Pandemic kitchen soup
Friday January 15th 2021, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

A box of chicken stock, a stalk of celery, green onions, let simmer while deciding what they want to be when they grow up. A little extra virgin California Organic olive oil (insert long lecture about how the Feds allow adulterated and lesser grades to be labeled EVOO but California’s grandfathered law requiring California Organic EVOO to be exactly that means that if you buy Californian-grown and organic and extra-virgin olive oil, that specific combination on the label, then you know you got what you paid for.

Apollo‘s varietals are the best I’ve found. It’s like the difference between freshly grated real parmesan cheese and the (delete the phrase hamster bedding) that shakes out of the green can.

Hey, when you live this close to where so much of the country’s food is produced for so long it rubs off on you. Last I saw the baby artichokes 10/$1 sign was still up along the coast.

A few shakes of gumbo file powder for thickener and flavor.

Hmm, a half hour of simmering later, how about a good long squeeze of Costco Californian tomato paste in a tube. We’ve seen those trucks in the Central Valley, stuffed bottom to top with tomatoes and a few red bombs flying off the back (don’t get too close) and splatting on the road behind them as they go. A few bounce. We saw no pallets, no divisions, and no covers (I bet that’s changed now), just open beds piled high like a giant heaping tablespoon of a truckload.

That’s what I always picture when I see tomato paste.

A half package of frozen okra, stir, and let it simmer another half hour

Here’s where my mom goes, You’re finally eating okra? On purpose?

Then take a small package of precooked Teton Ranch beef sausage links out of the freezer, in my case, which adds a little pepper to it too, or ham, chicken, whatever floats your boat, slice and throw it in and let it keep going till the meat is nice and warm.

Dish and sprinkle grated fresh parmesan on the servings, not in the pot, because there might be some leftovers (there was, though not a lot) and Michelle’s driving down from Washington State for a visit and it would be nice to be able to hand her something dairy-free and good within a minute when she walks in the door tomorrow after that very long drive.

I can’t wait.

Out out darn spot
Thursday January 14th 2021, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Life

Time to get that mole looked at. I’d put it off a bit but it was itching and it needed to get it done. (Not a recurrence of basal cell. Yay.)

What made it easier was that my dermatologist is one of my favorite people; we grew up just a few miles from each other and after last week we couldn’t help but talk politics just a bit.

It was no surprise to either of us but it was a relief that we are both so looking forward to having a peaceable man, an adult, and a person with governing experience taking charge next week at long last.

We grieved together for what was done, for what was lost, and for how bad it could have been. It was a relief to have someone from DC to talk to about it, even if just for a few minutes, while mutually mindful of her time and keeping it short. We felt seen.

We asked after each other’s families; like so many millions of women, she’s gone to part time to try to manage her kids’ schooling, but they really needed their classmate time. But the vaccines! Soon!

(This one on your back: you want me to freeze that off too while we’re at it?

Yes please!)

Thank you ten Republicans
Wednesday January 13th 2021, 10:48 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

The cause of Trump’s second impeachment today, with brief annotations offering bits of context we might not otherwise have known as a lawyer goes through the speech Trump made to instigate the mob.

It’s all a crock
Tuesday January 12th 2021, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So if someone loses/breaks a favorite thing, not an expensive thing at all but with consternation because they really liked it and it’s not made anymore–and you can do something about it, I wonder: after jumping through the hoops to have something sent to someone else’s house on a different person/address’s credit card, does the packing slip give you away? Does the credit card company?

Because in these days of isolation and missing people, to be able to make that right and anticipate the surprise just felt so good. And it was enough.

I know, I know, writing about it here kind of misses the point there but it’s way more fun than talking about oh hey I patched up that divot in the yard I tripped and went splat over yesterday.

Winter spring summer or no don’t do that
Monday January 11th 2021, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Lupus

1. I did the first shingles shot over a year ago and was overdue for the other one. The healthcare provider’s office popped up an auto-notice that my tetanus expired last month.

You do not get near my grands without being up-to-date, not that we can visit them right now, but that was the incentive for me to get it over with.

The nurse insisted on one each arm, not together.

2. I thought about what Mathias had said. Seed starter trays and soil plugs arrived right on cue. I planted tomatoes (or rather, I tried to, they only seemed to actually be able to go in where there was already a hole at the centers.) We’ll make some green inside, too, honey, I thought his direction. And if they get leggy maybe I’ll even buy a plant grow lamp…except that what they need for growth I as a lupus patient need not to be exposed to, and how do you set up a lamp in this house where all its light would be contained and away from me on a timer. Not seeing it yet. Windows will have to make up for my failure of imagination.

3. I twisted my ankle in a good hard fall, more so than last night’s fall, neither one as bad as Richard’s falling over backwards three days ago, and why are we acting so old like that but never mind, icepacks and ankle braces and I’m good to go and he seems pretty much okay now.

