Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lighting a candle

     Friday the 25th is the one-year anniversary of Andrew's death. This day feels like it means a lot, perhaps more than his birthday. It marks the fact that I and his family have survived a year without him, but it also gives me a bit of distance so that I can hopefully focus on happy memories of him.
     I will be in Minnesota for a conference, but my supervisor generously offered to cover my responsibilities for the day so that I could take the day off. Although I have family in the city, and there will be lots of friends in town for the conference, I decided that I wanted to spend the day alone, with just my thoughts. The only thing I have planned is a trip to the Cathedral of St. Paul, which sounded like the kind of contemplative space I'd want to be at that day.
     A friend has told me about some of the Jewish traditions surrounding the anniversary of a loved one's death. Part of it involves lighting a candle and saying a prayer. So I've been asking my friends, and I ask my friends and family who read my blog - if you would like to do something to remember Andrew, light a candle on Friday and think of him.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer, part two

     What says summer more than spitting watermelon seeds off the porch? I harvested my first watermelon, after thumping, searching for dried tendrils, looking for yellowed patches on the bottom, and every other ripeness indicator we could think of. And it was good, but not great. Great would have happened if I had waited another few days. But since there are at least six more melons on the vine, I don't feel too bad.
     I had a terrific weekend. I've been doing a woodworking project with my friend N for the past four months; while we're still not done, the end is finally within sight. I made even more pickles. I took my first bike ride to the grocery store, something I've long aspired to. And then I got lost on the way back, so I ended up cycling six miles. That feet like a very long way to a beginner like me.
     I also made my best ice cream to date - blueberry-vanilla-cardamom. I originally started making ice cream just because I liked the taste of premium ice cream but not the price (and thanks to G and F for the ice cream maker). But since I discovered how easy it is to make the stuff and how many interesting flavors I can invent, I can't stop.

Monday, July 14, 2014


     When I left for San Francisco, there was nothing to eat in the garden. Actually, that's not quite true, because I'm learning that a lot of weeds are edible, and they grow almost all the time. But it was slim pickings - the spring lettuce and arugula had become too bitter to eat in the heat, and the summer plants hadn't started producing. But when I returned I had eggplant, broccoli, cucumbers, basil, and zucchini.
     Because of this, the stocking of the winter larder has begun. For the first time on my own, I canned. The four quarts of pickles in the middle were the result. There are several ways to screw up canning: you can get the pH wrong, the food can be insufficiently heated so the pathogens aren't killed, or you can fail to make a seal on the lids. (This leaves out pressure canning, used for meat and low-pH foods, but I don't pressure can.) I felt okay about pH and heat - that's just following a recipe. So, just to be sure, I had my expert canner friend C come over and check that the lids sealed properly. Now, if I gift you some pickles this year you can be almost sure that they won't be moldy when you open them...
     I made a few quarts of refrigerator pickles, using the same garlic dill pickle recipe. I wanted a chance to test these pickles soon - what if I made two dozen quarts over the course of the summer and the discovered I hated the recipe?
I also bought some cherries and made rum-soaked cherries. Boozy fruit, as I've heard it called, is a revelation to me. I love the idea of easily preserving fruit and making deliciously flavored alcohol at the same time. I hope these are as delicious in real life as they are in my imagination, but I'll have to wait until they're ready at Christmas to find out.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

San Francisco, Part Two

...and here are the rest of the highlights from my vacation. My cousin and her husband through an awesome Fourth of July Party, complete with inflatable water slide, face paint, champagne, and a parade for the kids. Kids decorated their bikes and drove up and down the road for their clapping parents. 
 K used the provided facepaint to paint her entire body as the American flag. This picture only shows her face, but it took several days to get all the paint off her.
 B took his parade duties very seriously.
 My sister-in-law. As the photographer in her family, she's rarely in photos, so I made sure to snap her a few times.
My brother has perfected his technique for pancake specialization. He uses watered down batter and a turkey baster to sketch the shape, then fills it in. The kids got dogs and cats. I requested a dodecahedron, but got a cube. Still, it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

San Francisco, Part One

I just returned from a fabulous trip to see my brother and his family in San Francisco, where they moved out there a year ago. This is the first chance I had to see their new lives, and I'm delighted to see how much they like it. My brother has given up his car commute for a more comfortable BART ride, they hike and ride bikes even more, and my newly-cosmopolitan eight-year-old niece declares that sushi is her favorite food.

If I plan this right, I'll be able to post vacation pictures several times this week, thereby buying me time to catch up on my email at work and the weeding in the garden.
California is suffering from a drought, so the landscape is dead brown hills punctuated by dark green trees and bushes.
I now understand what my parents went through with me. Like my niece, I was a voracious reader, carrying books around everywhere and only reluctantly tearing myself away from them to look up at the sites while we were out and about. Here we're waiting for the subway. K and I both like to read and walk, although I avoid doing it on busy city streets.
I had my first proper ramen, from a ramen shop, which we ordered as takeout and ate in Union Square. It was as delicious as I expected, since I love pretty much any kind of noodle.
My sister-in-law S was happy to humor me and visit a few touristy places. We had ice cream at Ghiradelli's chocolate shop. Note the ice cream on nose and chin - when you have to plow into an ice cream cone, you know you're enjoying it.
We also went to see the sea lions, but I had known that they migrate to Mexico in the summer. There was one, lone, old sea lion basking in the sun, and I got a kick out of a dozens of tourists gathered on a pier just to stare at one animal.