group again with a piece of paper, where typed in quite fine print was a very long list of songs. He said he plays maybe 20% from such a list on any given two-hour set, and did I want to pick one?

The elderly woman he’d asked first had apparently picked a Beatles song. I–and I wondered immediately after what had possessed me, but I picked Candle In The Wind, and he smiled and said sure and looked pleased.

I’ve been told he’s a cancer survivor and that he plays there to give back in thanks and to make the day a little easier for others going through such ordeals. He’s a gifted musician, and I wondered what he would do with that piece in that context.

He made it into a searching, honest, positive, uplifting piece of music. I doubt the elderly there knew the words (although come to think of it they likely had kids my age so who knows.) He made it something a patient would take strength from. It was the most amazing rendition. He looked my way and nodded as his hands flew.

And then, hey, while we’re on Elton John he continued on into Daniel my brother…

He was playing the next thing when three young women walked up and singled me out and asked if they could ask me some questions, since I wasn’t doing anything.

Uh, my head was nodding and my foot tapping while my hands were knitting to the time of the music and I was actually quite engaged in the moment, but what I said out loud was, Sure!

The leader plopped down next to me and started talking, utterly oblivious to the scene around her and the look of distress of the woman who’d gotten to hear her Beatles song.

Playing music is a thing you do and become and are in the childhood that I grew up in, not incessant background chatter to ignore.

But they were so intent on their mission that it just didn’t even enter in.

Their questions were not going to take fewer than thirty seconds–I pulled them away down that hall thataway. (Reluctantly.) But they were offering me a chance to help other patients in their own way: they wanted to revamp Stanford’s patients’ website’s user interface.

And fixing that particular site was something I could totally get on board with. It’s been a wreck. If the patient with username and password at hand can’t even get in…

What did you do, did you call?

Yes, I called.

The leader asked the questions, the younger two took notes to compare against each other later. She presented page after page after page, if they had it like this, what would be good/bad about it? What about this? Which do you like better?

The eye is drawn here, I said, and that button up there in the corner is not intuitive–put it here and put a second one there by this and by that. Make it easy. Make it make sense. This? This is trying to put everything on one page, one of the problems you already have. The elderly might not know to scroll. Have a page for this, a page for that–no, you should be doing that before you get to the list of providers, it makes no sense to put it after.

Would you want a dropdown list of all the providers? Or just all your providers? Or a truncated list of yours, based on the ones you’ve seen in, say, the last year?

How many doctors are there at Stanford? (!) All one’s own providers, and that Find A New Provider entry on the next line. If a patient is seeing an individual doctor, do this, but if they’re to see any doctor within a group in that specialty at any given time without getting to choose just the one, then set it up this way.

“I do have opinions,” I laughed.

“We want opinions!” they laughed in return. “That’s what we’re looking for!”

I had totally lost all sense of time by that point, and so it was that they sent me on my way with a $10 gift card for Starbucks in thanks, apologizing that it was so small while I said No, thank you, that’s cool! (Thinking, it offers a sense of discovery: a Mormon inside the ubiquitous coffee chain, ordering hot chocolate and–a pastry? Bagel? What do they have? I just never go, it’ll be an adventure. They had no idea.)

Turns out I walked out the front door with that elderly woman I’d been sitting near and she told me our pianist had left immediately before us. I’d just missed him.

I had wanted to thank him for how he’d played Candle.

But I didn’t really need to. He knew.

Crocheted? Machined?
Thursday July 23rd 2015, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Knit

Learned something new today.

I had a little conversation with a company. They were selling a garment they described as crocheted, and I wanted to know if it was hand-crocheted.

Thinking that was maybe a loaded question, because machines don’t do that, right? They can’t yet from everything I’ve ever been told. Knitted, of course, but crocheted? But maybe that wasn’t so and if not I wanted to know.