4. And now if anyone asks me if the shots hurt I can say no that’s just the other thing. Go, get yours, if you need them!

5. Icepacks really work. I got off easy.

6. Can’t wait to see those tomatoes.

7. There are some pitted Anya apricot kernels thinking about sprouting in their zip locked paper towels in the fridge. I picked out the biggest. One was twins. I am intrigued as to whether that would have any effect at all on what they grow into, other than that most likely they’re duplicates of each other. There is so much I don’t know. I almost chose a botany major and I have at times over the years wished I had.

I could use me some spring right now even if I have to jumpstart it.

Out of the mouths of babes
Sunday January 10th 2021, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We might not be able to fly there right now, but today we got to see Lillian in that very brief stage of toddlerhood where she gets what this talking thing is, she wants to, badly, and she’s putting her all into it.

If you ask her a question and the answer is yes she nods her head so hard her nose points to the ceiling, then the floor, in slow motion as she watches you to make sure she got that right and that she has your full attention, and then she does it again.

We nodded our heads.

She nodded hers, so happy.

She picked up a book. We said, “Book!” Her eyes got big: we knew about those, too? She wanted us to read it but didn’t get that we couldn’t through the screen while she wandered, but she liked that word and she tried it again and again, pursing her lips as far out as they could go to make the sound and really leaning forward along with them but didn’t lose her balance. OOoo. (There may have been a b and a k in there too but I didn’t hear them.)

When her brother cried briefly she ran over to him, wanting to make it all better–and it helped. He wasn’t feeling well, but a hug from his mommy helped, too.

I was trying to come up with good questions to ask a three year old going on four come April to help out, too, and came up with, “What’s your favorite color?”

He told us green: because when it’s green again outside it makes everybody happy.

It just staggered me. How did he already know this?

(Update1/11: Turns out he’d heard his daddy talking about back in Alaska, where Mathias was born. A color that makes people happy? What better could you ask for?)

Eyeballing that amount
Saturday January 09th 2021, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Lupus

Today’s new vocabulary word: episcleritis.

Yesterday morning I thought I’d scratched my eyeball somehow in the night as I repeatedly put eyedrops in and kept trying to find where that exceptionally long sharp eyelash could be. Maybe I’d scratched the cornea again. All day long I could not make it better but I hoped a good night’s sleep would.

Eye pain kicked me out of bed early today.

My exam was my husband taking pictures and my doctor asking me over the phone if it hurts when I touch my eyeball?

I looked at the handset funny a moment. “I dunno, I don’t usually go around touching my eyeball.”

She laughed, I closed my eye and gently tried it and went oooh yes definitely.

Any discharge?


She saw one of the pictures.

Yup, pretty clearly episcleritis. Start the drops and if it doesn’t get better get right back to me.

Who knew, having had lupus diagnosed half my life ago, that there could be a new complication I’d never heard of?

When I told her NSAIDs make me deaf, she considered a moment, decided some tiny amount could get in the bloodstream, and prescribed steroid drops instead.

Which flashed me back to the staggering 200 mg/day dose via IV twelve years ago that took 25% of the bone mass in my hips (I was in a study at UCSF at the time) but did absolutely nothing to fight back my soaring autoimmunity–and my GI doctor later telling me, But: just because steroids don’t work in one part of the body doesn’t mean they won’t later work in a different part for completely different reasons.

I bet Dr. R doesn’t remember telling me that but I do and it was something I was going to need to hear and today was the day. I had to try.

Forty-five minutes after that first single drop I said to Richard, It was *painful* before. Now it’s, eh. Irritated, but, eh.

Four hours later my eye told me my dose was wearing off. And then it again thanked me for that drop, even if it took me five tries that time to land one in. I am not yet good at this.

I hope there are enough doses in that little bottle for all the times I’ll miss but I’m really grateful to have it. And that it works! Yay modern medicine!

Thank you Andy Kim
Friday January 08th 2021, 11:43 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Re yesterday’s post: I saw the nutcracker in the kitchen drawer this morning and instantly wondered, those oysters… But maybe shards, so, just as well.

Speaking of awkward methods, if people used Emery boards to try to get into a nut would it make them kernel sanders?

Re after the ransacking of the Capital:

Andy Kim, Representative from New Jersey, the son of immigrants, took in what had been done in the Rotunda, the violations, the trash spewed everywhere–and over there, cops with plastic bags. He asked for one.

When two of his colleagues walked by at 1:00 a.m. noticing the cleanup crew member wearing a suit they suddenly realized it was their friend and colleague. Alone. His parents had left everything they knew to be able to have democracy and this building offered such aspiration towards the best in man.

