Tuesday May 02nd 2023, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Dear Whole Foods,

This is how much I wanted fresh sour cherry pie: we drove an hour over twisty, nail-biting mountain roads to Santa Cruz to a nursery that had a single English Morello tree left and set aside for me and then we did that drive in reverse. I cleared out gravel that went a foot deep, left behind by the former owner’s gardening plans. I planted it. I watered it. I rescued it from a huge Japanese beetle invasion by scouring the Internet and then a friend scraped off his barbecue grill for me and I scattered the ash on the beetles at night and watched them fall off dying and turning into fertilizer to put back the leaves they’d stripped off that tree.

And it survived. But fruit was a long way off; it took two years before it actually started growing.

It’s doing great now, thanks for asking, and even in the drought we got ten pounds of those little cherries the last two years, enough to invite friends to help with the picking for their own pies.

And I learned: you really really want to pit every one of those tiny things by hand before you throw them in the freezer for Christmas baking. Trust me, you do. So I spent hours pushing down with all my weight on that pitter to get them to skewer the way they were supposed to skewer: no pit left behind.

There were none. Go me.

Now, I don’t go to your store all that much but I do appreciate how easy it is for my dairy-allergic child to find what she needs there, and so it happened that I had a twinset of your pie shells in the freezer for her. “Palm fruit” rather than palm oil? Give your marketing crew my regards.

Now, one would think that after driving over dangerous Highway 17 to get that tree, planting the tree, taking care of the tree, picking the tree, pitting the cherries, and freezing them in two-pound pre-pied amounts that I would also go to the bother of making my own d*** pie crust, but, today, I did not. My tree is in bloom, there’s more fruit coming soon to make way in the freezer for and heck, I just wanted to taste that goodness again. Badly.

I know that you’re trying to Save The Earth (TM). I know that you don’t want those earthmoving monster trucks to dig any more metal out of this beautiful planet than they have to, or heck, maybe you use recycled Cadillacs, I dunno, but I think that maybe–just maybe–you might want to think about having those aluminum foil pie tins be a little bit thicker.

Because: this is the tricky part, lean in close, I want you to hear me on this one: when you put the filling into that crust, or indeed when you take the culmination of your glorious work out of the oven, the tin underneath isn’t supposed to, indeed for the satisfaction of your customers absolutely cannot, accordion itself in the center and flop over like a dying fish.

Chinette paper plates are far stronger than your attempts at playing heavy metal.

Picture taken before I dropped my phone in the goo charging side down.

What on earth were they afraid of
Saturday April 08th 2023, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

His migraine. So I ran off to Safeway to try to buy a leg of lamb for Easter, but there wasn’t much to be found but flapping tags and empty shelves. So I did what I could and yes that ham was, um, cute. Definitely for people who don’t like leftovers.

But he wanted it to be what he wanted it to be more than I’d realized, and after a few hours of psyching himself up and a quick toasted cheese sandwich each to keep us from shopping hungry we found ourselves heading for Costco quarter after 5. They close at 6 Saturdays, normally; today, turns out, they made it 7. Because customers.

Going to Costco on a Saturday is never my thing and going right before Easter Sunday was really not my thing and I simply wasn’t going to, but if he was that determined even while feeling like that then of course I would go with him.

And he found one!

A few goodies in the cart, a few practical items, and then I headed for the lines while he went looking for one last thing.

It felt odd. Most of the lines were now self-checkout, but a number of people were like me and wouldn’t use those. And yet…

Well if they’re not going to get in this one I certainly am, look how fast that woman is scanning things and her bagger is tag-teaming with her to speed it up. They’ve got this down! Wow, I’m going to look for them next time.

And yet.

Even though it kept becoming the shorter line, people were coming up, and in an echo of what I’d seen on approaching that I hadn’t quite put my finger on, were starting to turn in behind me and then abruptly pulling away into the other lines that were quite a bit longer, and at one point there were five people waiting there and there that I could see while my stuff was going onto the conveyer as they rang up the guy in front of me, and still nobody was getting behind me. And now another person coming up started to, took a look, and moved into one of the longer lines, too.

The clerk was an older heavier black woman. The young bagger was mixed race and part black.

And the people who turned away out of her line after they saw her, every single one of them was Asian.

