In plane sight
Friday February 03rd 2023, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Got a Hey look at this offer! from Southwest Airline. Which reminded me.

At the niece’s second wedding reception, my husband the computer scientist was talking to his cousin the pilot.

Who had been stuck in the Christmas meltdown. But who had managed to get through such that he flew the plane that got Richard’s sister (and himself) to the actual wedding, and he was pretty happy about that: he got a planeload of people to where they were fairly desperate at that point to go.

He said, The thing people don’t get is that Southwest allows its crews to live wherever they want. They have a great deal of autonomy because in each city they’re assigned out of, there’s central management to report to who take requests and adjust personal schedules and smooth things and make people happy. There are unwritten rules that everybody understands and abides by, and you have this authority centralized to where you live and by people you get to know like a big happy family.

And that’s usually good, he said–but when it was bad it totally melted down, and we on the inside could see this coming and tried to warn them.

Hubby the software guy said, But if you do it that way then you can’t update because you can’t write software that manages operations better without having the rules being written down. Which means adhered to. Which means giving up power: everything across the system would become centralized to the system.

Computers have no human empathy component. Things would have to be Done A Certain Way to make the automated system work–which means a lot of those managers would become completely unnecessary and lose their jobs. And the crews and the pilots would lose a whole lot of autonomy (not to mention their friends they’ve worked with forever.) You just go where/when you’re assigned.

I thought, There’s got to be some degree of middle ground.

So it’ll be interesting to see what the FAA does as it plays grown-up to the various sides here.



Wait, wait, bring that back here a moment
Monday January 30th 2023, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The Claude Monet effect?

My desktop was open to my blog and I saw it from across the room while doing something else–and did a double take as it hit me.

Dr. Rachel Remen, in one of her books, gives examples of people idly doing things with an intention known only to their subconscious, and talks about how important it is to try to notice what inner truth it’s trying to tell you.

There on the screen was the picture of the pumpkin almond flour muffins and the chocolate hazelnut mini-cupcakes I’d baked to take to my nephew’s in-laws for Saturday night’s dinner. They had loved that the muffins were made with honey from Ukrainian sunflowers, not to mention how good everything was.

Before I even knew how their numbers would fit into that tupperware for carrying, I had started arranging them like this and was so pleased when it came out in a way that just felt so right.

How did I not see that as a sunflower till now?



The first of many of those to come
Saturday January 28th 2023, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family

Our great-niece Margo turned one today, and her grandparents/my in-laws flew into town to celebrate with her other grandparents, who live about five miles from us. We had a wonderful evening of it.

The baby was willing to play peek a boo and laugh with me but wanted to do it from her mommy’s arms or the grandmother’s whom she knew best, and that’s so very normal for her age.

That hummingbird finger puppet with its attached flower, though: instantly it was hers and she was willing to crawl fast to get to it when need be.



Kale no we won’t go
Thursday January 26th 2023, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Good intentions.

He thought of a way to ask nicely, what possessed you? without putting it like that.

Frozen, that helps the texture soften, right? And it would be minced so finely you wouldn’t care. Dark green veggies are good for you! The flavor would be covered by all the parmesan I would heap on that bad boy and maybe some pizza type sauce too if that’s not enough to smother it. Or something.

Kale gnocchi from Trader Joe’s.

Back into the freezer it went.

But I’m going to sneak a few cubes into the microwave and try it out–tomorrow for sure.



Faked her out
Thursday January 19th 2023, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of the things I found during my looking at Zillow/considering/rejecting moving, was, the nicer the house, the more likely that there was a fake-fur blanket artfully diagonally draped across the foot of the bed in the master suite in the pictures.

A really, really nice one, realistic and with great depth and obvious softness.

Wirecutter, today’s answer to what Consumer Reports used to be, actually did a report on such and came away saying, If you want the ones that everybody actually wishes for there’s no way around it–you have to shell out the big bucks at the upper end stores. But oh, what you get…!

Soft Surroundings sells some and their reviews sounded great. They know they’re a popular item. They often tie them into some promotion or other around Christmas time. I snagged one of last year’s models for my birthday at 75% off.

When I was pulling it out of its shipping box, Richard was suddenly concerned and warned, You know you’re going to have to worry about red paint.

It’s a blanket!

