Worth a try
Saturday November 28th 2020, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

The problem with buying pie crusts and liking yours really thin so that you really only use half of a one is that then you have to do something with the other half.

In other words, Thanksgiving was two days ago and with no company to serve it to, today’s when I felt like baking pies.

The cherry one: I told Richard its heart didn’t break, rather, it was waving an oven mitt, saying, Get me out of here before I overbake!

The date/pecan one, done in part because I bought a five pound box of dates for $12 and now I have to use them up: both in appearance and texture it takes me straight back to our grad school days, when a friend from southern Virginia shared a version of pecan pie she said everybody made around the area where she grew up. She wondered if it was specific to there, though, because since coming to college she hadn’t found anyone else who’d ever heard of it.

Instead of the usual corn syrup, it had…

…are you ready for this?

…A drained large can of pinto beans run through the blender for some time and two sticks (!) of butter.

Enough sugar and butter and just about anything tastes good. I even made it a second time, but pecans were expensive and I really felt I should use them on something more universally celebrated at our house.

So, this pie: two tablespoons of butter is a lot easier on the guilt. Ground dates/corn syrup/eggs/pecans–I think we can justify having that for breakfast for a few days.

And then it will fade into history with those pinto pecans.

—-

Ohmygoodness. Judy’s recipe and name are forever written in the back of the 1952 Betty Crocker I bought at a garage sale when I was a senior in high school in anticipation of college. It was THE college cookbook for me. I wrote this post wondering where life had taken her over all these years, and then went over to Facebook–and found her! That was worth baking a date pie for, for sure!



Bringing out the best in it
Friday November 27th 2020, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Now that we’re officially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t think I’ve told this story here before, and it’s worth telling again if I have. With thanks to Anne for sending me a video of someone playing an intense organ piece and prompting this; my son Richard minored in organ performance.

My grandmother was a concert pianist. I inherited her musical talent but my hands did not–they’re the one dyslexic part of me, wanting to reverse notes at random until I practice and practice to the point of forcing muscle memory on them.

My son Richard is all Gram. He’s good. Hum a tune, he’ll embellish it at the piano with all ten fingers going at once and improvise it into a whole new thing, any style you want.

In college he had to go to a practice room on campus in order to play. Those are reserved for music majors at all times–in four years on that campus I found an open piano room twice. He *needs* his keyboard time in a way that I didn’t quite.

Coming home at Christmas meant the piano was right there and all his. It’s an old one of Gram’s; she bought it for their DC apartment when her husband was elected to the Senate before I was born, a very good upright, but it just wouldn’t do and she had to have her grand. She gave the upright to my folks and it got passed down to me.

One holiday season when Richard was in college, the guy I’d hired to tune it ever since we’d moved here just didn’t have time to fit me in–right around Thanksgiving he gets booked up fast because everybody wants to be ready for get-togethers.

And then, bless him, Neil decided he would squeeze me in anyway. It would be a quick tune-and-run, though, no time to catch up on life.

That was fine, and thank you!

So he came. He tuned. I thanked him, we wished each other the best and he was off.

A few days later my son flew home, finals done, the house ready for Christmas, and sat down at that piano and let’er rip in loud, exuberantly happy music all over the keyboard.

About a minute into it (and having him in on this with me) I dialed the phone and when the call was answered, said, This is Alison–and held the phone towards the piano as Richard grinned and really let’er rip. That piano had never sounded so good.

Neil, listening, said with great emotion, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me!”

The music got just a little softer (because the kid knew his mom needed the help hearing on the phone), I wished Neil and his a Merry Christmas and he me and then we let each other go back to our families, the moment never to be forgotten. I was and am so grateful for his kindness.



The fruit of the tree
Friday November 06th 2020, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Ours is a sweeter variety than some.

It was facing the house so I could see the line across its deep pink fruit from inside, the sign that it was just starting to split: that this one was ripe. At last.

Would you like a pomegranate? I emailed my elderly neighbors who are both fighting cancer while doing all they can to dodge this virus; I haven’t seen her at all in awhile. I said, I’ll put on gloves and mask to pick one. I won’t touch it or breathe on it.