This is not to stereotype. This is to report what I saw. Note that the guy in front of me was Asian. But it took me straight back to the college American history class where the professor said that one of the things about immigration to the US over the centuries is that unless they were black, every newcomer had someone they could punch down at and wrongly think they were better than. (Edited in the morning to add by way of explanation, 64% of the local Asian population are immigrants, and by their accents at least some of these were.)

Finally, a Hispanic man turned in behind me, quite happy to somehow snag the short line on such a day.

She was checking me out now. I had to do something. I made a point of looking her in the eyes and saying, “You are amazing. You are so fast. Thank you!”

I saw in that moment that she’d been keeping it all in check but at those kind words and the noticing implied behind them, she suddenly nearly burst into tears and she thanked me, the  bagger thanked me, too. We could have given each other a hug on the spot if the counter hadn’t been in the way.

I left wishing them a happy Easter and meant it as fervently as I ever have (even while thinking, I should have said and Passover and Ramadan, too, since they all come together this year and you never know.) They both wished me one as well, and clearly meant it, too. I felt befriended.

I know I’m choir-preaching here, but, man, just go love one another. What else matters? I wanted to tell those people who made their bigotry visible how much they were missing out on because that is one gracious, lovely woman there who was trying her best to give them a better day in the one way given her to do so, and the young man, too.

I am so glad we went to that store when we went to that store near the end of her day. Richard had no way to know that’s the real reason he so strongly felt we had to go there.

And that going at the last minute was the only time to go.

Well of course!
Tuesday April 04th 2023, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dislike the drive (freeways in San Francisco are a mess, the Cypress Structure that collapsed in the ’89 quake was never rebuilt) dislike the driving around and around for blocks to find a parking space but for Dandelion Chocolate and celebrating a birthday? Count us in.

And so she and I did. We decided to make it a to go in order to get away from someone who was coughing, but not before getting some finger puppets to some parents whose little kids were antsy waiting for their cocoa. Brought goodies home for her dad.

As we were sitting at the table at home munching away and sipping the last of the hot chocolate I gave a nod towards the calorie count of the day.

Her: When you’re 60 you should just enjoy life!

I guffawed–as she instantly realized her math was off. Oh wait…

“When I’m 64!” (thank you Paul McCartney.)

At that point we both lost it and laughed ourselves breathless. She topped it off with, You should just enjoy life! Not every day! (gesturing towards the Dandelion bag), but, enjoy life!

But see, that’s why I brought a few of their bars home. So we could break off a small bite. Every day! And when we run out we’ll just have to go back. Right?

Springing up
Saturday March 18th 2023, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden

You wait and wait and wait and then it all starts at once.

The fig tree sprouted not only leaves but six breba figs on its first day awake today: they are the spring fruit that precede the main August crop. I got one last year. Whether it’s the tree getting older or all the rain, it just delights me beyond reason that we won’t have to wait so long to taste a ripe fig again.

And then another Anya apricot went from this morning’s will it or won’t it sprout to–look at that! That makes three good ones and one dying out of 16 planted, but they’re not done yet. (Picture of three week old one, 3.5″ tall/4″ across as gauge swatch.)

The one whose first leaves snagged in the kernel coating got some of its relentlessly tiny true leaves blown off in the windstorm a few days ago before I snatched it inside, too late. That did it. It’s toast. So to see this new one coming up so green and so fast was a relief; I have local friends hoping for a seedling but I have to make sure they’ll grow first and at half a day old these leaves are as big as that other one’s ever were. Yay!

And hey, Afton? We finally finally started that batch of chocolate. Esmeraldas from Ecuador. Dandelion definitely does it better than I do but hey. Basically, I woke up grumpy after a long insomniac night and then figured out the best way to make it better to everybody.

Homemade chocolate is where bad tempering is okay just the same.

Look at the flip side
Thursday March 09th 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

Four peach trees just starting to burst into bloom in sync with each other, which never happens. Just as the deluge begins. Hey honeybees, work fast for me, willya?

So, confronted with a bag of thawed cranberries from Michelle’s freezer, I reacted as one does: I baked. I used her Miyoki cultured vegan butter and skipped the baking soda in the recipe, although it probably is the one thing that needed it if anything does but given my antipathy to it nothing does, so, anyway, so I did that. I squeezed out nearly a quarter cup of Meyer lemon juice (glad to pick and use up two off that tree, so many dozens more to go) and shorted the unsweetened oat milk accordingly. (The dairy allergy thing.) I added a tablespoon of Penzey’s powdered lemon peel rather than grating the ones off the tree because Meyers may have the best lemon juice but the white pith is very bitter.