Oh. Good.

But it looked that fur-real.

It was my turn in the sibling Christmas round-robin to give to my oldest sister this year as another of their ads hit my inbox. So now this year’s model was that much on sale.

I already had–but–those are so nice. It would be fun to surprise her with something her grandkids would love to snuggle up in at their house, to be able to contribute to future happy memories for them all.

After Christmas, she thanked me for the apricots from Andy’s.

So there we finally were in person, seated around Mom’s table enjoying Indian take-out that first night there, and I decided to ask her my nagging question I’d been avoiding, not wanting to put her on the spot if her opinion of it was nowhere near mine: So. Did you like the blanket?

She and her husband did this mid-spoon-lift stopped in their tracks startled jaw-drop and a loud exclamation of surprise: The BLANKET!!! YOU’RE the one!!!

She scrolled through her phone to show me pictures she’d taken of it and its matching pillow (for hers you got free shipping if you forked over $11 for the pillow, ie it cost $1, why not) that she’d sent to a dear friend. Nope, not her. She’d asked all her kids. She’d gotten an invoice (you blew that part Soft Surroundings) but no mention anywhere of who had paid it. It had been a complete mystery these three weeks and it was so nice and how do you not thank someone, but who?! They were all entirely stumped and it had been driving them crazy. She’d thought of me–but no way. It would be an afghan if it was from me!

Yeah, well, y’know, sometimes I cheat…

Yes. They did. They absolutely adored it. Even if it wasn’t handmade.

And they couldn’t wait to laugh with their kids over the mystery being solved at long last.



Snow, mobile
Wednesday January 18th 2023, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Before the trip, I watched the forecasts and worried out loud more than once about having to drive in snow and ice as it promised the rain would turn to little white stars on the screen very early Sunday and stay that way all day. It’s been 36 years since we had to drive in New Hampshire winters, were our reflexes still there? I remember going ice skidding.

I’d forgotten the basic fact that roads are dark and take longer to get frozen.

The rain held on longer than expected; it was a mixture going into church, all fat fluffy flakes coming out and starting to powder the ground, but the streets? They were wet. That’s all.

That could change, I thought, given that our flight wasn’t till seven.

And then after our lunch of Indian restaurant leftovers I found myself looking out Mom’s windows as I wished for every minute with her to last longer.

Watching the snow.

Gently coming down.

I had almost forgotten.

How peaceful it is to be warm and inside and watching the world slowly turn itself into a soft, quiet blanket, and what a privilege it was to get to do that with my mother. The top of the Capitol building a few blocks uphill from her disappeared into the cloud.

But then the skies threw their forecast to the wind and stopped: that was enough for now, don’t want you guys to worry, safe travels.

But I’d wanted it to keep going! Like that protest was going to get me anywhere.

We drove to the airport with no ice, no snow on the road, and headed off to Vegas airport (of which you have heard) and then home.

Where I wished that I could go back to watch the snow falling quietly alongside my mom and was glad we got to have that together while we could.



Crinkle wrinkle
Tuesday December 27th 2022, 6:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was going to tell her how she’d saved me: the audiologist (not the tech this time) got me in last week, fixed the issue of the air filter that had fallen out into my ear canal and blocked the sound (and got rid of some wax while she was at it), she reset the aids to be 1 dB louder, and best of all, she plugged them in for a software update.

So much better clarity! I could hear!

We were heading to a niece’s wedding tomorrow and since despite last week’s Arctic blast it was supposed to be in the 70s in Texas, I was going to wear the embroidered dress I’d gotten from Ukraine.

It’s gorgeous. It was priced well below some of its competitors, but I actually picked it because at the time it was the only one in that color and that pattern and I loved how it looked. The seamstress, in making the whole thing from scratch, altered the neckline a little bit for me and it came out perfect.

I decided to try it on one more time before packing it. It had been too cold to wear it here since I’d gotten it and I just wanted to admire it again.

Good thing I did. That thing was LOUD! Wait, what? Since when do clothes make sounds like that?!

I have a blouse from Ukraine with machine embroidery where they put a fine facing on the back side to hold the fabric steady as the colors were worked over it, so clearly at some studios that’s how it’s done.

