Friends from when our kids were little
Sunday August 14th 2022, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

About twenty years after she moved away, M-L was here at church today, catching up with old friends: she was on a trip that took her close enough to here that she couldn’t pass up the chance.

I cannot begin to say how much it meant to get to see her.

We laughed over memories of her twin toddlers being told to offer Oreos to my husband and those two adorable little boys sneaking around the corner, snarfing down the creme centers, putting the cookies back on the plate, and proudly offering up the soggy remains as if no one could possibly ever catch on.

Her husband was the one who, during the flood of ’96, opened his front door to see if any water was backing up, just time to see their koi from their backyard pond swimming past his feet. Brad loved to tell that story.

He was also the first person in the county they’d moved to to contract covid, when even the tests for it were new. The first one there to survive the ventilator. He wrote a rare-for-him Facebook post that day of his intense love for his family, his gratitude to all who’d taken care of him, his plans to hike in Finland with his family the next year where his wife’s mother was from. He was going to go to rehab to build his strength back up and then at long last, home!

He stood up at the side of the bed–and was suddenly gone. This was before they knew covid causes blood clots.

I’ve long kept in touch with M-L, but to get to see her and share in person the love and the support and the grief and the pride in her now-grown kids and mine just meant so much.

We got home. I had an email waiting. Richard made a phone call and was out the door but told me not to come and not to be exposed. Were visitors allowed? As he explained afterwards, Part of being visiting clergy is an inability to read when you need not to.

And so he in his K95 mask got to visit our friend Nina, who is in the hospital with meningitis, and to be there for her husband, who knew Richard would know what this is like.

I tried to keep her company before and after by email while trying not to wear her out. I know how responding to even the most appreciated message or in-person visit can wear out a sick body even while reviving one’s spirit.

She is delighted at my new phone gadgetry and could I call her on it, she asked.

Today? Or would tomorrow be better, I asked.


I told her I’m looking forward to it.

But it’s good
Saturday August 13th 2022, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

If you take the Post’s recipe and use a bit less sugar and a tablespoon less butter and add in an egg, then it’s totally a health food, right?

(I added too many blueberries because I had them so I was going to use them, it overflowed, and Richard walked in the door saying, You’re burning something, with me responding, It did at the beginning but don’t open that oven yet.)

I’m typing this to remind myself to scrape that out of there after it cools and before the next time I set the oven to preheat.

Phoning it in
Friday August 12th 2022, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Life

I didn’t call you but I didn’t call anybody else either yet so don’t feel bad. The one call so far was made by the tech to the company to do that one last step to get me officially registered by having them hear me say yes I’m me and yes I want this.

What I did do was order a 31″ tall foot-square table afterwards (with a drawer! The thing doesn’t need a drawer. Who knows, but still, I got the one with the drawer) to put it on. It’s actually wood and, the kicker, no assembly required (yay!) and under $100. Sold. I’d had no idea I was going to be buying furniture today, but the woman said, You have a table? You’ve got to have a table. She couldn’t imagine me sitting down on the floor every time I got on the phone.

So we set it up on a box for the moment–and I sat down on the floor to try the thing out. I like breaking people’s brains that way.

The box kept trying to flip its lid.


There’s this small tax on your phone bill and mine that we’ve all paid all our lives towards accessibility. And what that means is that if you go to an audiologist and have your hearing loss documented, that audiologist can then call CapTel, who, after verifying that you have internet, will then send a technician out to your house. They will install a machine that does what human transcribers listening in on your calls used to do: it routes your call through their system which automatically transcribes it into captions on a mini iPad-sized screen next to your keypad.

There was about a one second lag time between speech and caption but hey, there were captions. Slow is better than no.

There’s also a volume setting that goes to too loud even for me, and I didn’t know there was such a thing. And one where you can change the voice to lower pitched, or, if you’re a rare case, higher ones so you can follow better.

