I cobbled this post together from bites and pieces
Tuesday July 16th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Food

Grocery-store Rainier cherries to supplement (while trying not to insult) the last of (I knew I should have bought more) Andy’s Black Republican ones.

It’s a good thing I couldn’t find my cherry pitter last week. I still haven’t found it, which makes no sense except for the fact that now I’m really glad I didn’t.

Because it made me go looking for a better version–there had to be a better version out there than what I had.

Let me tell you how much better Sur La Table’s $11.99-on-sale version was than the $10 cheapo from Amazon: I pitted all those cherries in almost no time WHILE (stupidly) WEARING A SILK BLOUSE. Pardon me while I shout. I was daring myself to stop being so lazy and just go change my clothes and I continued anyway and it was fine. No cherry juice squirting all over the kitchen, no having to place each one just exactly so, no worrying about which size cherry went where: roll’em in, make sure they’re all in an indentation, cover and stab seven at one go, repeat to about 70 pits before you have to empty them out of the bottom part–and they do not get in the way underneath, unlike my old gadget.

Roll cover push roll cover push roll cover push look up that Washington Post cobbler recipe, done!

(Edit: Having run to try it out after posting this, it works for the bigger pluerries (plum/cherry crosses) too, although it’s harder work.)



They did it!
Monday July 01st 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life

A great big pot of applesauce with a very small blond boy standing over it, grin big and hand wide as if about to do an exuberant splashdown into that tasty goop: it’s not my kid so I’m not putting his face here, but it was a great photo and it made my day.

I passed Ellen’s recommendation on to the mom of the Victorio Strainer so she doesn’t have to cut the seeds out next time, and then promptly ordered one myself so we could both use it when the Fujis come on. My mom used to have something like that all my growing up, only big, metal, and heavy,  essential to her for getting tomatoes to the right texture for chili sauce; my tomatoes have started turning color (bird netting was applied today) and I was feeling nostalgic. Mom, what’s your recipe? I know you told me thirty years ago…

Plus, all those apple seeds.

So we will try out that new toy and hopefully it will last for generations like Mom’s. Thank you, Ellen!



Jenna
Sunday June 30th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

Yellow Transparent apples. I wrote a little note detailing how we’d come to have such a tree–a dwarfing rootstock grow-back after the main tree had died–and what the little things were like.

Great for applesauce. Terrible keepers–three days at the max but only in the fridge, one to two on the counter. Mushy. Small. Once a big commercial variety, now very rare (with good reason) but if you want a cooked apple, they taste good.

And then I posted that on the ward chat.

One person responded, and she said that as a matter of fact she’d been thinking of making some applesauce; she’d love to bring her little boys and come pick apples, what a cool idea!

They were all hers.

I think, when she and her husband laid eyes on the tree, that they were maybe wishing they had some competition, but hey.

And so this young couple and two adorable little toddlers ages 1 and 3 were here this afternoon with their padded bag and together we picked those apples. I added a few Meyer lemons and newly-ripe plums, because I could.

The one-year-old picked up a Santa Rosa plum, took a bite, and tossed it.

I laughed and explained that if you pit them and blenderize them, the skins are tart but the interior is sweet and it makes an effect like tart cherry jam.

As they were leaving and I was thinking of all. those. little. apples. she was going to have to core and peel (they asked if I use the skins in apple sauce, and I said I do in apple butter) I stopped her going by my front door and asked her to wait just a moment.

I dashed inside, pulled out the electric apple peeler and asked if she’d like to borrow it for a week?

The relief in her voice as she said YES! Thank you!

–Yeah, I should have offered that from the get-go.



And thanks for all the cheese
Saturday June 29th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Steve, owner of The Milk Pail, was offering raclette and other goodies and throwing a small impromptu party today at his much-loved shop, which closes forever tomorrow. There was the big bash with a band already, but he just wasn’t done saying goodbye to all the faces and stories he’d known for so many years, this place he’d put his life into.

Which meant these were hours when I knew he was going to be there.

I put on the sunblock and headed out. His wife and his daughters, too: they were all there.

And I only had the one. All this time I’ve been baby blanket knitting, ~90 hours’ worth of work so far, and I wanted to have four made. But I’m a do-one-project-till-it’s-done knitter, aside from the purse-friendly carry-arounds. Which this was, so at least my good intentions got that far: one would do when one was what I had.

And so, in memory of all that he’s given the community–Milk Pail has been an institution for 45 years–and of the good fight we fought together at City Hall, and most of all for the gift of his friendship and great example of how to be a truly decent human being, I gave him a handknit hat.

They loved it, all of them, because his happiness was theirs and I loved them for it.