I guess when you’re making do in wartime–well, this woman had used paper. You can carefully, slowly, tear it away from the backs of the stitches afterwards (and you’d better or you’ll clog your plumbing as it disintegrates when you wash it) but with limited light and power she hadn’t and with the sleeves, front, sides, and bottom all embroidered, I sounded like I was noisily crinkling up a big wad of paper with every step or movement of my arms.

I had tried this thing on before. I’d had absolutely no idea, I couldn’t hear it, wasn’t even aware the paper was there, I just thought it felt a little stiff because of all those embroidery stitches.

Now I could. Thank you thank you Dr. Clark.

Y’know, I thought, linen is just not a great thing to put in a suitcase when you want to look formal on the other side anyway. Forget that, and I grabbed something that wouldn’t wrinkle. Including an elegant hand-embroidered blouse from, you guessed it, Ukraine, no backing used.

I was going to tell her the gist of that with a laugh, and I still will, but…

I got a text from Southwest last night. I got another one this morning, but it’s kind of a moot point to cancel the second flight when you’ve already canceled the first, don’t you think?

They have thousands of people from last week still trying to get to where they’re supposed to go, so many suitcases that were boarded but the people were not, such a mess to untangle and that big storm so badly handled.

Three airports at our end, two at the other, and they had not one single seat available at any hour or price. Well, $6300 on another airline given the next-day ticket, and we actually know someone who’s paying one way of that plus a three hour drive across Texas because she absolutely has to get home, but to start the trip?

With apologies to our niece, I went to the post office to remove the hold on the mail.



Give it a ten
Sunday December 25th 2022, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

We had a wonderful, wonderful day, and I hope you all did, too. I’m just going to write about a little moment on the side because I’m never going to remember the details next year any other way. Maybe do 325 next time.

Hunk-o meat, we call it. If he wants a large cut he cooks it, an arrangement going back to when his widowed retired dairy farmer grandmother filled a large grocery bag with part of a cow out of her freezer and sent it home with us. T-bones? Broke newlywed students are supposed to know what to do with those?!

We’d gotten a James Beard cookbook as a wedding present and he had fun learning and in retrospect, I think that’s what his grandmother was going for all along.

We rarely eat beef these days. We’d rather the Amazon not be bulldozed for it. But at Christmas he likes to go big–even though it would just be the two of us this year, because hey freezers and leftovers and faster meals later and all that but whatever, he just really wanted that beautiful rib roast.

Start it high, Beard says, then after so long you turn it down.

He did all that.

Only… he had set a timer for the amount of time at 425 and later, since I was in the kitchen anyway, could I change the oven to 325–nah, make it 350 when it goes off.

Sure.

There’s the timer timer and the oven timer and he’d set the wrong one. The oven was now off. I turned it back on. No biggy.

It was about 20 minutes before I went, wait a minute…

I always use the lower oven because I am not a fan of standing on my tiptoes in front of major heat to see into the top of the thing.

He’s 6’8″ with a back that has opinions. There would have to be a really good reason before he’d ever use anything but the top one.

Duh. I turned his back on but it had already lost about half its heat. It, of course, went into full blast mode to make up for it.

Also, now the timer was and had to be the one on the thermometer and I couldn’t hear it at all, though I did hover nearby and rescued it at two degrees above what he was aiming for.

We really thought we were doing okay.

There is only one way to describe the result.

The beef.

It felted.

I think, on further reflection, that we ought to be able to measure felting levels and call them Kevlars.

Chicken and fish, I tell ya.



The 2007
Friday December 23rd 2022, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Our sweet old car just runs and runs and runs, which is a good thing because it’s still not a great time to replace it.

Last Friday, we pulled into the ice skating rink parking lot and turned it off.

The motor was still running.

He hit the Prius’s power button again.

Still running.

It IS in park… What… It took about six tries, with me wondering out loud just what we were going to do if it didn’t before it finally complied.

Is it KitchenAiding us? I asked, stunned.

No problems since. But it’s going into the shop after Christmas.

Meantime, the new mixer made it to the Central Valley this morning and is set to be delivered tomorrow, now that it’s outraced that huge bomb cyclone storm.

You all stay safe out there for me, y’hear? Please? So you can have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, alright now, sounds good. And Happy Hanukkah, too.

Edited to add, especially for those in the storm: a raccoon trying to catch snowflakes.



