Toss it back to the grizzlies
Monday July 19th 2021, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

(Lillian ducking into the sunbeam.)

Back when Sam and her family lived in Anchorage, she took us to an ice cream shop, Wild Scoops, that sold local flavors including from fruits I’d never heard of. Salmonberries? Birch syrup? What kind of flavor is Fireweed?

So I ended up buying a cute little 2 oz jar of salmonberry jam as a souvenir to go with my scoop so I could taste that, too, and a small jug of birch syrup by mail after we flew home.

The syrup was okay. I don’t need to buy it again. The jam was sugar+pectin+an orange color to it but no berry flavor I could discern and other than the fact that it was a local thing and a novelty to us, there didn’t seem to be much point to it; let the musk ox and moose keep the berries.

Fast forward a few years. We were at a kiddy park with Mathias and Sam in Washington State July 5th where there was play equipment and a bit of grass surrounded by deep, lush trees and a short trail along the fenced perimeter.

Cherry trees! That’s why all the happy robins bouncing around! Clearly a holdover from when that whole area had been prime cherry and berry farmland a hundred years ago; the now-feral trees dangled Rainier-esque solid yellow and who knows what dark red promises mostly well out of even my 6’8″ husband’s reach.

But we managed to bend some branches downwards enough and we got some and shared them around and they were delicious. Sam pronounced that moments like these were why she was glad they had moved there.

She had already told us that blackberry bushes were the devil, that they ran rampant all over everything with their thorns: the Pacific Northwest’s version of kudzu with an offering but an attitude.

And then I pointed out a berry bush. The leaves were a lot smaller than the blackberries her husband had cleared away from their side of the fence at home; I wondered what they were.

Oh those are salmonberries, she said, a park ranger told us that.

Very small. Half the usual thumbcap depth at best of a red raspberry. Tasteless. Seedy.

And the color. Suddenly I knew.

Some garden catalog three or four years ago had had a spiel about a woman who’d found an abandoned farm that had had red raspberries and blackberries and had found something else growing down by the creek that she thought must be a hybrid of them of some kind. The thorns were a lot shorter. She’d taken some cuttings home. She’d tried growing her new variety in good soil, bad soil, sandy soil, clay soil, and it grew in everything! And now here they were offering this rare find to their customers! In high demand!

I’m a long way from being a knowledgeable gardener yet, so foolproof sounded good to me and I ordered one. I grew it in a large pot, because I do know enough to know that thorny berry plants like to take over the world and I wanted it contained.

I got a few stubby shallow little berries with not much flavor–well, any, really. I figured the critters had eaten them before they’d gotten ripe or big yet. Right? I kept waiting for them to grow into, y’know, proper raspberry shapes. They didn’t.

I got maybe two whole berries to myself last year, but this year the plant grew a lot more and produced more. But the fruit didn’t change at all.

They’d sold me a salmonberry plant and didn’t even know enough to know that that’s what it was and I certainly didn’t. But there is no question. I recognized that plant and that fruit in that park because it was growing in my back yard and knew that it was only a matter of time, and a brief time at that, before I’d be ripping mine out.

All those pretty leaves it took so long to bother to produce.

I confess I’m still giving it (increasingly brief) sprays of precious California water to keep it alive. I guess it’s just plain hard to assassinate a plant you’ve nurtured, even one that would rather stab you than feed you.

Which color do you want?
Saturday July 17th 2021, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

I gave Phyl and Lee their choice of Andy’s red peaches or yellow as a thank you for driving us to the airport. (I’d waited a few weeks because the later in the season, the more flavor.) The reds were marked as cling; they opted for the yellow Santa Barbaras and I sent them off with not quite a whole case, since that seemed like a lot to them. (Then I tried one of the Sierra Rich reds and the pit came away like what was the big deal supposed to be.)

A few hours later my doorbell rang: the friend who’d watered my garden while we were away, surprising me with a small box of plums and peaches after a trip to, you guessed it, Andy’s Orchard. The first white peaches we’d tasted this year. Loved it.

On the knitting front: when I booked the trip, I wasn’t sure of the kids’ work schedules so I scheduled our flight home to arrive in the late evening. Tuesday the holiday was over, their normal life took over and we were on our own, free to play tourist and wander around for the day.

So we did. I’ve mentioned the drawbridge in Seattle.

But the other thing is that we stumbled across a yarn store, parked the car, and went in.

(Side note: it’s a good thing us good little Mormons Googled when we saw this other place as we drove by because “Skep and Skein” was NOT a yarn store. It was a tavern and none of us would have had the faintest idea what to do with each other had we walked in.)

