It’s the little things
Monday September 27th 2021, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Lillian was tired and not feeling well tonight so she went running up the stairs to look for her aunt, determined that this time she was going to be there, darnit, because she was the baby and she said so.

Except that Auntie’s at our house.

Mathias just really never did like soccer: other kids would take the ball away from him *without saying please*! No manners! (Never mind that he’d snatch it back in a heartbeat if he could. Still. When you’re four, it’s the principle of the thing.)

So they signed him up for gymnastics. And he loves it.

And so with Lillian needing her auntie time, suddenly a phone buzzed in the kitchen. Grampa was still working, but Auntie and Grammy had a great time giggling with Lillian and cheering Mathias on as he demonstrated again and again how he could now roll over head first. With the occasional splat to the side. Lillian tried doing it, too, got a good clap out of us and then, fading fast, climbed onto a parental lap, content to make faces and watch ours.

Amazing how much of a difference five minutes via a screen can make to all of us.



Parfianka
Sunday September 26th 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

Every time I look at one of my pomegranates I think gratefully of Jean, whose sharing is why I had to grow some, too. She’d planted hers as a gift to the future when she was 85. She didn’t remember what variety hers was, but if I had to guess it would be the one that was the favorite of the highly-knowledgeable owners of Yamagami’s Nursery. Mine is.

I’d forgotten the paper lunch bags for people to take the splitting chunks of seeds home in while wearing their Sunday best that day. Thoughtful, and so very much something she would do. No pomegranate juice on the carpeting at church.

I keep thinking, now I just need to find me a shimmery silk/merino yarn in dk or worsted weight in exactly those shades of red because I just really like it.



What a cool half mil gets you
Saturday September 25th 2021, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Remote

Yeah, but the problem is, I just don’t think I could grow mangoes there.

Upstairs: but what if you roll over in your sleep?

I’m sorry, but I read that description as “grassy outcrappings.” Well, but, they are!

(Side note: when my friend Johnna helped set up this blog’s template years ago, I have no idea why she added “remote” as a category and it wouldn’t let me remove it. She’s long since moved away; I don’t think I’d ever used it. Till now. It fits.)

One other thing: you can’t see it unless you scroll through the online tour, but, there’s a stone castle on a hill in New York. Staircase after staircase on this lovely old house that needs someone with a ton of money to fix it up, and six stories high, when you finally reach the top of the tower, you see–

–a few random old things, including a well-worn daybed. And sitting on that daybed.

Is a giant plush King Kong looking out over Manhattan, one paw outstretched over the frame of the bed, reliving his glory days of yore.



Tilting at winded
Friday September 24th 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

I know they wanted to test the same test as last time. But my brain isn’t the same as ten years ago. With the 35 lb object that hit the back of my head while cleaning the garage, where the Urgent Care doctor was sure I’d broken my neck and the ER was looking for bone fragments in the brain (nope on both) what it did do was reenact the original damage from my car’s having been sandwiched in ’00. The one where I’d had to learn to use tactile feedback to make up for how the visual and balance centers of the brain had lost each other. Too much visual intensity and my left side would collapse.

I had to go through all that again, only my ability to balance at all didn’t come back as much the second time.

As the treadmill got faster and faster I kept doing okay; I race walk 20 minutes every day anyway, but the machine was increasing the tilt along with the speed and that’s what finally did me in. One more tilt and I exclaimed, I’m going to fall! Because it was all I could do every single second not to. My feet couldn’t tell my brain which direction upright was in and holding onto the machine was not doing it and I was going to rip out all these cardiac leads on the way down if they didn’t stop immediately. Not that I had the breathe to say all that at that speed.

They did.

People usually do 6.5 to 10 minutes, the tech told me approvingly; you did 9.09.

Got the report this afternoon.

Still have the right bundle branch block.

The doctor wrote that “Rapid renormalization of heart rate may reduce diagnostic accuracy.” Sounds like I was too used to walking fast and too healthy to tell.