She answered. It seems a lot of bother…but they would love. And could I take the vase she would put out on her front step? Someone had brought her flowers. She knew I liked to give flowers from my garden and she knew she would not be using it again.

I’d love to, I answered, my heart stopping a little at that last line.

Latex gloves, mask, pruning shears because the tree requires it.

The vase was already there as I stepped through our gate and over to next door. It was beautiful. I left the fruit at the bottom of their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to bend down quite so far as the single step below.

And came home grateful that my toddler-aged tree had given us such a gift.



Happy Halloween
Saturday October 31st 2020, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I figured there would certainly be no trick or treaters this year of all years.

Till the new next door neighbors set up quite the Halloween display. It’s marvelous. Maybe some little kids would get to enjoy Richard’s pumpkin after all? Since we’re right next to such awesomeness. I had to go out to pick up prescriptions anyway, so I finally bought some Halloween candy.

I decided to sweep away the cobwebs along the front walkway: you’re only supposed to have fake ones up to celebrate with. Might as well do that part over there on the other side of the gate, too, even if no one will see it but me.

There were sounds of happy kids in their back yard as I worked and it took me straight back to when our kids were the little ones and the empty-nester in that house had been the one enjoying hearing them all those years ago. The Halloween where they didn’t show because the three who were old enough to had stomach flu, we found out she’d been waiting waiting waiting for them to come by. But they hadn’t. The next day she knocked on our door with the See’s Candies treats-filled paper haunted houses she’d bought just for our kids, one for each, and she was hoping they were okay? Sandy rocks.

Good people live in that house.

The last section of fence between us fell down months ago in the taking out of the silk oak that had been lifting it up; it was repaired, it went splat again, it just needs an entire do-over. We’ve talked about jointly replacing it, but for now there’s six feet at the corner left simply open. My house and yard angle away from it such that you can’t actually see much from there anyway unless you come through from their side.

I always wondered when curiosity would get the better of the nine year old and tonight it appears I got my answer: when someone else’s kid wants to.

I looked up to see turquoise shorts starting to come my way through the wispy drooping leaves of my Chinese elm and exclaimed cheerfully in surprise, Well hello!

They had clearly not known I was there. Two sets of legs scrambled back out of there so fast. I figured if I went to the gap and said, No it’s okay c’mon over you want a tour of my garden? that it would only have gotten them in trouble with their parents and I didn’t want to stomp on their rare and fun get-together, so, hey.

I set the bowl of candy outside next to the pumpkin with the light on.

There seem to have been no takers. There are peanut butter cups but the squirrels are asleep.

It’s getting late enough that I’d better bring it in before the skunks say thank you don’t mind if I do. Or get in a fight with the raccoons trying to beat them to it.



An answer
Sunday October 04th 2020, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Politics

Pence thought flying to Arizona would get the Mormon vote to turn the state their way.

And on a different note having nothing to do with that…

This was General Conference weekend for the Mormon Church, broadcast from Salt Lake. There was no in-person audience, the speakers were masked while not speaking and sat socially distant, and the Tabernacle Choir was pre-recorded songs from previous Conferences.

And the song they started out with (video link) was, “Oh Say What Is Truth”. The sheet music is in the link below.

31243, Hymns, Oh Say, What Is Truth?, no. 272

1. Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.

2. Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.

3. The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.

4. Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

Text: John Jaques, 1827-1900

Music: Ellen Knowles Melling, 1820-1905

There were messages of inclusivity for all and they meant all in order to measure up to the teachings of Jesus.

President Nelson said, “I grieve that our black brother and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”

One of the other things he said leaped out just for me. “We can do hard things.”

I instantly decided to take it personally for my right here and now. My back has been so bad that I couldn’t roll over and get out of bed by myself, which wasn’t helping Richard’s iffy back any. Alright, consciously loosen those muscles. No tensing from fear it’s going to hurt that makes it hurt. You can do this. And yes it will still hurt some, but it won’t get better without doing that.

Richard five minutes ago, watching me rise from a chair and turn to go in the kitchen to get a glass of milk: “You ARE feeling better!”