That’s my excuse for that laziness.

So those were the changes I made to the cranberry lemon cake recipe. I made 24 cupcakes out of it. 350F, 25 minutes was just right, and that brown sugar on the bottom and cranberries on top of it was heavenly.

I can only imagine how much better with real butter and buttermilk these could be, but they were very good as is and that time will come all too soon. It’s great to have her home.



Why I stuck a stick in the ground a few years ago
Sunday February 26th 2023, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Food

$10 on bare-root-season clearance, as I remember.

It got pushed behind and forgotten: the bag with two pounds of frozen pitted sour English Morello cherries from our tree that I’d had thawing in the fridge.

It would be criminal to let those just sit there too long. No I didn’t have a pie crust, no I didn’t want to make a pie crust.

Make a crisp? he offered.

There’s too much of it; all those juices would turn it into soggy oatmeal. But the thought clarified what was at stake here. These deserve the right textures.

I did, I wanted that pie enough. And I knew an hour’s worth of picking and pitting had already gone into brightening up the anticipated rainy winter grays, and that’s what we had and will have over the next ten days and these were ready right now.

I made that crust.

Worth every minute.

Nutting to see, move along
Sunday February 19th 2023, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I wasn’t walking anywhere today if I didn’t have to. That foot needs to be looked at.

So. I have the assignment at church again of keeping the mother’s nursing lounge stocked with chocolate. One new mom, on finding out I was the one doing that, requested that the chocolate almonds continue, so now there are always some of those and if nuts are the thing then toffee pistachios go in there, too.

We arrived this morning with me thinking how much I wished Jen would just somehow appear and take the bag from me and take care of it. She’s the one who asked me post pandemic to start doing that again–there would be no having to explain to her what this was about. (We do not want little kids overhearing and figuring out how to raid the stuff.)

The door to the chapel opened, and out stepped–Jen herself. Sometimes miracles come in the most improbable packages. All taken care of.

After church, I spotted a young mom nearby and asked her if she could go retrieve the bag and chocolates for me so I wouldn’t have to walk across that long room and back.


And then I waited. And waited. I figured she ran into a friend in there and they were having a conversation and that was fine by me, no hurry.

And maybe she was.

But she looked a little abashed at swallowing that last little bit as she walked back towards me. My grin got the better of me and then I was laughing. Have some more! It’s what it’s for, to be enjoyed! Plus, a quick snarf of good chocolate in a quiet room when your little kids have no idea, can’t pester you for any and won’t ruin their lunches–that sounds pretty perfect to me. I was very glad she got to enjoy some. Call it a commission.

She handed me the cotton bag and still had an ‘I can’t believe I did that’ look on her face so I tried again to make sure she knew that it was all totally fine by me. Any time. And thank you so much for the help with my foot!

That bag is clearly going to be our future private in-joke forevermore.

It was a surprise gift from a vyshyvanka seller in Ukraine.

So good
Friday February 17th 2023, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knit

Four Colourmart cones got wound up on the Kromski niddy-noddy for scouring today and it felt like quite the accomplishment. That green cashmere won’t be marinating in the stash very long.

The replacement box came 24 hours after the factory sent it out into the world and it arrived in perfect condition.

Dandelion had made a set number of these sets and then had had to come back and recreate just the one just for us and I don’t know how they did it, but they did it.

And let me tell you. It is so very very good. We managed to pace ourselves and save some for the next day or two, but it was hard.

From left to right: figs stuffed with spiced ganache and covered in chocolate. Truffles. Chocolate drag’ee peanuts. Coconut chocolate crisps. And yes, the peanut version of nutella came with its own little metal spoons for two. So perfect.

Thank you, L. and A.! And thank you, Dandelion!

I had a great title for this post but I don’t remember what it was
Tuesday February 14th 2023, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(The top straightened out after blocking. I was running low on yarn and stopped there and never did take a finished picture of the beach, the shorebird tracks across it at the sides, the steps going up the hillside, the opening in the base of the redwood trunk to the right big enough to read a book to the child in, the raptor above. This was for a California baby with multinational grandparents. I was trying to make the design with as few yarnover holes as possible for the baby to tug hard at and I only had this 50/50 cashmere/cotton yarn in the one color.)

