No, go that way
Monday January 31st 2022, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

I think the scrub jay chased the rabbit across the yard just because it could boss it around like that so it was fun. It’s a corvid thing.

Re less fun things: sometimes it’s just easier to hire someone else to do it. And so two men showed up today to spray my peach trees against leaf curl disease and another crew from the same company will be pruning everything shortly.

I noted one of them stopping first in apparent surprise and not moving from the spot, so I opened the door and called over to him, Yes–that’s a mango tree.

He told me, marveling, that the other guy had instantly recognized that it was. He looked like he was trying to memorize it–the long leaves, the tropically curving branches.

I answered the question he hadn’t quite asked yet by saying it had been under a plastic greenhouse when it was younger. What I didn’t say was, we’ve had the warmest winter since it was planted and I haven’t so much as had to cover it at night with frost covers but half a dozen times this whole season.

Including, as it would later turn out, tonight, just to be on the safe side.

After they left one of the rabbits tried to dig under the bird netting around the base protecting the mango from their teeth–they’ve always avoided it before–and the jay would have been proud of my wing flapping as I ran out there to chase the little fuzzbutt back across the yard.

Sunday January 30th 2022, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

Applesauce Honey cake at Spruce Eats is the winner so far. Cocoa in boiling water substituted for the coffee.

The afghan: if I stop at the last row of the pattern, #40, then the top and the bottom won’t mirror. As written, it starts with pairs of cables and ends just before the cabling, because of course when you’re repeating over and over, but not so much when you’re coming to a stop. So I’m thinking I’ll end after a pair of cables and half a motif, meaning, row #32. Or #12 on a ninth repeat, which I have just enough yarn for.

My niece and her husband are both tall. Right now it’s 64″ unblocked with 5.5″ to go if I stop at #32 once you factor in the ribbing.

Which I really really want to do right now, but having gotten this far, if I need to go on I’ll go on and my rule of thumb is to match the person’s height so it can cover their feet. No skimping. Plus it came out a little narrower than I wanted at 48″, but with a lot of sideways stretch so no problem–except that that pulls the length downwards quite a bit.

And on a side note: it occurred to me today that I could go into the local paint store, buy a paint chip that matches it, and send that off to ask if they all like the color without giving away what’s up.

Because they would never, ever suspect me of knitting. Right?

But wait there’s more
Saturday January 29th 2022, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food

A cup of honey? Let’s try that one.

The 30 minutes totally didn’t do it–it was in there for 45 before the top tested done and turned that nice golden brown (and the darn thing stopped shaking like jello.)

A half hour later it looked like this. Still pretty good, right?

And then we cut into it. And it was.

But the bottom was definitely overdone. The top was definitely underdone.

And that’s when I learned something new: my daughter said that the standard size for loaf pans has changed over the years to being wider and lower so things bake faster and more evenly. My pans are old and narrow and high.

It was still good enough to eat, and we definitely did; it was kind of like angel food cake gone orange–it had no fat whatsoever and was a bit dry. (Note that I added a bit of salt where none was called for.)

While I was waiting for it to come out of the oven, DebbieR found two recipes for Alton Brown’s Aunt Verna’s Honey Cake. I’d made the version from The Food Network. But the one from his site–has salt. And butter. And orange juice. And sugar. Half the eggs, but still that cup of honey, and I want to ask, Honey, what does your Aunt Verna think of the discrepancies?

I’ve got to try that second one.

His loaf is wider and lower. There you go.

Maybe mine fell because I opened the oven three times while testing and expecting 30 minutes to have been enough when the second recipe (albeit with more ingredients) said 60. But it also says time to make is 35 minutes, so, huh. Y’know, I worked as a copyeditor a thousand years ago in case y’all need to hire one over there…

I have me more testing to do.

Suddenly all my jars of remaindered honey amounts don’t look like quite so much after all. I just have to finish de-crystallizing them all.

Oh honey
Friday January 28th 2022, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Mom, do you know how many jars of honey you have?!

She’d just pulled them all out of the cabinet in disbelief.