I was also hoping there wasn’t a warehouse full of children working with fine cotton yarns on small hooks for hours on end with no access to icepacks or guidance for avoiding repetitive stress injuries or for that matter, school. But I didn’t say that.

They checked with their technical team and got back to me today: the crocheting was done on a knitting machine.

Which was really good of them to be willing to tell me because I’m guessing most people would prefer hand made. I figured they were getting their terms mixed up though like most people do but machine done, well then good, if I were to get it it would be as guilt-free as one could ask for when ordering something sewn in the Third World (much though I love me some beautiful handiwork.)

And if I do order it, a certain someone would be tucking it away for me for Christmas at that kind of price tag. Bless him, before all this started he looked at the picture and was instantly wowed by the design and the hours it represented–he’s been around yarn enough years. He’s a good one.

But the whole thing got me curious and looking.

Well now looky here: the work of a crocheting machine. And this one (short video) is kind of a cross between a knitting machine and a weaving loom to make crocheted work. Anyone who actually hooks with yarn could tell it’s not hand done, just like a knitter can spot a sweater knit by hand from across the room: not because it’s flawed but because it’s perfect.

(I just know that if I link, the 64 units they had left in the small will sell out but they did say a new shipment was coming.) What I said to Soft Surroundings was that the talent and skills that went into creating their design made it a work of art that stood on its own merits.

Mini marathon
Thursday July 23rd 2015, 7:57 am
Filed under: Knit

No time to blog. Busy knitting.

(Edited to add in the morning) And then I kept knitting till I had to ice my hands and forgot to hit post. But man that felt good. And the icing did its job.

Tuesday July 21st 2015, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Food

Now that I know how heavenly mango flowers smell and how hard the local honeybees tried to get at my tree when the cover was still on it during chilly early mornings, when I found a source of mango honey today I immediately ordered some. I had often wondered if my tree had made any discernible difference to any of the backyard apiaries around here. If it did, the beekeepers could only guess at what the new secret ingredient is.

And now I wait to find out which was sweeter: the anticipation or the reality.

But honey, I gotta tell you, this is going to be good! (Will add link when….)

Grandmother Jeppson
Monday July 20th 2015, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I almost sewed today. It was going to have two layers.

I had ordered two identical silk dresses for a grand total of $22 with the idea of cutting the one up to use for parts for the other: the style was eh but the colors were pretty and it had a lot of possibilities.

I knew going in that dye lot could be an issue, but when I held fistfuls of each together against incandescent, fluorescent, and sunlight they always looked good to go. I know, that’s like winning the lottery but it seemed I had.

I could also do this, and this… I cut the one across at the armholes so I could actually see the possibilities in action before ironing and pinning.

And all those times I had checked couldn’t show me what wearing both together did: the dye lots didn’t match after all. So very close, but. Not it.

And that started off a whole new set of tangents: okay, so, the cut one can now become a skirt that will be longer than what it had been because the armholes are now down at the waist. This is good. The other can be shortened to be a tunic over a navy skirt.

And it wasn’t till I typed all this and was about to hit post that it finally hit me just why I’d bought those dresses. Flower prints are generally not the first thing I reach for, but it hadn’t been just the colors and the price after all.

When I was eighteen my paternal grandmother had cancer. Cross-country traveling costs for a large family being what they were then, I had been lucky to see her two years before, not knowing it would be the last. She had always been an avid needleworker, even after rheumatoid arthritis hit, and with my babysitting money I had bought a little kit. I embroidered wool flowers above a little basket motif, set it in the prefab wood frame it came with, and my dad sent it off to his mother with a get-well (I wished!) card from me.

It was pansies. I had always loved purple pansies, and so I was sending her some from my heart the best I could.

Purple. Pansies.

Suddenly I see.

Free fall
Sunday July 19th 2015, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

81F (for a few minutes) and .23″ near San Diego today.

I remember trying to convince my then-school-age children that to me, there should be rain in summer, and that it should be a warm, heavy rain that makes you want to run in it and laugh for joy and splash in all the puddles with your bare feet and listen to the crickets after it’s over.