So we drove on (wait–we’ve already been on this road, hey, Waze!) and saw another sign.

There is always room in the luggage for a souvenir skein, I told Richard as we were getting out of the car, but it was going to be tight. We walked into a charming little brick Tudor and met just the nicest owner.

Hmm… I went to see if I could find something to show her shop to you and discovered that she has the same name as my sister’s best friend growing up. Here’s the article. Our Local Yarn Shop, OLYS for short. I’m not seeing a date on when it was written–but Laurie told me that a pandemic three months after she opened had not been in her business plan.

Wow. I absorbed that a moment. And you’re still here! I pronounced in triumph.

Yes, I am! she answered happily. But she allowed as how it had been a near thing for awhile there.

Meantime, she had a steady stream of customers, some of them clearly old friends, and each time someone wanted to ask something or stepped behind me in line to be rung up I stepped out of the way and waved them forward and let her chat with them and take care of them because they were going to be in a position to come back and I wasn’t and I wanted her to have every success. I really liked this lady.

She gave her store its name from the fact that she sells yarn from sheep from local farms with the name of each animal on the skein. Which is cool–but they were in natural and muted colors, and they were lovely, but right now I needed color color color to entice my fingers to get back into really knitting again.

I came away with this Manos and a Madeline Tosh that hit just the right notes and they just barely managed not to fall out of my overstuffed purse in the airport.

I told Laurie the story of visiting my in-laws in Texas and having one of my readers here ask if she could come pick me up and take me to her knitting group night while I was in town. Sure!

And how I was absolutely gobsmacked to find us pulling up to the doorstep of the original Madeline Tosh shop. I met the owner. I got to meet her! Turns out that wasn’t her name, she’d named it in honor of her favorite aunt. I tried not to be too embarrassing in my fandom.

Anyway. So here’s the Manos in a potato-chip-munching mindless-knitting stitch that works so well with multicolors by scattering each little shot of color hither and yarn.

(Edited to answer Anne’s question for everyone: it was this yarn. My skein was a little more saturated than the one they show.)

Cool cat
Thursday July 08th 2021, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family

There’s a warning out that the Pacific Northwest is about to have another extreme heat wave.

Eve the (formerly) super fluffy longhaired grandcat is ready for that one, too. Continuing chin scritches welcomed.

(p.s. That 5.9 quake on the CA/Nevada border today? Didn’t feel a thing. With the Californian in me wanting to add,  …Yet…)

From the trip
Wednesday July 07th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family

Mathias working on a puzzle with his mom.

Meantime, the toddler anthem of “Mine!” and the adult sized (that was a mistake) airplane-knit hat went on Lillian’s head because I’d just made one for her brother and had run out of time to finish the one she didn’t know was going to be hers so it only seemed fair.

She danced around with her new toy–what toddler doesn’t love a hat (unless you’re trying to make them wear one) and it went back on her head a number of times. Sometimes she could even see with it on, if someone helped her. And helped her again after she tugged on it. Or after she put Mathias’s hat on top of it.

The tree fairy ring out back, with a smaller one behind it and a smaller one behind that.

A chance to read a book with Grammy.

We brought our San Francisco weather with us
Tuesday July 06th 2021, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Family

And we are home from Washington State and the first visit with grandkids since Covid hit. The flight was late, we’re tired, but I wanted to check in. We are so glad we got to go.

Well that was easy
Sunday June 27th 2021, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

A couple we know called and asked if they could drop by; they’d been baking and had some snickerdoodles to share.


So as we were visiting, I mentioned having this rootstock-regrowth Yellow Transparent tree whose apples were ripe and needed to be processed into apple butter or applesauce; they’re great for those and mushy and terrible for eating out of hand.

They would love to!

And so the four of us found ourselves outside picking apples as the sun headed down. They said how many should we take and I said, the whole tree–please? (It isn’t very big.)They laughed. They got all but the smallest that just weren’t ready to go.

Apple butter needs apple cider–so much better than mass-bottled juice. We had some, thank you Trader Joe’s.

They went home happy to have a tasty project to work on with their boys and we got to be done with that tree for the year. They’ll have four sets of hands coring those apples, and you don’t even need to peel them for apple butter, especially not those super-thin skins that give the variety its name.

And the snickerdoodles were delicious.

Afterwards I baked this recipe with some of Andy’s Yuliya apricots after all that talking about fruit and desserts. Why not, it’s our you-crazy-kids day from when we were 21 and 22. One more year till we get to be Life, The Universe, and Everything!