So. The second box.

The held mail had been delivered in one of those big white Post Office bins, like they do–and it was full of leaves and clearly had been outdoors for some time. Not sure how that happened given that I had opened the front door to the mailman seconds after he’d put it down, and there are no tree leaves left around here anyway.

I was exclaiming over the quilt and the incredible and unexpected generosity of my old high school friend Susan (thank you so so much!!) and almost forgot it in my excitement–but at last, oh, right! it was time to open the second surprise box.

The printed gift note said thank you for the blanket for Alice.

I took it to Richard going, Do we know someone with a baby named Alice? An adult? Did I get someone else’s package? We compared notes. No, her baby’s Emma. No, that’s…

Finally I happened to turn the note over to the back and wait, there was more.

They’d announced their baby girl’s arrival when she hadn’t had a name yet, and then since we weren’t in the range of close friends we never did hear and that was okay. It was from Michelle’s close friend from high school, the one I’d made the California afghan for.

Inside their thank-you gift was the once-a-year special that Dandelion Chocolate does in February, with three boxes inside for parts 1, 2, and 3 of celebrating a particular origin cacao, which this year happens to be a particular favorite of mine. Sent from the factory in San Francisco.

Now for some back story: when Michelle was working in San Diego, L. was single and living in San Francisco and every time our daughter flew into town, they met up at this nearby new shop that had just the best chocolate ever.

That is how we heard of Dandelion. So when I found a book by them, I bought it for her for Christmas. Amazon then went, People who bought this also looked at… And that is how we ended up giving a melanger to ourselves for Christmas and started making our own.

Which will never live up to Dandelion’s but we did learn a lot about cacao varieties. We’ve gone up there for fun and special occasions ever since. Favorite place, wonderful people, happy memories, the best pastries, and it was a total delight when the NY Times put them in their top 10 chocolate makers in the country.

I didn’t see the big hole in the side while opening it. I did quickly see the ones in two of the three inner boxes; I started to lift them out and open them and hastily put them back in and that’s when I saw the side of the shipping box.

Rodents had not only gone after that sweet food at the post office, but the proliferation of shredded wrapper paper after they’d gotten inside meant THEY WERE STARTING A NEST IN MY CHOCOLATE. This expensive, exquisite chocolate that the givers had spent a small fortune on.

What do I DO with this?

Tie it up in a plastic bag, he offered helpfully.

Okay. Did that. (Like they couldn’t chew through that? Who are we kidding?)

It seemed inadequate and even that word is itself inadequate, and a few minutes later I came up with the brilliant idea that baby mice (in case there were any) couldn’t jump high enough to get out of the bathtub, so I put the bag in that. (If baby rats can, don’t tell me.) I did not want more critters chewing through the plastic trash and recycle bins outside–and they can if they want to enough. But most of all, I did want to be able to take more pictures if the post office required proof. And there clearly weren’t any adult critters running around this thing now.

So now I knew why the mailman was in such a hurry not to talk to me–there wasn’t much he could do about it anyway.

With a late-to-the-party thought a little later, Richard casually opined, It could have fleas in there.

AAAAAAAGHHHHHH!!!! I ran to wash my hands just because it was something I could do.

I sent Dandelion a note explaining the situation and that I did not want to tell the people who had done this very very nice thing for me–but they needed to talk to the post office. And could I possibly get a replacement?

Because much though I love their work I, I, I just can’t…!

I got a very nice note back today about trying to make it right.

And then I sent them this picture and they went oh my that is exactly how you described it.

I had already checked–the Esmerelda’s Special is sold out.

They are scheming with the team to figure out how to make a whole new set just for us.

They are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

So now we get to be surprised all over again and find out what they come up with. But whatever it is, it’ll be good.

And now they know why I offered to drive up there to have it not go through that post office again.

Also, pie
Wednesday February 01st 2023, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

(Sunflower rolling pin here. I much prefer their big size.)

There was some blue cashmere that has been in my stash with the start of some forgotten thing for several years now and today somehow finally felt was its day: I went to see what there was of it.