The backstory:
The owner of a local honey company was the woman who yelled, “Hey! You can’t bring that in here!” to get the attention of a nearby cop towards the guy with a gun as he broke through the fence around the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and so she and her husband were the first ones as the guy started that particular mass shooting before the cop got him.
They survived but the medical costs were huge and the surgeries numerous.
So I bought a jar of each of most of their flavors of honey because it was some small thing I could do to try to offer support.
I mentioned The Honey Ladies here at the time: they do beehive removal from places the bees are very much not wanted and rehome the hives to farms. The Cherry Blossom is divine, but my favorite is their Poison Oak—seriously, it’s a thick dark caramel and the least sweet honey I’ve ever tasted. No reaction to it in case you’re wondering.
By comparison, the others are good but I just have been in no great hurry to finish them when I could have my favorites.
Why am I mentioning this? Because the number of jars of open honey, big to tiny, 2 oz souvenirs to large jars, were driving my daughter to distraction.
In no way was I expecting that number.
Some of that is unexpectedly artificially flavored honeys from other sources and every one of those is old and has gone bad. Mango honey from Florida? From mango blossoms? Not so much. Fermented? No thank you.
Tossing should be the easy part, but having smelled skunk spray at 3 a.m. this morning, can you even imagine if I tried to compost the stuff outside to give the animals something to really fight over. Can you imagine drunk skunks.
You cannot throw foodstuffs in the trash here. Those jars are solidified, and I’m not sure what the best way to get rid of them is; I’m hoping to hear suggestions.
But meantime: if anyone local wants a taste testing, I have opened jars of perfectly good raspberry blossom, wildflower, and blueberry blossom honey from the Honey Ladies and you could even talk the cherry blossom out of my hands. There’s Acacia from who knows where, five mostly-full mini bottles from a sampler kit my daughter bought for me at Trader Joe’s a year ago and a nearly full jar of creamed honey from Koophaus in Morgan Hill that are all hoping for a new home. I have no idea what the 2 oz one is, but it came with what could only be described as a bride’s tiny girdle. Which got the ultimate Millenial put-down: “That’s tacky.”
I’m keeping the jars from local beekeeper friends–and a half gallon of Poison Oak. Because who would want to rescue hives from such a source more than once so I bought a whole lot while it still existed because it is that good.
But the others. The ones that are perfectly good, but have been opened. They sit there not quite loved enough but not in any kind of giftable state.
And then said daughter came around the corner as I was typing this and before I could ask why is this post being weird on the formatting, told me, You know what we can do with this. Here’s the recipe I found that uses the most honey: bake it and doorbell ditch it and then if they hate it they can throw it away and we NEVER HAVE TO KNOW. But it’s out of the house!
Maybe we could even…being radical here…mix the types?

So close
Thursday January 27th 2022, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I started the afghan Nov. 23d. It’s gorgeous, it’s a quarter of the way through the eighth and last long repeat, it’s almost done.

So why has it slowed down so much? I’ve been trying to figure it out. Is it because I just enjoy too much having this thing draped down past my feet as I work while it sweet-talks my ego? Because there are a whole lot more useful things it could be doing once done and I could be doing by now, like, getting on to the next blanket for the recipient after that.

Silly person. Now get back to work. (Actually, two months isn’t too bad.)

10,307 stitches to go. Not that I’m counting.

They’re getting better at this
Wednesday January 26th 2022, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

An elderly person dear to me got hacked yesterday.

And today, another elderly friend, chatting like she does and asking after my family, told me happily about the quarter million dollar check that had arrived by FedEx from Publisher’s Clearing House and how nice it was that they look out for the elderly and disabled like that and had I signed up for that, too?

I advised caution.

No, no, she’d taken it to her bank and they’d accepted it.

I reminded her of a mutual widowed friend who, at about 90, was swindled out of the house she’d owned free and clear for decades and had found herself thrown out on the street in utter bewilderment.

There was no unconvincing her.

I linked to Publisher Clearing House’s own website where they warned against frauds being committed in their name and say that even banks have been fooled into thinking the checks are real–until they find out they are not.

I asked if she’d called PCH to make sure it was real. She hesitated, then said she had, and I thought, if you did, did you look it up online or did you call the scammer’s number? Because there is nothing legitimate about this.

So since she was a friend from church I got off Facebook and mentioned it to those in a better position to step in and help; she sure wasn’t listening to me.

To which one of them said, could that have been a fake? Basically, (she didn’t quite say outright) was the person they were trying to scam–you?

It was indeed a duplicate of her profile. Reported now.

I guess I learned a little humility myself on the gullibility index today.

Exploring in chocolate
Tuesday January 25th 2022, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food

Chocolate almond torte cupcakes, I’d call them. Chocolate teacakes to them. Celiac friendly. Not overly sweet.

Those of us who bake are familiar with the instructions to separate eggs and beat the whites at the last till they’re nice and frothy, put a little of them into the rest of the mixed ingredients, and fold the rest in carefully so you don’t smush the air out and then get that thing in the oven just as fast as you can.

What I had never encountered before were the instructions to do so–and then leave the whole thing alone for an hour and not only that but before you spoon it out into the pan.

Ottolenghi said, Trust us. Don’t skip this step–you need the almond flour to soak in the moisture of the other ingredients for the sake of the texture of the cupcakes to come.

(I used cocoa and boiling water for the instant coffee granules and boiling water called for because I’m Mormon like that.)