Better being a relative term, but, yes I definitely am and I’m not afraid of it anymore.

I will add two things: I’m still not stupid, though, and, I have very good friends. Phyl and Lee walked over, watered my wilting veggies and a few trees that needed it most, harvested the four butternut squash that were ripe and at my previously-stated insistence, took one home. I waved thanks and goodbye through the window so as not to give them my flu.



Big red truck
Tuesday September 22nd 2020, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Taking the recycling bins to the curb, my neighbor was returning home. It was good to see he’s still getting his daily walk in.

He stopped a moment, wanting to explain that the firefighters had been in front of our house because his wife had fallen and he had not been able to pick her up. But it’s okay, she is fine; that’s just something they do when you need them, he told me gratefully.

I came away thinking, we went to their 50th anniversary party long enough ago that I cannot be sure how many years it’s been. Fifteen, easily.

They still have each other, and that is something to celebrate for awhile yet.



Firstfruits
Sunday September 20th 2020, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,History,Life,Mango tree

My mango variety drops its fruit just before they’re fully ripe, and I’ve learned that if you just slightly brush the bottom of one with your fingertips and it falls into your hand, you got it when it was ready to let go.

Two were like that while the fire sky had been gray or worse for three weeks. They were good, but the intensity of the perfume was not at all up to last year’s–they’d needed that bright direct sun the ashes were filtering out.

The third and last one that had survived what the winter had thrown at the tree waited till there was bright sunshine again for several days. It was very small, but held great promise in the palm of my hand.

Like Alphonsos do, it needed a few days indoors. I put it in a beautiful hand thrown rice bowl from my friends Mel and Kris which displayed it with the majesty it deserved.

And man, was I tempted. More than I’d like to admit. I’m not proud of that.

But I was hopefully going to get more mangoes in future years.

There is never enough time, there is not much time, there is hopefully as much time as she and her family need. Her granddaughter gave her a new great-granddaughter this weekend, and there is joy.

I checked with her daughter, who assured me that there was a caretaker there who would open the door; just tell her I’m Jean’s friend from church.

There was no plan whatsoever of my going in and actually seeing and risking her, but I could at least hand something over to them from there.

I had a card that popped up a bouquet of paper flowers for this lovely master gardener. The woman who shared her pomegranates that are why I have such a tree in my yard too, now, having never known before what a pomegranate was really supposed to taste like. Who was eighteen when she witnessed Pearl Harbor, and lived.

Twice she had tried to grow mangoes like back home. Twice the trees had died in our cold. She knew what a homegrown mango could taste like. If only.

At 94, she finally got to have one again.

And I suppose the fact that the sky took away a little of the perfume and presumably (like my figs) some of the sweetness (although it still smelled wonderful), she gets to still believe her childhood Haden ones were the best.



A boost
Thursday September 17th 2020, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Afton mentioned Aftober, the race to pick up and get to the end of some unfinished project by the end of October, and suddenly I have incentive to knit not just another hat (there’ve been two of late) but that endless intarsia afghan.

I needed that incentive. Alright, then! Thank you, Afton!

(Maybe the still slightly broken blog will let me post celebratory pictures by then.)



Bench pressing
Sunday September 06th 2020, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

And yet another announcement of friends moving to where housing is more reasonably priced to work remotely from there.

And so there is now a quite lovely wooden bench under the elm tree for enjoying a good book from, for those who can do the sun time and as our grandkids get older. I quite like it.



Maybe that’s where it all started
Wednesday September 02nd 2020, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Spent a long time going through yarns and fish photos and measuring and eyeballing and I think the next two are figured out. I kept thinking, as I often have, that what I really need is my friend Lee’s pictures from his dive trips. (His ability to sketch would be nice, too.)

He and Phyl have from time to time offered us much-enjoyed evenings of seeing his underwater photography and one of those times was not long before Crohn’s put me in the hospital the first time. The doctor had me on morphine, and this time I was the one on a trip–with Lee’s tropical fish lazily meandering around me in the very brightest colors against a turquoise background, keeping me company all night, keeping me amused and distracted from the severe pain and feeling less alone because all of that was because of happy memories that had come from them.