Not much. The cast on, enough stitches to connect the ends–and a merciless tangle of yarn and dropped stitches.

Nuts to that. I started over.

By the end of the new cast on I knew why the thing had never gotten anywhere: the raspy needle and that grabby yarn were the worst enemies. I didn’t want to knit even the first row till I’d found a different pair.

I found a very slick circular. Size 6.


That was the one I’d finally finished yesterday’s project on, where the needle was too slippery for the very slippery yarn and so it had taken me forever to make myself get it done.

All I’d needed to do the whole time was swap the two out.

Switch, swatch, I was making a botch


(Note to self: next time you fill ten pounds of flour into the container, don’t drop it. And if you do drop it, don’t aim it upwards at your cashmere sweater. And if you do, just hope the neighbors’ security camera didn’t record the pouffy cloud you shook off outside the front door. Also if anyone knows the best way to carefully clean the rest of the flour out without making glue please reassure me that I do, in fact, know how to hand wash sweaters.)

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?

Musical interlude
Friday January 27th 2023, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,History

So I did, I had some of those kale gnocchi cubes for lunch, and they were okay enough.

Meantime, I have heard for decades descriptions of Yoko Ono’s screeching. I always thought that was just a put-down of her singing. I had no idea. My stars. (Chuck Berry’s face!)

Which leads to, as YouTube does, John Lennon and Chuck Berry doing Johnny B. Goode and decades after that, Berry reprising it with Julian Lennon and telling him how proud he was of him and that he was going to tell his dad when he sees him. Wow.

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.

Sunday January 22nd 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Life

The day began with the news of the unspeakable horror of the mass shooting at a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in southern California.

I kept thinking of my friend Jean’s 90th birthday party a half dozen years ago where her grandkids brought out a long elaborate paper dragon, bright red and yellow and held high to celebrate properly as they waved it up and down racing around the room in sheer joy. Their grandmother had survived Pearl Harbor as a teen. And so they themselves had come to be. She is with us yet.

That is what Chinese Lunar New Year should be about: a shared celebration of all that is good in life.

This afternoon, the doorbell rang.

It was our newest neighbors across the street, the mom and her two young kids–with her daughter holding out a tray covered in little things that were inviting but unfamiliar to me.

I was having a hard time hearing and I did not want to get this wrong.

It was Chinese New Year, they explained, and it seemed they wanted me to pick one of these. We are going around to the neighbors, the mom said; this is what we do on this day.

I said that I was unfamiliar with the tradition and wanted to make sure I got this right (while thinking, Richard, come!)

He had heard the bell and the voices and he did just that, he came up behind me and I got to introduce him.

Her little boy made a point of moving a step to the side to be right opposite my 6’8″ husband and looked up and up and up at maybe the tallest man he’d ever seen up close and thought it was so cool and they both enjoyed that moment together very much.

Pick one, they explained. And they thanked us for the pomegranates I’d brought them from my tree a few months ago.

I briefly touched a package holding what seemed like a baker’s rendition of a golden sand dollar and asked the daughter holding the tray, Which one would you pick?

The mom picked that one up and the two others like it arrayed like a set and held them out: I saw your daughter! Does she live here?

A few cities away but yes, in this area.

(Of course, my mother always taught me anyway that it’s good manners to take the one you touched so it felt just right that she wanted us to have those for each of us.)

Because this is what they do on Chinese New Year. They visit their neighbors. They share sweets. They made sure we had plenty.

They offered love and connection as a way of being in the world.

There were two wonderfully crunchy cookies in that first little packet and we can both attest that they were delicious.

Man is it coming down
Wednesday January 04th 2023, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

An inch so far today, with two more by tomorrow night. And the wind!

Friends a few cities over have lost power. We haven’t so far, but it did have me deciding dinner was going to be some of the more expensive food in the freezer: it should be enjoyed, not worried over.

And so the stuffed chicken breasts are in the oven and the thought occurred to me that if the lights go out now, what would we do.

That little creme brûlée torch that was his favorite Christmas gift a few years ago. Can you cook chicken parts with it? Here, let’s just pry open that center there with a fork and melt that cheese… That would work. Right?

(Update 9:00 pm: It sounds like a large branch of a tree is being dragged across the roof by the wind, resting a second, gusting and dragging almost right away again. It is loud out there. And I am not used to hearing much of anything as being loud.)