And they were right. I was surprised at what a difference it made, and wondered why it hadn’t said this on their other almond flour-based recipe I’d tried earlier.

It said it made 18. Who has an 18-muffin pan? The classic metal 12-pan took 24 minutes and the silicone 6-pan was quite done in 20. Curious.

For their own good
Monday January 24th 2022, 10:06 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics

They can’t say it out loud, but Fox and the like have got to be really really hoping the unvaxxed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times, thrown out by one court and reinstated by another, fails.

The trial was delayed by her Covid diagnosis. Of course.

With thanks to Lee Ann Dalton for the link, I can only wish that others who’ve been persuaded by such might read all the love in these words.

After the volcano and tsunami
Sunday January 23rd 2022, 9:10 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Today was a stake conference meeting, ie a semi-annual gathering of the six wards (congregations) in our stake. I’m guessing about fifty people sat carefully socially distanced, from what I could see, and hundreds of us tuned in from home.

There was a song announced that was going to be sung by four members who were from Tonga and a friend of theirs whom they assured us was big, BIG! there: “He’s our Stevie Wonder,” one said as the others chuckled in fond agreement.

He was blind. He played the piano. And man oh man did he have a voice. He wasn’t a Mormon but he wanted to add his voice to theirs along with our silent ones in this place where his people would be heard.

The song, they explained, was about an island in the dark as the light comes to it.

They sang it in Tongan, and watching by Zoom I had to chuckle at the auto-transcription trying to create English phrases out of the phonemes going past it. No, silly captions, they are emphatically not singing about millionaires.

But oh, they were good. And after having asked us all to pray for those in their homeland, they were singing their hearts out such that I found myself in tears.

I had no idea what the words were, and I can’t begin to know what the one man’s name was, but there was no mistaking that love being offered up to G_d and how deeply it was felt.

It was an honor to be invited to be part of that.

Stain not stayin’
Saturday January 22nd 2022, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Someone tripped into her, a mug in hand got spewed, and the stains didn’t come out of a favorite shirt. She told me what she’d done to try and I nodded yes, that’s what I would have done, too.

How long had it been?

A month.

(Me, thinking, length of time equals greater set to the stains) Let me see what I can do.

Oh thank you! in relief. Because Moms can still do everything.

She’d already soaked it in Seventh Generation unscented no-dyes laundry liquid, which is my standard. I added more. Rubbed it a good one. Still there.

So I left it to soak in some more, highly cognizant that she’d been doing that since last night.

And then I went back in there every so often to rub the spots until I was tired enough to need a break (it was that kind of day as it was.) And then came back and did it again, and again. That was a great fabric–100% cotton but densely spun and knitted and it wasn’t looking frayed or worn for all that I was working on it; it held up.

I realized later I didn’t get all of one small spot because I was going after the many big ones that got most of the attention, but, it’s looking pretty good. You’d have to know they’d been there and where to look in bright light to see anything, and I can always give it another try. But given how it was and how it looks now–I was pretty pleased with myself, and the wonder on her face as I handed it to her didn’t hurt any.

I said to her later, Your timing is impeccable!

Because a short while later, I’d gone to clean something from a long-unused closet and had stumbled across a carefully put away stack of baby and little girl dresses in a bin. Handsewn. Handsmocked. I’d forgotten I’d made so many–I mean, I knew I had, but I’d given as many as I’d kept back when my kids were that age and it was a surprise.

Twenty-seven years ago we remodeled this house and while we were doing that the roof leaked badly.

Which means the box that had all those dresses, only a few years outgrown at that point, took a direct hit and nothing, nothing I could do at the time could get out those stains of what we promptly labeled roof juice. I tried.

The one with the blue teddy bears! I remembered buying the pattern booklet in a needlework shop in Burlingame whose name will probably hit me at about 2 a.m. It’s long gone. Maybe Ruby something? Opening that booklet there was a page with a picture of five hand-smocked teddy bears, and below, the words, What’s wrong with those?

Followed by, Surprised you, didn’t I? Didn’t you think, Nothing’s wrong, they’re adorable!

And they are. But this one–and the artist pointed out little flaws or inconsistencies in each one and then agrees with her unseen readers that why on earth would you worry about that when they’re so cute.

She said, So if you’re only seeing the mistakes in the ones you’re making, put it down and walk away for a day or two and come back to it and see how much you love them and keep on going because seriously, it’s hard to mess with the cuteness of a teddy bear.

There was roof juice. All over the dress, the pleating, the embroidery.

But my teddy bears were too cute to let it stay that way. I grabbed the detergent and started the first soak. Rubbing it in was dicier than a thick cotton tee, for sure; some of those hand stitches on the back of the facing…

But if I could fix hers I could fix mine and I have a granddaughter now who would fit this dress that I’d completely forgotten I’d made for her aunt.