A friend dropped by this afternoon with homemade jam from her fruit trees; I sent her off with a cooled loaf of cranberry pumpkin sourdough because I always know that one will be good.

We were kind of ready for something else, though. I was paging through my Artisan Sourdough Made Simple tonight and I didn’t really want to do it this way I wanted to try that and now there’s an experiment in the kitchen rising overnight and if it turns out fabulous you’ll hear all about it tomorrow. And if it doesn’t we’ll pretend this paragraph was never written.

In my dreams.



Boulder Creek
Sunday August 23rd 2020, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Some friends of ours had two little boys, 2 and 4, and the wife was expecting a girl–and suddenly had to have emergency surgery and everybody held their breath and prayed hard for mother and child both.

Months later, their daughter is here and safe and sound and her mother has recovered. Yay.

Restrictions are only one person at a time can go in a house that’s for sale and the realtor and buyer must come in separate cars, and all that was a pain, but they did it, they just bought a house to call their forever home. They moved out of their apartment and up into the beautiful, redwood-covered mountains last weekend.

Tuesday they were bringing their kids home from the grandparents’ and the road was full of people streaming out of there. Huh. Well, nobody had given them any kind of evacuation order so they put their boys to bed but out of an abundance of caution started gathering whatever they might need because you never know.

Forty-five minutes later they got that order to get out and scrammed. In the ordinary chaos of having just moved, they did not find everything they wished they had but it sounds like they got everybody’s favorite blankies.

Yay for grandparents close enough to go to.

Yay for having bought fire insurance.

Thank heavens for firefighters who do what so few of us could.

They know a hotspot flared up near their house but that it got tamped down, and right now that’s all they know.

Whatever surgery life performs on their expectations in the immediate term, they’re safe and sound and everybody is, in every way that matters, doing well. May all those tens of thousands of other people in the same boat be so as well.



Smoked peaches
Thursday August 20th 2020, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Last year the last of Andy’s peaches were done at the end of August,  earlier than previous years, and after eating a generic one that had come with my weekly produce bag and what a disappointment it was compared to what Andy grows, I wanted to go.

The air here had improved, but the fire map showed one blaze southeast of Morgan Hill as well as the ones on the coast.

I called.

“Yes, we’re open. It’s smokey, though.”

Coming through San Jose it started to sting the eyes even in the car and by the time I turned off the freeway, there was a plume behind the mountains on the coastal side. Eastward nearer Andy’s it was gray but without anything specific.

All I could do was say a silent prayer for all those in it, all those who don’t want to find themselves in it, and all those fighting those fires for the rest of us.

I got two flats of CalReds and some cherry-sized, exquisitely flavored green gage plums, and the similar mirabelle plums out of curiosity. Heirloom tomatoes. A bottle of poison oak honey (the very best). Slab dried apricots, not the prettiest but the ones that had been at peak ripeness so they went smush when pitted. Fresh-picked cobs of corn from his neighbor.

I was basically trying to pack all the Andy’s-ing I could into one trip because I felt I could take nothing for granted.

And then the fun part is I got home and emailed the friend who always wants a case of peaches whenever I go there and told her she had first crack at that second one.

Last time I’d gone they hadn’t had a second case that wasn’t already spoken for so I hadn’t been able to offer.

She was surprised I’d gone out in this, ecstatic for the peaches, and her husband picked them up almost immediately. They won’t end up pureed in my freezer for the winter but that’s okay, there’s still more August and I’ll just have to go back next week.



Keep them open
Monday August 17th 2020, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,LYS,Politics

I’ve mentioned Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco from time to time.

I got a Buy 3 Get 1 Free! email from Kathryn.

She’s only doing curbside because her county doesn’t allow customers to touch anything inside the store. You can’t pick up a book. You can’t squish and gauge which merino is softest. You have to know what you want.

Well I do. So I called and ordered fourteen skeins of Rios in Ravelry Red, with a conversation with my friend Afton to the side and headed on up there.

I asked Kathryn how it was going.