You can only have one answering machine: it or a regular one, and we have a regular one and Richard was busy working and I wasn’t going to make a unilateral decision and wasn’t sure I wanted to save captions of spammers anyway. Easily deleted, of course, but, so, we didn’t set that part up.

I didn’t use my new gadget yet.

I think I’m a little afraid of being disappointed if it isn’t perfect. The guy on the other end that one time had an accent that the captions bungled and I wasn’t sure of the vocal quality either; I just need to try it out with more voices and get over being new to this.

We are all going to trip over that unfamiliar piece of furniture-to-be in the hallway at one point or another–because the main in the kitchen where we were going to set it up didn’t work (who knew?) and the only other place we could make it work was outside Michelle’s old room. Which means a chair in the hallway, too, oh heck throw in a footrest, right? (Uh…) I told the tech I was glad I’d told the architect during a remodel years ago that I wanted that new space to have room for any future wheelchair to turn around in easily.

I want to be able to hear my mom. And that is what finally got me to blow off the pandemic and get this in motion and welcome what turned out to be a very lovely stranger into our house.

I said to her at the end, It must be wonderful being able to make it so people can communicate again.

Her face lit up as she exclaimed, Yes! And then she begged me to get the word out so more people could have this. “The government doesn’t advertise,” she said and a moment later said it again, but if only people knew! They pay for it anyway and it could do so much more good in so many more lives.

I promised I would pass the good word along.

Big name, big dreams
Thursday August 11th 2022, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Life

The contrast: I read recently that you generally don’t see treetops all entangled in each other because they can sense each other’s growing ends and turn out of the way. I imagine they avoid some degree of future fragility that way.

And then there’s this.

Someone designed an experiment to see how a low-growing rosette-leaved ground cover in pine forests interacted with its environment. Because, science. They designed a gizmo to measure how much a leaf pushed it out of the way in 24 hours’ time: testing repeatedly, they found it put out pressure about equal to lifting a dime.

The kicker is that the plant is named Elephantopus–now there’s a safari-and-sea portmanteau for you, who thought that one up? And the force it exerts vs its size and weight is equal to the capability of an actual elephant.

No word from the octopus family on the matter.

They studied one next to some up-and-coming rye grass: it folded its leaf in such a way as to block out twenty shoots’ worth and hog all the sunlight for itself and starve out its competition. Scrappy little thing.

I’m picturing the tulip poplars up there looking way down and going, Now kids. Behave.

How trash day took a turn
Wednesday August 10th 2022, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Friends

Or more specifically, the mailman did as he maneuvered his truck around us a moment later, waving in greeting, too.

She was closing her garage door. I was putting our recycling bins away after dinner. I caught her eye and waved hi.

And this time she waved back, hesitated a moment, and we found ourselves walking towards each other and meeting our new neighbors.

She told me eighty people had applied to rent that house and she didn’t know why her family had been picked, but she was very glad.

I told her the owner’s kids were the same age and gender as hers when he bought the place a year after we bought ours and I bet you remind him of those days.

She hadn’t known that but you could see her liking him all the more for it.

And I thought later, and I bet he wants there to be kids enjoying those good schools like his got to.

Just then the neighbors two doors down from me pulled in at home–and they had young boys. Playmates! (as the new woman’s kids suddenly appeared behind us.) More introductions.

I mentioned that the biology teacher at the high school had co-written the textbook and had so inspired my oldest that she’d gotten her PhD in that field.

It’s a great neighborhood, I told her, you’re going to love it here. The other neighbors nodded a definite yes to that.

Don’t forget the figs!
Tuesday August 09th 2022, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

The essential sandwich of August. Thrown together after a Trader Joe’s run. So simple, so good.

Brioche slices spread with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, then slices of ham and cheese on top. Note that the New Zealand Organic cheddar cheese slices are on the thick side and big enough to pretty much cover that bread.