I’ll take that.



Small gifts
Thursday September 23rd 2021, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Wednesday is my tree watering day.

My last Indian Free peach fell into its protective clam shell about two weeks ago and I thought oh okay that one’s definitely ripe. I searched through the leaves and found no more, and figured, well, if there is one, the squirrels and jays will find it.

My routine has changed from four minutes per tree with the hose–you get deeper watering than you do with a drip system, I’m told, so I do–to three last year, to two this year plus an extra minute the next week if I see leaves going yellow, which a few have done. Maybe this winter we’ll get more rain.

It was nearly sunset by the time I got to the Indian Free, the late-season peach I’d planted so it would grow over the fence towards the neighbors where the wife has dementia to give her a place of fruit and restfulness and her husband a break. Earlier in her disease she had wished for there to be one that grew over to them so I’d bought another tree and made it happen.

Standing underneath it and looking up I couldn’t believe it. I ran inside to get my phone for the camera, came back outside, couldn’t find it–oh there it is!

I tried. I debated seeing if Richard could reach it, and then simply ran for the fruit picker.

It fell gently right into it. It was quite small, but it smelled like only a fresh-picked peach can.

Now, that particular variety isn’t supposed to get leaf curl disease but the tree nearest it did this past spring and it got a mild case, too. I had read that it not only damages the leaves, it can ruin the fruit.

Every peach from that tree but one this year, no matter how ripe it smelled or looked, was brown and starting to rot around the pit. We had our biggest, least-squirreled crop, except, we didn’t, and I was glad Andy’s farm was still here if I couldn’t enjoy my own.

So.

The day after offering Jim and his wife (not the dementia patient) peaches from Andy’s and hearing back that they had plenty, thanks, hours after the surprise at suddenly losing Jim, against all odds and long after the tree was supposedly done for the year–holding that hose and suddenly looking up, there was this one small, perfect little peach. From above and then into my surprised hands.

It felt like a gift from Jim, and I could just feel him smiling.

I want to share it with her. I’m afraid the center will be a disappointment, and I can disappoint me but I sure can’t do that to her right now.

She had told me they had enough for now. She’d had no idea what the morrow would bring.

Maybe the story will be comfort enough. Maybe I should take it to her and risk it. I just don’t know.

I put it in the fridge. It’s still there.



Jim
Wednesday September 22nd 2021, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

When we moved in with small children not yet in school, theirs were in college and graduated. We were the first young family in a generation in almost the entire square block and they delighted in being the adopted grandparents.

Saturday they and several other couples were to be honored for their longtime humanitarian works and service to the community. We’d gotten an invite a month ago–although a card came in the mail last week saying that due to Delta, it was to be held by Zoom now. I read that and thought, that’s much safer for the elderly, good call.

Habitat for Humanity, I knew about, quite a few other things they’d done I didn’t until there they were on the town paper’s front page last Friday. I quietly saved my copy for their kids.

This morning, shortly after the weekly trash and recycling crews came through, there were a fire engine and two cop cars, lights flashing, one car blocking our end of the street for quite some time.

With people working from home, the bins put out to the curb Tuesday night are usually all back out of sight at house after house by about 9:00 the next morning.

Not this time.

I think there was this shared sense of letting people be, of not intruding in their space even visually much less with the noise of moving those bins, and certainly not while those emergency vehicles were there. Absolutely nobody needs a gawker in their worst moments.

Yesterday, thinking of them and how much they’d enjoyed them in the past I emailed an offer of some peaches from Andy’s Orchard. I got back a nice, Thank you, but we have peaches.

Late this afternoon there was a second note: she needed me to know Jim had died this morning.

There was nothing for me to do, she said, just, she’d needed me to know. Loved ones were gathering, but not for the reason they’d planned.

I stepped outside to get the mail and saw their son’s car in the driveway. He must have dropped everything and booked it.

I’m so glad he’s with her.