Who now is going to put up a big sign in their grocery store saying this is their personal cost of a 25 pound bag of oats and if you put it on your bill, they will then deliver it to the local soup kitchen? Who is going to throw community cheese parties and melt that raclette right out of its rind onto your waiting bread? Where else can you order Thai Curry Cheddar (or even find out that it’s a thing?)

I could not let him retire without a bit of my knitting, I just couldn’t.



With a cherry on top
Friday June 28th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,LYS

Hung out at Fillory aka Green Planet Yarns and saw–Renee! We did a mutual double take in disbelief and then big hugs and it was great to see her and catch up a bit. We met when I was doing a book signing at Warren‘s yarn shop in Marin a dozen years ago, with a Stitches or two thrown in since.

Meantime, the pie is all gone and there are enough tart cherries for two more.

My my. Whatever shall we do.

(Burning the crust just meant we could skip the empty calories part, we figured. So: the new silicone crust-edge cover? Yeah no.)



For every spring forever after
Wednesday June 26th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

The friend who got a Blenheim apricot tree as a housewarming present sent me a picture of her tree with beautiful yellow fruit on it and told me she’d let her kids pick the first and ripest today and how joyful an experience it was for them all.

It completely, totally made my day.



Five pounds and more still on it
Monday June 24th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

I procrastinated picking them: I wanted my sister- and brother-in-law to see my little tree at its prettiest.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because I didn’t know just how deep a red those tart cherries could get to nor how big they could be nor just how good. After all, I’d only ever gotten a few in the tree’s young life and those had been picked early (it turns out) while trying to thwart the birds.

All I can guess is that putting sunflower seeds in the feeder for the first time in several years enticed them to eat that instead of my cherries; there were very few bites and the tree was loaded like it has never been before and it stayed loaded. Give it a few years’ growth and I’m going to have to ask friends to come help pick some for themselves. I don’t think they’ll mind. Fresh tart cherries are very rare in California–for a hundred years it was a given that there weren’t enough chill hours to grow them here.

Actually, some varieties, it turns out, you can. English Morello for the win.



Purple Wonders
Tuesday June 18th 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I have just a trio of strawberry plants in a planter as an experiment; they were a bit of a splurge and I wanted to see how they would do before I got more. Starting in January or February we get the occasional amuse-bouche from them: one for you, one for me. Or maybe we split an only. They aren’t terribly big.

June, though, is a strawberry’s favorite month.

My sister-in-law wanted to see how the yard looks like these days, so once the sun got low we did a little walk-around, her face lighting up again and again as I said our first pomegranates ever were beginning, our first good crop of tart cherries is about ready, we’ve got tomatoes kind of scattered around to test where the sun is best like the one hiding behind that sweet cherry over there.

She didn’t remember that we had a mango, and was intrigued.

Mandarin, cherry, peach, lemon, plum, fig, apple, pear…

“Is this where you fell?”

“Stepping over that, yes.”

Coming back she glanced at that pot, saw what I had not and exclaimed, “Oh! Strawberries!” A red one was peeking out from the leaves, and I lifted the netting tent off and handed it to her, looked around and found two more. That would make one for Richard, one for her, one for me.

I was going to take them inside and rinse them first (one pretends to be proper when one has company) but hers looked clean and she popped it right in her mouth, just like I do.

She stopped right there with a look on her face almost to pain. I was suddenly afraid she’d gotten a bad one–there’s a reason they call them straw berries and I don’t have any straw. I’ve lost a few to them sinking into the dirt and looking perfect on top while rotting out the bottom after a watering.

Quite unsure, I asked, “Is it good?”

She swooned. “Now THAT. Is a STRAWBERRY!!!”

Which is how she got the other two.



Skidmarks
Monday June 17th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Life

The good news is I got all the trees watered.

The bad part was stepping out of the tall raised bed that runs the length of the back, having my foot skid out from under me and going over and down.

Some people do tattoos. I do a more temporary cherry and plum version.

Meantime, I popped one of these in my mouth and confirmed that I do need to start picking them. I held off, though, so my sister-in-law could get to do it too when she gets here tomorrow, if she wants. Pie, anyone?



Loud restaurant
Wednesday June 12th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

How I managed to polish off nearly my entire big piece of whipped-cream-and-berry-stuffed birthday cake afterwards. (Happy 80th, Mary!)

It was the day of the annual lupus-group lunch before we close shop for the summer. We’ve gone to the same place three years now by mutual agreement.

And…the menu was the same as those last two times, pretty much. Those six lunch entrees. Everybody loves them but man, doesn’t the chef get bored?