Sneakers don’t sneak
Friday June 25th 2021, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I live in clogs but for a goodly while now I’ve needed a plain old pair of sneakers. Like, for years.

When you’re 6.5 to 7, depending on the brand, but a EE width, buying online is an exercise in returning the online.

Unless it’s Birkenstock. And even their shoes, I find you mostly have to go up a size from their sandals so it’s still not a sure thing.

Guess who makes sneakers now. Wildly overpriced, but who else would fit my feet? You just can’t do mud puddles with kids while in clogs. They don’t work.

The box came today. Upped a size.

I’m wearing the new hearing aids today.

I put on the shoes and wore them a bit on the carpet, trying them out, and finally made the decision non-negotiable (having been taught well by my mom that you do not walk off the carpet unless you’re keeping them) and, feet exploring their new surroundings, started doing stuff around the house.

My shoes. They made noises. I was trying to figure out why. The laces flopped against them with each step–who knew? But I wasn’t sure that was all of it and looking at them didn’t tell me what they were saying. You cannot lipread a sneaker.

I mentioned to Richard that they were making sounds and he said, All new shoes squeak.


So then I had to walk back across the house and around a bit more and there, in the kitchen: I heard it! That was a definite hamster type sound, ever so briefly. And another! Flappity flap (squeak!) Are everybody’s shoes this distractingly noisy? Since when do shoes make sounds?

I went back to him in triumph. I heard it! They do!

He looked at me, totally understanding/totally trying not to roll his eyes at my excitement over hearing something I hadn’t in decades.

“I’ve had Squeak Deprivation Syndrome!”

But then we could call it cherry Garcia (his favorite)
Wednesday June 23rd 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Pitted (shown), sugared, nuked, cooled. Trying not to think about adding ice cream to it.

Friday June 11th 2021, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was going to joke about okay, now you’ve seen me so you’ve pretty much seen his face, too.

But the car didn’t.

My big brother whose face I compared mine to yesterday was riding a bike today on a beautiful day after work and a car came speeding without looking. Morgan shouted and the driver matched his frantic yanking of the wheels to avoid the hit.

And just just just avoided a strike from the car but not the one with the pavement from that momentum mismatch.

As he lay in the road people came to his rescue–except the driver, who hesitated and then took off.

Three broken ribs, and another one cracked, along with his shoulder.

But he’s alive and himself and will heal and yay for helmets and as he dryly noted, his bike is okay.

Praise be.

Oh hi big brother
Thursday June 10th 2021, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

September 2019, Kimber gave me a nice haircut and we agreed on the next March for me to come back in for a trim. But March 2020 didn’t quite turn out as expected. She is fully vaccinated now and I am, too.

She combed it out and held it up for me to marvel in the mirror with her: Look how long it is!

Yeah, I told her, I pulled the two halves to the front and snipped a few times over the pandemic, otherwise there would have been about ten individual strands down to my waist. I lost a fair amount when I was sick and it got pretty sparse at the bottom.

Do you want this much? (About two inches.) Or this much? (About four, maybe even five.)

I held up my hand to motion the four/five.

My self-snipped edges fell gently away to the floor, finally, after all this time, curling into circles on impact after she’d conditioned it straight. The straggly ends by my face got evened out and morphed into done on purpose. It looks great.

I took a picture when I got home, and of course it didn’t come through, but I have to say I was dumbfounded to see my older brother’s face looking back at me from that photo. Twins.

Except with hair.

And I know exactly who would tell me, with a grin, not to complain over not being able to get a haircut.

Kimber waved me off at the end with, See you in two years!

I laughed/winced, Not that long!

June birthdays
Sunday June 06th 2021, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Happy Birthday to my son Richard! Who did not quite make it in time for Dad’s birthday but by waiting a day did make it so I got the obstetrician I wanted, so Dad laughed when we called to say it was a boy and told me it was okay.

One of my sisters had a daughter on his birthday two years later.

One of my sisters had a son the day before (edit, with her help: three days after) his birthday I think two years after that. All three had part of his name in theirs.

The cowl picture doesn’t have anything to do with any of that other than hey, cast that off and finish it already, willya? I was always the late one.

Dad would be glad
Saturday June 05th 2021, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Today would have been my dad’s 95th and even though he was allergic to chocolate, he loved it and we love it, so it seemed a good day to celebrate, and, yeah. We got in the car to head to Mutari in Santa Cruz. Richard pulled up Waze on his phone just to be sure everything was cool road-wise.