Chez trees
Tuesday September 21st 2021, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Knit

Someone took a huge, exquisite piece of live-edge wood (oak?) and turned it into the countertop for their kitchen island. It’s gorgeous–but does that kind of finish survive all the kinds of substances that could land on it? I have no idea and would love it if someone who knew anything about it could fill me in. Pictures #6-9.

Meantime, I finally worked out the math (for the third time), went through my stash, decided after a package arrived that I seemed to finally have what I needed for the thing and in relief that I no longer have to wait to see how the new shades work out with the previously-bought: I picked up the long-neglected start of the redwood afghan. The living tree was stumped and then so had I been. And now I could run with it.

It felt great to finally arrive at where the only thing that slowed me down was needing to give my hands a break.

 

*Chez: French for “at the house of,” pronounced “shay.” Also, above, a pun on smiling for the camera.



They showed us how
Monday September 20th 2021, 10:59 pm
Filed under: History

He did, DeFede wrote an Afterword that caught up on some of the people he’d written about twenty years ago.

He told how some people got home.

How some of the plane people had ended up with exactly the right people in Gander to help them through the aftermath.

How one planeload got lied to by the airline about where their resumed flight was going to go which was emphatically not home and after a chance remark by a ground crew member, some got off that plane with no idea what they were going to do next and let it take off without them: including the young parents bringing home an adopted baby who were afraid that turning back to Germany would mess up her visa and her ability to come home with them. Not taking that chance. Even if it meant being stranded on an island with a hurricane barreling at the ferry to the far-off mainland.

The cute couple: the man was in the military, which means he got sent to Afghanistan shortly after the attacks and then Iraq. Didn’t work out.

Quite a few of the people the author checked back in with wondered, without the former guy’s name or the virus’s ever being directly mentioned, whether we as a people here could come together for each other the way the people of Gander had for them. They hoped so, but right now it was hard to say.

I’m hoping that the book and the anniversary and the memories might spur us to remember that we did too, in those first few days. I saw it after the Loma Prieta earthquake, too. We can. We should. We must.



The plane people
Sunday September 19th 2021, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Today, it turns out, was the day David was giving a talk in our ward. The mask resister guy. I got a quick heads-up early this morning and so we stayed home and watched by Zoom.

This time he was fully on board with wearing one and wearing it correctly, other than when he took it off to speak. Maybe it helped that his parents were visiting and in the audience and in their 80s, but whatever, all my hopes for him to prove to be a good man and worthy of the bishop’s longtime friendship were fully realized as he spoke. It was such a relief.

He talked about living in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, and of the goodness of their neighbors who’d helped them out when they’d had no power for eight days and had been flooded out.

About people looking out for the kids of those who lost parents on 9/11.

My sister-in-law was a schoolteacher in that state on that day and many of her kids lost one or both. Her school was put on information lockdown from above: no TVs on, no radio, no kids were to be told anything until the end of the school day, when the ones whose parents worked at the World Trade Centers were to be gathered and told then. They were trying to give the kids one last normal school day in their lives. My SIL had issues with not informing them when they had a right to know.

I wondered if she and he knew anyone in common.

He talked about all kinds of ways people come together and how much it means and how important it is to each of us to actively be a part of that, and also to be willing to receive that goodwill and effort from each other.

He did make one mention in an aside of the pandemic’s passing (Delta? Hello?) that had me rolling my eyes: he’s still got some perseveration on his favorite blind spot, but the rest of his talk had me forgiving him and so very grateful and relieved to be able to get to see this other side of him. I’d so wanted him to be like this in the rest of his life.

And I wanted more of how that felt. So this afternoon I curled up with my newly arrived, updated copy of “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland.” The author, Jim DeFede, interviewed the townsfolk and the passengers at length in the months after that day and then simply told their stories.

I’m hoping I’ll find an epilogue saying that that cute couple that met there among the thousands of stranded passengers got married, but we’ll see. (No spoilers!)

A book about people being their best to each other in the worst of circumstances.