Putting it aright to the best of his ability when no one was around with a camera or megaphone or any kind of power, before that moment, to see it. It was simply something he profoundly needed to do.

Note that they found him doing so because they themselves were walking around the Capital to thank the staff and all who had done so much to protect and serve on a day like no other.

Thursday January 07th 2021, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Food

Nope, no 25th yet.

Milk Pail is on vacation for five weeks, so I decided to try out the fishermen again who’ve teamed up with a few local farmers.

Oysters harvested Wednesday were on their list. I was curious. They were hand-delivered today and I realized I suddenly had to get serious about figuring out what to do with the little ocean geodes.

We hadn’t bought rock salt since making ice cream the hand-crank way when the kids were little and we replaced that with an electric one pretty early on, being, y’know, fast learners and all that.

The rock salt is to smush them into to hold them in place curvy side down so the juices don’t leak out. Oh. Huh. I ended up balancing them on each other just so, sort of like a preschooler experimenting with a tinkertoy set, wondering if I could move them into the oven without–whoops, try again.

On the third wobbly try I had them all on their backs facing upwards and I put a small rack across the top to keep them that way. It sorta/almost worked.

I remembered my mom once tackling a huge bag of mussels big enough to feed our family of eight when I was a kid and her telling me, if one is opened before you cook it you throw it away–that one’s dead and it could give you food poisoning. You check to make sure they’re shut tight.

These all looked shut tight to me.

The internet said in multiple places that you could just roast them in the oven at high heat and then the shells would pop right open.

Good, because we’re right out of oyster knives if I even knew what one looked like.

450F seven minutes and then you can have your still-raw oysters!


Ten minutes. Checked. No popping open. Put it back in for another minute. As if. Then, what the heck, four more.

At that point it smelled wonderful and there were signs of bubbling juices so I figured they were done.

You know how many had cracked open?

One. A second one teased that it might. There were thirteen.

Well huh.

I went looking for a camping knife: I once bought a bunch of random mismatched silverware at Goodwill for not caring if a piece got left behind outside some tent somewhere. Turns out I’d long since let them go back to where they’d come from.

I had one dinner knife–Magnum Lauffer, no less, but still–whose handle had separated slightly from the blade, which I had long rued. It never fell apart but it never felt good in the hand. So that one was the victim, and I went at it.

Most of them actually opened without too much hassle. There were a couple where the oyster was bigger than its outer shell was letting on and they weren’t letting go that easily. I now understand whoever created oyster knives. I don’t *think* the very tip of that rounded blade was broken off before but it is now and I’m just glad no shards, not shell nor metal, hit me in the eye. But they tried. Yay glasses.

So were they way overcooked? I’d say the texture was actually pretty surprisingly perfect. And the flavor was as fresh as I’ve ever had.

Chewy seawater.

I’d order more, but I think next time Costco is going to do the work. Even if those jars won’t give me the shellfish stock that’s in the fridge waiting for tomorrow’s chowder.

Tomorrow’s going to be interesting
Wednesday January 06th 2021, 11:36 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Well, that was a day that started off really well–and Ossoff and Warnock’s victories in the Georgia runoffs meant that suddenly Mitch McConnell was making the kind of speech this evening he should have been making his last thirty-plus years in the Senate, calling for bipartisanship and appealing to history and our country’s ideals. Now that he’s finally losing his Majority Leader status.

And after he and those around him had fled for their lives from the rioters (Klobucher, looking at her phone: “Shots fired”) invading the Capital.

After they hustled all the Senators, aides, and reporters present into a secure spot–whoops, it’s not, they’re in there, too, go in over here now–someone realized that Tammy Duckworth wasn’t with them because her wheelchair can’t do the route they took. They sent someone to rescue her from the office she’d had to barricade without legs, with a specific phrase from Sen. Klobuchar to let her know it was okay to open the door. She did indeed get rescued.

Props to the Parliamentarian’s aides who said, Help us grab the electoral votes! in the middle of the craziness. Big heavy boxes.

Note that Trump replaced the head of the Capital police last year, that some of them were taking selfies with the rioters and that there is video of a few of them moving the gates out of the way and letting the rioters in. Note that when Mayor Bowser asked for the DC National Guard to come to their aid, she was denied.

Whose signature was on the order for them to come after all?

Mike Pence’s.

Pence has zero authority to–


–unless he’s already signed another paper. Article 25 puts him instantly in charge if they invoked it while they were all huddled down there. Wouldn’t even need the Cabinet in that case.

One can only fervently hope.

You know… Actually…
Tuesday January 05th 2021, 9:30 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I heard back from my doctor’s office: whether I had covid in February or not is irrelevant in terms of my susceptibility to getting it again (I had told them I didn’t want to take the place of someone who needed it if I didn’t; they said, but you do) and so with my medical history I am in tier 1c and should receive my vaccine in a few weeks.