I have this weird low-fiber diet as an ileostomy patient and have learned at the cost of a five-day intubation that I must not eat certain foods.

So.

Yeah their hamburger is the best I’ve ever had but c’mon. So I ordered an appetizer that was safe and asked what the soup of the day was. (Soup being cooked. Cooking breaks down fiber.) Beef? Sounds good, thanks, that, too.

The waiter left and I went, Wait. Did he say…  …Beet?

No, the others reassured me, He said beef.

It didn’t occur to any of us that there was a third possibility. Oops.

I have never had such a good cake with so many calories with so little guilt. Celebrated Mary next to me with gusto. We did it right.



Hunka hunka burning, Love! Ooh!
Saturday June 08th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

I put my favorite Mel and Kris hot cocoa mug in the microwave this morning, same as I always do, and turned my back to do something on the other side of the kitchen.

And suddenly wondered what that smell was. We’re talking maybe fifteen seconds here.

Richard came down the hall just then, going, Turn it off! Turn it off! Unplug it!

Smoke was pouring out of the microwave as we opened the door. And then the other doors, and the fan, and the skylight…

Is it just me, or does everybody have three different appliances spontaneously combust? Well not all at once, at least.

So did I knit today? I did not. I researched, I read endless reviews and reports, I went, Are you KIDDING me at Amazon’s saying they would ship that particular model in three to five months, and then I paid for the last one of these that Target had in stock so that nobody could beat me to it and drove over and picked it up so that I could have my hot cocoa in the morning without having to stand over a scorching pot again.

Do not stand between me and my morning cocoa. Three parts cocoa to one of sugar–I’m pretty hardcore.

Do you think we could start a microwave selfie fad?



Blueberry almond cake
Saturday June 01st 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Recipes,Spinning

Writing it down so I can find it later: I experimented to see if I could adapt my favorite blueberry cake recipe from chocolateandzucchini.com to use some of the freshly- made almond paste they sell at Milk Pail, with a higher almond and lower sugar content than any I know of.

For a few more weeks, anyway, till they shut down because Steve wants to retire. I need to find out where he sources it.

Okay, here it is:

Highly-Requested Blueberry Almond cake

Mix in one bowl:

1 2/3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In Cuisinart: the almond paste is sold in small random packages; I used .35 oz the first time and about .5 oz the second. Both worked, they were just a little different. So, pulverize it in a Cuisinart; add in 1 stick butter, sliced and at room temperature. (Note that Wayfare brand dairy-free vegan butter worked great, too. Now I have to find someone besides Steve who stocks it.)Whirr. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla, whirr, 1/2 c heavy cream (sour cream, plain yogurt, or going dairy-free, Kara brand coconut cream worked, too), then add 4 eggs and 1 c. sugar and whirr some more.

Add dry ingredients in. If you have a small food processor you might want to pour the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl first and add the dry in over there; one more thing to clean but easier to scrape into the pan, your choice.

Pour half into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover with four cups (don’t be stingy) of fresh, rinsed, patted-dry blueberries, then add the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle 1/4 c of brown sugar across the top and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

I made this for Richard on Monday and it was so good that he and Michelle asked me to make it again, dairy free so she could have some, and the Wayfare dairy-free whipped butter (butter beans are an ingredient. Who knew) with the coconut cream worked both in texture and flavor. I also happened to overdo on the almond extract a little that time and it obliterated any mention of coconut flavor.

Blueberries, almond paste, Wayfare, Kara coconut cream, sour cream, butter, and the particularly good versions of almond and Bourbon vanilla extracts: I have no idea what I’m going to do when that place shuts down. They are small but they have all the best stuff.

A funny story on the side: twenty-five years ago there was one single herd of Wensleydale sheep left in the world. Handspinners pitched in to try to help save the breed; I’m not the only one who bought ten pounds of their wool, and I’ll have a hand spun coat just as soon as I finally finish that button band in time for the SpinOff Magazine Rare Breeds Contest. Of 1999. Well anyway. So, I was at the doctor’s waiting room working on it once and someone with a British accent came over to sit next to me and ask me about my knitting.

The yarn was a new thing to her, and so I told her it was Wensleydale I’d spun.

Wensleydale! She smacked her lips loudly. That’s good eating!

I was so not expecting that reaction. I was speechless. I knew they ate a lot of mutton over there… I had no way to respond to that.

It wasn’t till years later that I found out what she’d been talking about and had a good laugh at myself and wondered what she’d thought I’d been thinking.

All of which I was reminded of last night as I made toasted cheese sandwiches with Wensleydale with cranberries. From Milk Pail.

Thank you for all these ingredients all these years, Steve!