There’s just the barest hint of a spot at the center top now but I think I got the rest of it. And there’s that whole pile of clothes to go. The baby ones can wait till who knows when but the toddler ones are in a hurry because two doesn’t stay two very long.

I’m on it.

Weather vane
Friday January 21st 2022, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I’ve gotten away from looking at houses pretty much by now; where we are is a good place to retire to. You want a medical specialist who’s seen unusual cases? Can’t do much better than Stanford.

But my cousins got me to look at this 1908 Victorian just because...

It’s lovely, even if a bit of a mishmash of remodeling years. One cousin describes the master bath as having an altar to the sacred tub.

The washer and dryer inside the master closet, though: Illinois doesn’t have enough humidity to make your clothes smell mildewy? It will there.

And then you get to picture #32.

There’s no warning in the description, nothing to tip you off.

It’s too big to go through any door or window in that room so I say it came through the roof and they just dealt with the wood right then and there ages ago, waste not, want not, and made it look on purpose and the ceiling and roof to match. For all I know the bedroom set was carved out of the bottom of the trunk.

Husband and daughter say it looks too nice so clearly they didn’t use power tools on it in the bedroom so surely it was installed on purpose after the fact.

But why? And how? And then how do you even get to the closet? Did they do it for a parrot? A cat? Can you imagine how much fun one’s pet could have jumping off that onto your face in the middle of the night? Meowabunga!

I have questions.

Not my area of expertise, but I’m curious
Thursday January 20th 2022, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

So I have a question about quilting, after seeing this gorgeous work of art (a brighter picture of it is here.)How much can you trust the colorfastness of the fabrics over time? Does it depend on the brand at all? Do you have to keep it out of direct sunlight? Under glass while on display to cut out the UV?

How do you give such a thing the preservation effort it needs? Or does it?

In the details
Wednesday January 19th 2022, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Eh, I thought this morning, looking at my wet hair, why bother with this. Who’s going to see me anyway.

And instantly thought back at myself, well that’s one way to guarantee the day’s not going to go how you expect. So I pulled it back after all to tame that one weird curlicue that just needs to get long enough to get heavy enough so as not to play half-deelybobber.

About three o’clock the doorbell rang. (Told me so.)

I opened the door, was surprised, and teased, Hey! I remember you!

It was one of Chris’s guys. They had had a free moment so he was coming over to clean off that plaster-looking stuff below one skylight and to paint over the wrong color paint over the nails on another one that I’d mentioned to his boss a couple weeks ago.

I had a baking project at mis en place, measured and laid out but not yet creamed nor mixed or poured, and half-apologized that had I known he was coming I’d have started sooner so he could have gotten some. He reminisced over the cranberry bars I’d shared that he’d liked so much he’d asked for the recipe. Good times. (But I wasn’t going to stand in his way in the kitchen with plaster bits or whatever it was falling down from above, thanks.)

And now I don’t have to have that one nagging thought looking up of, I wish they’d finished this. They did. It’s done. They were little things, but it’s so much better now.

Such a cut-up
Tuesday January 18th 2022, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I’ve seen the description “recycled cashmere” in garments for sale, and now in a few yarns at Colourmart. And wondered what processes were meant by that. Is it just the leftover pounds of yarn from a production run, or is it something more? Tell me they don’t shred already processed yarns in the carding machines. Or I guessed maybe they must?

Colourmart decided (not on this particular listing, but here’s an example and it’s on sale) to add a link.

They actually cut up old sweaters? Surely in an automated process and that picture of people holding scissors is for show? There are actually stores that do trade-ins? Where? What about moth damage? They’d have to make sure every stage of such things is eradicated. What about the weak spots that would be left behind in the fibers? Stains? Is this why the recycled sweaters seem to tend to be thicker? To make sure everything’s covered?

And yet the yarns they create all seem nice and even to my eyes.

Well, huh.

LLBean ordered some of this latest trend but given this past year’s shipping issues, got theirs in (if they even did yet) after Christmas.

I have a credit card account in their name that periodically earns me Bean Bucks and I’ve been letting them slowly, slowly accumulate. I’d been thinking I might blow it at the end of the year on a cashmere sweater but they didn’t have any that grabbed me hard enough.

But now they do. Only they’re recycled, even if I think, so far, that I’d rather they were not. They’re not cheap (well, in my case, at an outlay of $12.95 yes they are, never mind) but I’m just curious enough. Plus I happen to like it.

Shipping, they say, commences approximately February 8. Hopefully.

Silicon Valley might call that vaporwear.

Family time
Monday January 17th 2022, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Knit

Stayed up late talking. Talk to you tomorrow!