Very glad I checked.

The Washington Post was reporting on hospitals in southern California, where they’ve been far less compliant with public health protocols than the much stricter and earlier-onset ones we’ve been on, and they are now running out of oxygen to give patients and even the in-home concentrators like my dad was on before he died in Oct ’19 are in short supply.

If only the current administration were actually doing a decent job of rolling out the vaccine. (Today’s disclosure: rich donors were able to buy their way in in Florida.)

To which someone out there responded in the comments:

“Train Amazon drivers to give the vaccines. Everyone would be vaccinated by Saturday, Wednesday if you have Prime.”

Election eve part two
Monday January 04th 2021, 11:42 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Come on, Georgia, we’re counting on you. The whole country will be celebrating with you! And then we can get these vaccinations off the ground.

I was wondering when what tier would go next so I looked it up and was gobsmacked at how few doses there were out there right now.

My state says check with your county. My county says check with your provider’s system. My provider’s system says check with Public Health over at the county. The bottom line: they ain’t got’em and there’s no system and there’s no plan.

In two weeks there will start to be one, if we have the votes in place to make the government govern. Go Georgia!

Meantime, we do have some doses being held for an unspecified other county that doesn’t have the equipment to accept them. So, what, are they going to life-flight them to Monterey to beat the clock on the hours they can be out of the fridge?

I do wonder, though, why the run-off is being held after the new Congress is sworn in: because what that does is make the winners the least-senior members of the Senate. That used to matter in terms of what committee assignments you got to have.

My grandfather was there from 1950-1974 and when he retired, he resigned I forget if it was a day early or a week early so that his successor could have first choice over all the other incoming freshmen and a quicker trajectory towards potential future chairmanships.

It caused a bit of a stir.

Would that today’s Republicans looked for such harmlessness in their loopholes.

Back to the drawing board
Sunday January 03rd 2021, 11:40 pm
Filed under: History

There’s art (these wire sculptures are gorgeous.)

And then there’s… art?

South Carolina decided to redo its flag after the massacre at the Mother Immanuel Church, doing away with the Confederate emblem at long last.

What I hadn’t realized is they haven’t finished deciding what they want to replace it with.

Thanks to the New York Times, I finally get why they call it the palmetto state: during the Revolutionary War, the British fired on their fort but it was made of palmetto logs and those held off the cannonballs.

We once had a palm tree cut down and it took three men three days because that wasn’t a trunk, that was a swirl of thick tough fibers that jammed the chainsaws again and again and nearly refused to go. So yes, I could definitely see those holding off cannon balls, and whoever cut them down had a huge job.

The state had what they thought was a stylized modernized palmetto silhouette–and then they asked what people thought of it.

No possible way. No flapping fabric toilet brushes in the breeze up there, just, no.

Country Roads
Saturday January 02nd 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Music

My mom and siblings and Richard’s would get a kick out of this one because we know that area and watched it change over the years. I imagine the horses’ hooves once clopped along between the farms there.

Fifty years ago, the couple that would later become Starland Vocal Band (who knew they lived in Georgetown!) were trying to come up with a song to sell to Johnny Cash as they were driving through Gaithersburg, Maryland heading to a family reunion on the other side of the Potomac. Going home: now there’s a theme to riff from.

Take Me Home Clopper Road just didn’t quite…have that ring to it. Almost Heaven–that down-home feel? (Re the guy’s home state.) With Boston? Johnny Cash? No.

They opened for John Denver his first night performing in DC and he came to their place afterwards asking did they have any other songs? They pulled out that starter verse and the three of them brainstormed.

The next night they were on stage again and when the audience wanted an encore, Denver said, Well, I haven’t learned the words yet this is brand new so hang on a moment, and got out the scotch tape so he could read off the paper.

From that long and standing ovation that said they really had something there, to his first platinum hit. Even if most of the scenery described is more western Virginia than West Virginia.

None of them had actually ever been to West Virginia at that point but it’s now an official state song.

The hand-dyed look
Friday January 01st 2021, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Food

I’m not a big sweets person but I’d still add a bit more sugar and a bit less salt to the recipe I linked to yesterday. But it was good and between us it’s half gone now.

I refrigerated it till it was just a bit cool, not cold, and then got impatient and turned it over and unmolded it unsure just how this was going to work at all when the edges curl in over the bottom of the cake but then it just did it all on its own, it felt like. That was easy!

When the local yarn stores can have gatherings again, when the pandemic is kicked out of here, we should definitely celebrate with yarn cakes. Lemon raspberry like this, chocolate, chocolate hazelnut; anybody’s favorite is good by me.

(Y’know? That last photo? Kind of looks like a relaxed Shar-pei curled up in its favorite spot.)