Yarn then chocolate. Priorities.
Monday May 27th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,LYS

Alarm went off, we got up, got ready, got out the door, got onto the main road…

And in a split second of wait, where is everybody, had a good guffaw at ourselves and turned back into the neighborhood. Oops. Yeah we had a nice vacation day Friday but today’s one, too, remember? Not to mention what it was a remembrance for. With real thanks to all those who’ve served and the differences they’ve made.

Not long after that he asked me what I wanted to do with the day, then, now that we had it.

Well, we’d already avoided holiday beach traffic for good reason, so I threw out an in-my-dreams: Imagiknit and Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco.

Was I serious?

Well, actually, yeah, I’d love, but only the purest of love would make him offer to take me to a yarn store, much less one that far away… I’d bought these three extra skeins at Fillory that were just plain too off to feel good trying to mix dye lots with and I’d been trying to reconcile myself to the thought of not only buying more but buying quite a few more. That project devours yardage. And I had to see it in person.

Imagiknit’s website said they had nine. If it didn’t work we could check Cottage on the way back to see if they’d gotten more in stock. So because my husband really is that much of a peach, off we went. And he knows that that’s one yarn store I particularly do not get in and out of quickly even when I’m trying to be good–they have all my favorites. And I so rarely get there.

I spread the afghan-so-far on their counter and the young woman manning the register pronounced, simply, Wow.

That right there made it worth the trip to San Francisco.

The other, gray-haired woman went looking for the last skein but it had apparently been bought while we were on our way there. She sent us to the second room with the stronger lighting to get a better look at the colors, apologized about that missing skein and said that if we call ahead next time they’re happy to reserve… I assured her it was okay.

I had the afghan spread out again and this time Richard took a good look at it.

I’d bought ten? That’s four skeins? That’s not enough! he said decisively (he was right), and urged me to buy all seven they had that matched.

This time, (with the shop’s permission), I took one of theirs outside into the direct sunlight to see if it matched there, too. I’d made that mistake a week ago and I wasn’t going to repeat it.

The one difference, which the older woman pointed out, was that the shop’s was more nearly solid of a color while mine had more little bits where it was lighter here and there.

I could alternate rows.

The purple was the right purple, and what were the chances I’d get that so perfect anywhere else. I bought them.

They had a ball winder and swift set-up but winding the skeins was a do-it-yourself over in their classroom space. Back to the brighter room.

I had memories of friends telling me their ball winder’s gears had been stripped by people who’d cranked it too hard and the wrong way. I was not about to ruin theirs, and I’d kept him long enough; I was ready to just go.

But it was a mechanical thing, and mechanical things are toys to entice and figure out and use and feel great about and my ever-loving sat down with that first skein, got the nod from the woman to make sure he was doing this right, and set to it.

Six skeins later his arm was getting tired and he asked if I’d mind doing the last one. Not at all.

He got to wind the soft wool for his baby granddaughter in happy anticipation of getting to meet her soon, and being able to be participate in that afghan meant a lot to him.

Four hours of knitting later, sun light, artificial light: if I didn’t know where the second dye lot comes in every second row, I wouldn’t know of it at all.



Ten bars and a bit of extra
Wednesday May 15th 2019, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Holly’s coming tomorrow.

If I needed an excuse to start a batch of chocolate, that was a good one.



Parfiankas!
Thursday May 09th 2019, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

The Yamagami Nursery guy’s favorite variety.

Somehow I completely missed them before today. I had been a little disappointed that my pomegranate had decided it needed a full third year’s growth before producing anything, unlike my friend Jean’s that gave her enough to share at two years old. She couldn’t remember what type she’d bought but they were so good that I’d bought a tree myself and I’d hoped I could compare with her and maybe even see if I could find the name for hers thereby.

She’s 93. I’m in a bit of a hurry.

I’m sure she bought a bigger, potted specimen; my four-inch-sleeve one was, um, cute, the last one they had, and given how flimsy the branches still are it made sense that mine wasn’t ready.

Plants flower most where the sun shines brightest and every day I’ve been looking out the window at the new leaves across the top of the tree behind the barbecue grill, wondering when it was supposed to flower and wishing for some sign that it would.

So someone explain to me how it is that they were all tucked away at the bottom and underneath, so out of sight that even with those colors I didn’t see anything while watering the thing? How did I miss these? They were all on the morning-sun side, at least.

Because this evening I discovered bright orange petals on the ground, a few flowers still on the tree–and a few actual tiny pomegranates! Eight in all! Richard, Richard, guess what, we get to taste our new Parfiankas this year after all!

Jean’s been ill these last few weeks. Something to look forward to will be a good thing.