But then this: cut figs in half and put them, stems off, on the parchment paper next to the sandwiches as they bake at 350. Take the pan out at 13 minutes, put the half-roasted figs on top of the cheese, put it back in the oven another three minutes or so to let the fig juices run across the top. It surely would have been just fine with the figs on top from the get-go, but I forgot them until the things had been in the oven a minute already and I just kind of threw them at the pan.

Messy and worth it.

Just pick it up and look at it
Monday August 08th 2022, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Knit

I hadn’t done anything on the latest project because I’m making it up as I go along and I hadn’t decided exactly how I was going to do the next part. Much less row.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Looking at the clock after sundown, I finally decided I didn’t want tomorrow to be a no-progress day too, because those just feed on the next one and the next. So I made myself sit down, look at the thing, and at least make that one row come out of my hands.

And what do you know. Totally broke the logjam. I kept going till my hands said stop.

Well hello there!
Sunday August 07th 2022, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Last year, the mango tree was fighting off a fungal infection. It had not liked the humidity buildup in the now-defunct plastic greenhouse and there were black tips in a lot of places; the perfume and intensity of what an Alphonso could taste like were only a memory and a hope.

It’s still recovering but a lot better than it was, and it set a large crop this year. For awhile. Oh well.

Tonight, quite to my surprise, I found two like this and a third almost as big at the back of the tree and some smaller ones that might well get there, hiding near the fence line. How in all these times had I not seen these?! I mean yes the foliage is thick, but.

Enough to share again if this keeps up! Go tree grow!

A blooper that worked
Saturday August 06th 2022, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus,Recipes

Our school district held to the traditional Tuesday-after-Labor-Day opening long after that was no longer fashionable. Years ago we got next-day camping spots at Yosemite, passing school bus after school bus as we drove there–and ran into a family we knew who were doing the same thing: no six month wait, just call and come right in, everybody else’s kids were in class.

The good old days.

Our friends Phyl and Lee throw a ‘last Saturday of summer!’ pool party every year before school starts. We older parents all remarked how odd it felt that that meant today.

Richard and I always arrive late when the sun is low.

I wasn’t about to go swimming with a heart monitor on, but sitting around the pool with old friends at a potluck, that we were definitely into. Made new friends who let me hold their baby.

All of this by way of saying that if you ever make my chocolate hazelnut torte recipe as four dozen mini cupcakes, if you get them in the oven and five minutes later see the bowl still sitting there on the counter waiting to go into the batter that has the half pound of hazelnut puree/cocoa/salt and you exclaim AAAGH! loud enough to be heard across the house and you only got the quarter pound of hazelnuts in that was a different step of the process–no worries. It’s all good. Yes the texture is more crisp cookie on top and a smoother texture than usual below because it’s got all that extra sugar relative to the ingredients that actually went into it, and not a whole lot of Cuisinarted nuts.

The verdict? They were devoured fast and I’m glad I saved a few here for breakfast.

I do have that half pound of waiting hazelnut meal with cocoa in it to play with, though. Whip some egg whites and sugar to meringue them into cookies? That’s my guess so far.

She liked it! Hey Mikey!
Friday August 05th 2022, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family

I got to hand deliver the red afghan to our niece today, who was thrilled. Her six-month-old daughter grabbed it, as babies do, and it was soft. Hey. She liked this. She held onto it and pumping her arms up and down tested what this new thing was like. Tasty, too!

We got to catch up a bit with Richard’s sister the new grandma out here for a visit.

Some days just leave a smile that you know is going to stay with you a good long time.

Doesn’t look like much yet. But it will.
Thursday August 04th 2022, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Finished the ocean part, the waves coming in at the beach, the ice plants, and most of the beach, flowing in like Half Moon Bay.

The steep scrubby hillside that rises straight up from the beach will be seed stitch, differentiating from the stockinette of the short stretch of sand below.

And then finally I can get to the fun part. The redwoods.

There’s gotta be a pun in that name somewhere but I haven’t found it yet
Wednesday August 03rd 2022, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Life

A Zio. Who thought that’s what it should be called?