That couple met because one new friend said to another woman who was the only single in their immediate group, We need to set you up with someone. She stood up, pointed to another plane person dining across the room, made lasso motions at him because she was from Texas so of course she did and told him and her new friend to introduce themselves to each other.

So of course they did. And of course yes he did turn out to be single, too.

So far it’s working out really well! Okay, back to my book.

And the young girl from the town who was staring at probably the only black woman she’d ever seen in her life, to the woman’s serious discomfort. The girl’s mom told her to go ahead, so she did: she went up to the woman and blew her away by asking in great hope, Can I have your autograph?

Making her feel like she was the most special person in the room and looked up to rather than the so out of place foreigner she’d been feeling like up to that second.

So many people who went so out of their way for complete strangers–that’s a very healing book. Thank you, Canada. I highly recommend it.



Set in stone
Saturday September 18th 2021, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

So we did, we went to Mutari, and I got their Costa Esmeraldas bar because that’s long been my favorite (Dandelion buys beans from that farm too) and those two put in chocolate and sugar and nothing else, whereas the Manoa we tried has some cocoa butter. They’re all great.

As we headed out I picked up a long-stalled hat project and saw why it had been on timeout so long–hadn’t I ever counted those stitches? How did that happen? I ripped it out, cast on again with the single-ply wool arguing with the bumpy road, and with great satisfaction finished the ribbing for the new hat at about Scotts Valley. I considered what kind of patterning–but, nah. I wanted to keep looking at the redwoods we were driving through. Mindless stockinette it was.

Meantime, remember how I love stone houses?

Someone made their kids a stone tree house. With stained glass (-ish) windows no less. Photos 28-30.

The perfect place to retreat with a good book or yarn while keeping an eye on the kids. (Hey Mom that’s MY tree house!)

The perfect little cool-grandparents retirement cottage, both of them.



Maybe it’ll even grow
Friday September 17th 2021, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden

I figured if I wanted those cherry and apricots to sprout in September, I’d better put them outside in the sun during the warmth of the day–and keep a careful eye on them to make sure they don’t dry out, which those tiny plugs do fast, and that they don’t get too steaming hot inside their mini greenhouse setup. And to remember to bring them back into the warm house at night.

I planted those last Saturday. This is Friday. Remembering when it took me from January to April for anything to come up the first time I tried this two years ago, one of the Anyas stunned me this morning by starting to swell open and showing a bit of white growth. There’s no way that’s supposed to happen yet! But I’ll definitely take it.



Dairy-free, too
Thursday September 16th 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dandelion Chocolates in San Francisco sent out a newsletter a month ago that, among other things, talked about a new bar they’re coming out with in the new year from Hawaiian-grown beans that they’d swooned over and bought 300 kg of. How often do you get to buy American-grown chocolate? But the flavor! That’s what had really grabbed them.

Then they said if you don’t want to wait that long to try it out, here’s our friends’ start-up over there and they’re using the same beans in their Mililani bar.

So of course I was tempted. How could I not be. I looked up Manoa Chocolate. I put that bar in my cart, I took it out of my cart, I told myself this was silly, I can make my own chocolate, I tried to forget about it. I ground up two pounds of stashed nibs to distract myself away from temptation: the tempering was total amateur level but the flavor made up for it and several weeks later we’ve slowly nibbled through a good bit of it.

And then Michelle was coming home, which meant a trip to Mutari’s in Santa Cruz would be coming up, and I wondered how Manoa’s would compare.

Science. You can’t learn if you don’t experiment. Right?

But I did not expect it to arrive in a box inside a zippered chocolate-decorated tote. Beautiful packaging that one would be quite happy to put to use.

Michelle tasted their chocolate hazelnut spread and pronounced it *the* best. Less sugar than Dandelion’s, more hazelnuts. Definitely this one. And the bar! This and this, she said, these are what she wants for Christmas.

Me, too.

Best pre-made chocolate splurge ever.