On beyond quilts
Tuesday December 20th 2022, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Happy Birthsday to my mom and grandson!

Meantime, there was a potluck at church for the women’s organization and I got to meet the mom and her two daughters of the family for whom we tied those quilts last Friday.

Sometimes you both need to talk about it and you need to have a chance to get away from it and as Ruth joined me and them at the table, we tried to offer both as the conversation flowed.

Have you seen the Stanford Museum?

Didn’t know there was one!

It’s got Egyptian artifacts collected by the young Leland Stanford Jr before he died–looting archaeological digs for the rich was in style in the late 1800s. It’s got a Rodin sculpture garden: you know The Thinker? (and I mimicked the stern face and hand on chin.) It’s there. And you can walk there (from where they were staying.)

Do you need anything, I asked at the last, thinking, because I would do anything. The mom crochets so I’d already, I hope, made clear that my yarn stash was wide open for them.

She looked at her daughters and how do you answer such an open-ended question, which I knew it was.

So then I said to these good folks who’d driven a long hard day’s drive to where they knew no one for medical care for her son, What you need though is a local number. Someone you can call. Here’s mine.



Dandelion beads
Saturday December 17th 2022, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Chocolate and pastries at Dandelion in San Francisco for the birthday celebration, by special request. I wanted that more than going out to dinner.

I thought I’d mentioned it here but I’m not finding it: in October I found a pattern for a dandelion gerdan being sold by its Ukrainian creator, but the only place selling a finished one anything like it was someone in India with scathing reviews warning would-be buyers away from having anything to do with the guy.

I only wanted to do it to support Ukraine anyway–that was the whole point.

Well, so maybe I should consider the idea. After all, I figure digital sales are safer than going to the post office there.

So I priced out beading looms and read up on various models and why and that led me to start wondering about the beads I already had and how good I might be at using them in a way I hadn’t previously considered, which got me to later ask the blog about what all those numbers mean, and thank you for the help.

But reality: moderate cataracts and corneal dystrophy. An inability to feel much in my fingertips. Chasing the really tiny beads around with a tiny needle? Thirty years ago, but not now.

So I asked the artist if she knew of any of her fellow countrymen making her pattern for sale. I said a little about Bloom County, how a dandelion field was its solace and spot of heaven, and how I think one of the best chocolate makers out there likely took its name from that comic strip.

It’s the Pogo of our generation, but I didn’t go into that much detail.

She considered a moment and told me, Yes–yes I think I can do that for you, sure, I’d be glad to.

Saying it that way completely endeared her to me: every knitter out there knows what a great compliment it is to the person we allow to jump our queue, and how they often never even know they did, much less how much it means.

She warned me it would take her over a week to make and I responded, I am in no hurry–I’m just thrilled that you’re willing to do this for me, thank you. Whenever works best for you in your schedule, you come first.

I signed for the package less than a month later, and in terms of mail from Ukraine in the middle of the war, that is lightning fast. I certainly can’t say she’d manage that the next time but she did on that one for me.

And that is how I came to own a dandelion gerdan to wear to Dandelion Chocolate today, where one of the staff exclaimed over it.

And where, as it turned out, we ran into a former co-worker of Richard’s whom he introduced me to. Sam, if you’re reading this, I apologize that I couldn’t hear a word in the noise. I tried hard. Richard explained to me afterwards that your in-laws card and weave wool and you’ve read my blog from time to time and what I wouldn’t have given to know that while you were right there to talk to! So cool! But at least I got to meet you, and you really tried, and thank you for that.



Up here in the Arctic
Wednesday December 14th 2022, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Frost on apricot.)

We were FaceTiming with the grandkids in San Diego who called for my birthday yesterday and the 7, 9, and 11 year olds (two of those numbers change next week) along with their 4 year old baby brother nodding solemnly were telling us that it had rained for two days and they’d had to stay inside to play. They need the rain, we all do, but…

I told them it had rained here, too, and had left a puddle.

And that the puddle froze. It was solid ice this morning!

ICE! I had their full attention. No such thing had ever happened at their house. (It helped that it had been a very shallow puddle.)

I said, Yeah, and when I went to change my clothes, you know there’s just this little flap of metal between the dryer hose and the outside. The underwear was in the dryer.