No exercise nor shower for 24 hours. Push this button when anything happens and write down the events when they do.

(Getting out of bed and turning on the light and finding a pen and trying to sound coherent at 3 a.m. is not high on my list.)

So yeah, out of an abundance of caution the cardiologist decided to put me back on a heart monitor for two weeks so that’s what I did for fun today. I found myself the first few hours reaching to scratch that unfamiliar pressure a bit and freaking, Don’t DO that did you push the stupid button tell me you didn’t! I didn’t. I think.

By tomorrow it won’t feel like such a novelty. I mean, it’s not like I’ve never done this before.

Not even a week
Tuesday August 02nd 2022, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

All that time of feeling like, hurry. Hurry. No, seriously, hurry! This needs to be done. This needs to be ready. This one. L&A’s can wait.

I was telling Richard on Saturday about that and how it felt like such a relief that it was done in–somehow in time, whoever it was supposed to be for.

His sister called Sunday. Her son had just moved to San Francisco with his wife and baby and she was flying out to help and to play grandma for the week; she would be there Tuesday.


She and her siblings are all quite allergic to wool so I thought, it would be nice, but it wasn’t realistic to hope for. And I knew if I asked, and they were, then I’d have to make not only a third baby afghan but a non-wool one for his sister, too, who also just had a baby. Right?

(Shading from the trees vs the sunset in this photo.)

Worse things have happened in my life than needing to knit for someone, c’mon.

Deadlines are wonderful things. I finally blocked this–I mean, I love the 3-D effect too but I wouldn’t want anyone to ever feel like they’d ruined it the moment water hit it–and then texted the nephew: Are you guys allergic to wool?

Answer: No.

Me (wanting to yell YAY!) Is red a good color?

Answer: One of the best. Grin.

Me: Machine washable, too.

Answer: If only babies were.

(Me: I’ll catch up with his sister later.)

Not on my list
Monday August 01st 2022, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Life

My little sister thought this one was cool, and she’s right: a 6000 square foot 1920 house near the shore of Lake Michigan that some guy decided to thatch. (One building site in the UK said thatched roofs last 50-60 years, but you have to put new thatch on top every two. Just as a warning.)

Here’s a little history of the place in case you ever wanted to live like a very rich hobbit.

Then there’s this other one, which comes with its own cave. Where they had a tree. And they built a house. And they incorporated the tree into the walls of the house both inside and out and if you want to walk down that hall, well, climb or crawl, buddy.

Whoever buys that absolutely needs to have an indoor cat to explore those limbs.

And absolutely needs not to have a dog.

Summer breeze
Sunday July 31st 2022, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

It was a good old-fashioned Bay Area summer day today–meaning, when the breeze blew it was actually a bit chilly. It’s how it used to be most of the time when we moved here thirty-five years ago.

The doors at church were open for the fresh air after a rash of covid cases last month.

I’d brought a Coolibar sun jacket to wear walking to and from the car; it doesn’t wrinkle and it easily stuffs down into a purse  and I really do need protection from even that much UV.

I’d almost brought a wool cardigan instead, though, and sitting there with that breeze coming right in at us I was wishing I had. Coolibar to the rescue near the beginning of the service.

When we broke for Sunday School, Suzie came up and told me she’d been wondering if I was wearing one of my Ukrainian shirts today. She hadn’t been able to tell from behind with that jacket on.

I was.

She was relieved: People forget, she told me, like it’s not still going on. She was really glad I wore those.

I was surprised and quite gratified. I’d bought them to make a difference to artists under siege trying to still make a living in the middle of the war. I’d had no idea it made one to her, too, but it did, it meant a lot, and her conveying that meant a lot to me in turn.

And I thought, we’re at the empty nester stage where I can afford to splurge on such things; she’s in the throes of the kids in college and soon to be in college stage. I remember how it was.

I would pronounce one a hand-me-down and share it if we were at all the same size.