A work of art
Wednesday September 15th 2021, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Life

Because one’s home should be a castle, right? (Picture #4 is sheer perfection.)

I’m pretty sure it was the trip around the country my family took the summer I was ten that was when we met a relative of my dad’s. She was either his cousin or aunt. Colorado I think?

She lived in a stone house. It wasn’t very big. There were handmade doilies, and a pretty bush on the left near the door, but the whole outside of the house being stone just entranced me. I had never thought you could even make a house out of rocks like that and I vowed then and there that I was going to live in a stone house too someday.

And that never left me. I confess I looked up the price of putting slate across the front of this house after seeing a local one that had that but reality caught up real fast when I saw the costs.

Things I have learned since childhood: wood has give to it that makes it flexible and strong in an earthquake. Brick crumbles. Concrete breaks. (So, says my front entryway after a mere 5.4, do 9.5″ square tiles.)

What do stone houses do? How do you know to decipher what type of mortar someone used, and how much you can trust it. Let her who is without quakes not cast the first stone.

And the only answer I have, other than that one’s made it through 93 years now, is: they never get termites.



No chocolate allowed
Tuesday September 14th 2021, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Me: Man, what a lousy night. Couldn’t get warm, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t find the wool blanket (the extra layer on my side.)

Him: That’s because you tripped and spilled hot cocoa all over it.

Me, slowly: Oh. Right.

So I am here to report that dabs of unscented laundry detergent on day-old cocoa on white wool, left to soak in for an hour or two and then rubbed a bit, did indeed get the whole thing to come completely clean. Gentle cycle or no, running it through the washing machine didn’t help its pilling whatsoever, and it did shrink slightly as one would expect, but the merino came out all the softer for it.

And we’re talking 1:1 ratio cocoa/sugar in the milk, not some half-fake commercial mix. But it came out.

Spending the day that tired, I sat down, propped my feet up, and knit. After 75 minutes, my hands demanded a break from the needles, which at 6.5mm were a lot bigger than I usually use but that the scoured and floofed-out chainette Piuma from Colourmart really needed. (The light beige.)

The closer I got to the end of the ball the more the stubborn side of me had to see it through. Intermittently as needed. I let the amount of yarn dictate to me when I was done, and after dinner, it was.

I gave it a bit of water for the lace to settle into place and it is now hanging to dry. Right next to that sweet soft Irish-made blanket.



Maxwell’s smart
Monday September 13th 2021, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

Note to self: Saturday is when I planted the four Rainier cherry pits a friend’s kid had saved for me because they were so good, along with two of my five Anya kernels. Yes that’s out of season, but they had chilled long enough to stratify and I think I needed to make a declaration of hope towards the future against the twentieth anniversary of 9/11–and I so want to be able to give that twelve-year-old a cherry seedling of his own in thanks for his wishing I could have cherries that good all the time.

There’s also a possibility that his family will move away in the next year, so I knew I needed to hurry. They’re the ones who polished off my favorite apricots at my request because we were leaving town to see grandkids for the week, and they saved the kernels so I could plant some more.

But those cherries from Andy’s farm! He had to save their pits for me, too, even if his mom wasn’t so sure–and so it was just the four.

Coming winter light levels are why I only experimented with two apricots to see if I could get a jump in growth on next year, but the cherries? Every one.

I have this secret ingredient for after the Root Riot plugs help them sprout…

I mentioned to Michelle that the Anya apricot grown in lobster compost from Maine totally skunked the other seedlings in height and growth after I’d tried different soil types. Five and a half inches (oh but it tried), 24″, and then 43″ for the Maine event. Such a stunning result.

My child for whom evolutionary biology was her favorite undergrad class cocked her head a bit, looked me in the eye, and cracked, I *assure* you they did not evolve in the same environment! (Wikipedia link to the Fergana Valley along the Silk Road.)

Well, no. But it just goes to prove that everything goes better when you’re serving lobster. The stone fruits are just the cherries on top.