I topped off my tale with, I put on frozen underwear!

(Just in case you ever want to know how to make southern Californian kids go wide-eyed and then fall over laughing so long and so hard and so shivery as they imagined just what that would feel like. I think I just stamped a dominant Gramma memory for life on their childhoods. Ice cube undies, yessir. I am so going to hear about this at their weddings.)



To Mom with so much love
Monday December 12th 2022, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Oh. Wait. I spent my usual writing time not blogging but composing a thank you letter to Sola for making my mother so happy. (Typing fast.)

Mom got her package today (don’t look at the price tag Mom); her birthday is next week but I had told her don’t wait, go enjoy.

Once she saw it…!

She made herself stop and try on her new hand-embroidered vyshyvanka before calling me so she could say it fit–she knew it would and it did–and then realized that that intricate work was not even sweeps of blanket stitch but tiny X’s of cross stitch. Done by hand in Ukraine, all of it.

She ran to her friend’s apartment to show it to someone who would understand just how much work and how much love went into that and look at this!

Then she came back upstairs and picked up the phone and called me and was so happy I was almost in tears. This. This is why I did this. This is why Sola did this and what she was so looking forward to, too.

I didn’t get to go with Mom to her Christmas party tonight a plane flight away from me where she showed it off, but my heart sure did.



Holiday music?
Monday December 05th 2022, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Music

My cousin Jim, who does a mean Mick Jagger impression with his guitar, was gigglesnorting over this so I had to give it a listen.

Yonder deafened musician over here can still get the notes (or the gist of them at least) but the lyrics are lost to me. So I watch. The lady in the silver dress caught herself almost in time as she was cracking up while the guy next to her sang; the lady in the turquoise is totally hamming it up and she’s having a great time. Notice how she’s leaning away from the guy next to her so her long red hair doesn’t thwap him in her enthusiasm.

Back to the start of the video–there it is, briefly: ‘George Michael, “Last Christmas”‘? Okay, not familiar with that but let’s see if that’s actually the yuletime carol they’re singing like it is but their faces are saying it isn’t. (Googles the lyrics.)

Oh my.

Doesn’t that just break your heart. (No.)

Well then.

Carry on.



That is NOT how you do it
Sunday December 04th 2022, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Even if they’re grown only an hour away from here and we get them absolutely fresh, raspberries are like fish–you don’t wait all week to use them up, and we had a lot and I was bored with muffins so I decided to make a clafoutis. Then I decided to substitute the flour with almond flour just because I’d never tried that before. Maybe I wasn’t as bored with almond raspberry muffins as I thought I was. Whatever.

After putting it in the oven, I scraped the last tiny bit of batter onto a plate and stuck the last raspberry in the center and nuked it so I could at least get some idea of what I’d just done.

It’s what happened next that threw me so hard that I didn’t react as immediately as I should have to stop it.

I took it out of the microwave when its countdown was over…wondering what that sound was.

The thing was still going. With the door wide open. Deaf that I am, I put my hand on top of it to make sure I was feeling what I was hearing so I really was hearing it.

And still, that door was open. And I was standing right there. What?!

I reached towards it and hit the stop bottom. It kept going. NO! I stepped around it and unplugged it, kicking myself that it had taken me about seven or eight seconds to believe what was happening and to react rationally–who cares about the off button, make it be off!

I don’t seem to be cooked. (checks self again)

You need to test it, said hubby helpfully.

Yeah no babe. Uh. Uh. (like, are you crazy? why are you even saying that? i guess scientists gotta science)

But then I offered him cold leftover clam chowder and we both went no in unison to that idea, and I was in actual fact curious, so I did: I put it in the microwave. I closed the door. I plugged it in. I turned it on and stepped as far back as I could where I could still see the panel ticking off the seconds.

And it turned off at the end as one would have every perfect right to expect it to. Everything seemed peachy fine. I unplugged it, took out the chowder, handed him his, nice and warm, considered tomorrow morning’s hot cocoa and how much I hate standing still stirring at the stove while my blood pressure steadily goes down (80/40 before morning meds is where my normal starts)–and knew that if nothing else I will never leave that thing plugged in and unattended again.

I think we need a new microwave. (understatement alert)

Panasonic is OUT. Anybody got a recommendation?