Nope nopity nope. Bad accident. (Turned out later that friends of ours were stuck for three hours in that mess, and one can only pray for the people who were hit.)

Michelle turned and headed north. Dandelion here we come!

We even scored a jar of their dairy-free fresh chocolate/freshly roasted hazelnut spread that was sold out online. For that, she forgave my asking about Imagiknit a few blocks away, and so we came home with four unexpected skeins of Malabrigo Mecha, too. Make more art! Yay!

And then after we got home.

Richard’s glasses came in and he needed to go to Costco to pick them up; did I want to come?

Not overly, and I dragged my feet a little; Costco on a Saturday?

It turns out it wasn’t too bad, actually, but as I started in the door their guy called out after me.

“I’m with him,” pointing at Richard.

“No, you can’t come in without a mask.”

“Wha…Ohmygoodness, I’m sorry, I forgot, here let me grab mine” (fishing it out of my purse while the guy was offering one from the store.)

He was apologizing, saying they make him say that–and then added, “Some people, you know, they think it’s mostly a hoax.”

The way he said it made it clear he was one of those who thought they were probably right.

I found myself telling it with a keen sense of love for this good man I’d seen working there for years, so that it came out almost joyfully, “I had Covid. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. There was one day there where my oxygen was so low that I knew if I moved a single muscle I’d be out–there was just none to spare. I’m so glad I survived! I had long-hauler syndrome, and after they gave me the vaccine it was gone just like that!” snapping my fingers. (It took about a week, but a week is nothing after a year of that.)

His face was a mixture of wonderment and relief as he took all this in. Somehow the incoming crowd had thinned just then so that he had that moment to have that conversation and to consider what I’d said. On a Saturday, no less.

“It’s real?”

I nodded, answering, “I am SO glad for the vaccines!”

As I walked off I was smiling and he was really smiling, like he was finally at peace. He finally knew what to do and it was clear he’d made the decision. He was going to get his, too.

Memorial Day
Monday May 31st 2021, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family

Our daughter was asking if we had any close members of the family who’d served. My dad in WWII, of course.

Richard mentioned some in his family.

I told her there was a member of the family (I’d have to check with Mom to make sure I got the right name) who had served in WW1: as a pilot.

She did a double take. Oh. A lot of those did not do well.

He did not.

My grandmother wrote her autobiography when I was ten years old, and the story she told about an officer talking to her son in the Army–was Richard’s great uncle.

Probably less sugar than most breakfast cereals anyway
Monday May 24th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Diana started it. My cousin’s wife.

She posted a picture of thick bumpy wholesome-looking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and said, You ever have one of those days when you just want cookies for breakfast? Rolled oats makes them almost the same thing as oatmeal, right?

I told her it does–and that my daughter had made a batch of dough of exactly that that was sitting in our freezer and after looking at hers, now I was trying hard to avoid its calling to me, all the louder because I knew I could make, y’know, just three, one for each of us here. It would be almost guilt-free.

Knowing there was homemade chocolate mixed in did not help in that resistance.

A few hours later I gave Diana an update: yes I had, I’d made three cookies and then dashed off to a doctor appointment.

When I got home there was a second cookie sheet on the counter next to mine. With some clearly missing.

Okay now growgrowgrow!
Saturday May 22nd 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

My sister asked for two of the Anya apricot kernels a few months ago and I sent her some.

One never came up, one almost made it–but then faded away, and I had no more to offer; she was going to have to wait another year. The one small hope was that while I was cracking them open for everybody one went shooting away from me and had not been seen since; maybe it was somehow wedged under the dish drying rack and would finally show up? (Not as if I didn’t look repeatedly.)

I would have mailed her one of my seedlings if I’d thought it could survive days in the dark.

This afternoon my daughter opened the freezer, looked at the door, and went, Mom, why is there a kernel in your freezer?

It had not been cracked open. It was not the one that got away–oh wait. Obviously yes in its own way it did, but, huh, how on earth did that end up there. I think–I’m not sure–that there was one too many to get the little Rubbermaid tub lid to seal, back when I had them all, and it had just been put next to the rest on its own and been long forgotten.

The mail had not yet come. I shot off a note to Marian but didn’t wait to hear back because I knew what the answer would be and put it in what seemed to be a strong envelope. Inside that envelope I put a corner I’d just cut off from a padded envelope and had taped the cut edges shut around the kernel.

She got back to me quite happy about this before the mailman picked it up. I had already put three stamps on the thing to bribe the post office not to mess this up.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a second chance.