Warm? Rain? Summer? These were three words that did not go together at all as far as they were concerned. Rain equals cold straight off the ocean and it only happens in winter. You bundle up against it. You do not want to get your feet wet. Warm does not rightfully co-exist with rain. They refused.

Except it almost did exactly that today–we got the heat and the muggy air and the clouds threatening darkly but we just missed any actual water to go with. San Jose got some, though. San Diego got it. The I-10 bridge that collapsed into the flash flood hitting its supports definitely got it. In July! Never since records began in 1877 has LA gotten so much at such a date.

Hudson and Parker had to experiment with this idea of drinking summer skywater straight from the tap. Note that Hudson is all ready to splash in the puddles and Parker for the warmth.

Great Danes
Saturday July 18th 2015, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Lupus

They let you fill out an order online a day or two ahead and pick it up, and I’ve thought many times that it certainly would make sense to go that route.

But twenty-five years of conditioning by having lupus says that today I can do this/tomorrow could be a complete train wreck. Run Go Do Now!

So yeah, spontaneous trips, yes, pre-orders, none yet. It’s life and I’m glad to have it.

Meringue with almond paste mixed in makes for the perfect crunchy texture while at the same time it doesn’t shatter in your face like a plain meringue, and then it has a fruit and almond or plain almond filling at the center. Chef’s Surprise. I’d been craving one for weeks.

And so yesterday in the early afternoon I called Copenhagen Bakery to see if they had any of those left, knowing that they tend to sell out early in the day and the chances weren’t great.

The voice on the phone wasn’t one I recognized. Which is kind of funny, the idea that I would have some idea of who works there, given that the place is a good twenty-five minutes away when the traffic is good. She said they had two there, still.

Oh good! (Thinking, then I can have my meringues and not overindulge, too.) I gave her my name and asked her to put them aside (because I know that they do that) and told her where I’d be driving from to get them so they wouldn’t think I wasn’t showing up. I would be right on my way, then.

One of the people behind the counter when I got there made a point of picking me out of the small crowd to offer to help. She was clearly the manager and she clearly had been waiting and looking for the person who had called, and yes, that was me.

Her shoulders and face fell as she apologized profusely. The two had just been sold and the other woman hadn’t bothered to check before promising them. She was SO sorry, she’d tried to call me to keep me from making such a trip, she knew I must be so disappointed. She was so sorry.

I pictured her in agony with the other woman, going, you didn’t get her phone number? And maybe getting a response of no, why would I ask for it? And then, Oh…

But she’d tried and I was grateful for that, and by taking personal responsibility for it and by wishing so hard she could make it right, that was enough: she made it right. There was nothing left to worry about. I simply looked around at All The Good Things there and told her it was okay–it freed me up to discover something new! Cool!

It was a treat to see her relax. She thanked me.

She told me that this cookie over here was almond paste… Well, hey, that’s close enough, and I asked for two. I found later she’d slipped me three. One of these, too, I said, and over here, what is this?

I found out just what she meant by hazelnut pastry later when I sliced the little thing open with Richard: a thin cookie layer enclosing hazelnut paste–hazelnut paste?!–chocolate mousse on top of that, dark chocolate enclosing the whole thing and a hazelnut topping it off. Wow.

That right there is a whole new reason to drive to Burlingame for way too many calories way too often and I never would have known if I’d gotten what I’d wanted. Wow that was good.

I’ll be back.

I’ll call ahead in the mornings.

Birthday boy
Friday July 17th 2015, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

And now it’s the Gold Nugget mandarin that’s got one little flower blooming all over again to go with its dozen or so fruit that set some time ago.

And there is a beautiful little boy with thick blond hair who turned two today (correction: yesterday. I’m late here.) Hayes’s daddy shared a picture of him with a big mischievous grin on his face.

And of another back when, remembering…