She said that while the county had everything completely shut down for two months, her landlord was only willing to cut the rent by 25%–while knowing her sales were zero for that time. After that, no breaks, no nothing, pay in full or you’re out.

So she is scrambling to make that rent.

You walk in her store (back when you could) to find cubbies along the walls on up to the ceiling, narrow aisles with more cubbies and more yarn above your head. Yarn yarn yarn. It’s a small space with a huge inventory. She doesn’t just sell Malabrigo, but that’s what I come for the most and she has more of it than anyone I know.

She’s not tech savvy and doesn’t have an online shop, but she will mail if you know what you want. She told me people have come to her after being able to find only a skein or two online elsewhere of something–whereas she’ll have a full bag or even two, enough to actually do a big project.

I showed her my ocean afghan so far. Most of it came from her. She was quite pleased.

I almost, almost bought the two bags of Rios in the Jupiter reds and browns colorway, but I was already picking up that red for a future afghan and had a request in for Matisse Blue to make another ocean afghan because a family member preferred that as the background; she’s checking to see if her yarn rep has it.

I texted Afton from the curb about that bag of Cian she had–my ocean’s background color, and got an enthusiastic, YES!

And so between the two of us we were able to help Kathryn out a bit and cheer her on. And, selfishly, to help keep my favorite yarn source going.

And then I went to the post office to mail Afton’s off to her.

Last week, the place was just deserted.

Today, the parking lot was full right after me. People were wearing masks and social distancing at the blue marks on the floor in a line that went from the two clerks (there used to be at least three if not four during the day, this being the main one in a major city in Silicon Valley) clear across the long room past all the post office boxes to the far window. They were not walking back out to try UPS because it might be shorter–they were walking in, seeing how it was, visibly taking it in stride one after another and putting that commitment of their time into this.

There was an outcry when, along with banning overtime and removing thousands of sorting machines, post office boxes in poor neighborhoods where people might vote were being removed last week–so Trump’s Postmaster General donor buddy had them stop doing that: instead, they put big red plastic locks on so no mail could go in.

We can fight back.

I paid for Priority and for insurance on not what I paid but what it would cost me to replace those ten skeins at full price plus pay for shipping and insurance again. More than I had to. Because I wanted to. They offered, as always, stamps, and I considered, but I’d just bought them twice and I wanted to look forward to an excuse for a next time. And frankly, I didn’t want them to run out for the day because, man, they just might.

All those patient-looking people behind me with that long long long wait were surely in it with the same determination.

The Post Office is under attack. Long live the post office.

Mail yarn. Make stuff with it, and mail that, too.



Dried cranberries soaked in the juice of an orange
Saturday August 15th 2020, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Been too long.

You never know when someone else’s diet might change or something, so to be on the safe side I called before showing up.

I hadn’t seen Nina since before the pandemic started.

I put the ziplocked loaf of cranberry pumpkin sourdough down on her doorstep (that one recipe is totally worth the price of the book) rang the bell, and stepped back.

Our masks in place and with the sun low for the day’s heat blast to calm down some we continued the conversation outside that had begun on the phone. Life. Kids. Grandkids. Work.

There was such an intensity of joy in something so ordinary.

They made French toast with some of that bread after I left and I got exclamation marks!!! texted to me. Now she knew why I liked that recipe so much!

Any time, hon, any time.



Sisters
Wednesday August 12th 2020, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

After checking ahead, some friends stopped by after dinner. I pulled three chairs out of the kitchen and we set them up under the elm tree and visited outside, socially distanced and masked, the weather perfect with just the right breeze ruffling the many small leaves bowing down towards us.

Man did it feel good.

I hope we all treasure each other and our time together after this is all over as much as we do right now.

And I can only wonder if all my friends of normal hearing are learning more keenly how to read eyes for their expressions, to be more attuned to the emotions of those they’re in conversations with coming out of this?

Because with the masks on, everybody is visually as deaf as me. And a little muffled. One has to pay attention.

As these two ever have anyway, I’m just idly wondering.

I sent them home with two each of Andy’s perfect peaches.