Category Archives: home

Not codes, but cookies!

This morning I started gathering and measuring ingredients for a few of the cookie recipes I like to make at Christmas. I was afraid to start mixing them and actually cooking, afraid I would make a mistake, with so many distractions of carpenters and tile-setters coming and going, asking questions.

The truck that brought the new sheet rock had a boom so long and mighty that it reached all the way from the street up to the second-story window, which was the easiest route in. The delivery was two hours late, so it arrived about the same time as the contractor and the inspector.

While the inspector was here I was on pins and needles from the suspense; she was returning to inspect the “corrections” she had noted on Monday. I opened the door to the wet back garden and looked out there without seeing, and prayed. It is scary what power these inspectors have, and in California the building code provides a endlessly shifting and growing body of regulations to draw from so that it is easy to find lots of things that need correcting, which translates to extra hours and money fixing things that aren’t broken. But enough about that — I started out wanting to talk about cookies!

And sugar. I know that sugar is BAD, but I find it hard to come down too hard on the stuff, partly because I have a historical family interest in C&H (California and Hawaiian) Sugar Company, for which my great uncle was a chemist.

Have you heard that cane sugar is better for you (or, more precisely, not as bad for you!) and makes better-tasting baked goods than beet sugar? I don’t know if either or both of those are true or myths. But I do always buy C&H cane, when I am buying white sugar.

When I poured a fresh bag into my sugar jar today I noted how pretty it is. I wonder if I ever showed you the jar that I have kept sugar in for decades; it came from my husband’s family’s cabin where I think they were using it for sugar when I first saw it.

Do you remember this picture from when I was in India,
of women buying coarse sugar from bulk bins?

This year I’m experimenting with making a few of my traditional cookies gluten-free, for the sake of a family member who I’d like to be able to eat them. But when it comes to sweetening, I don’t worry whether it’s fructose or sucrose or honey or beets — I just try to keep the sweetness to a minimum so we can taste the butter and other interesting flavors.

I eventually got the dough made for the Ginger Spice cookies, but I haven’t got one cookie into the oven yet. The kinds that I’ve started measuring out ingredients for are:

Chunky Ginger Spice
Double Pecan Thumbprints
Apricot Macaroons

I was going to link you to the recipes…. Oops — I’ve never transcribed the recipes here! But the link on the Thumbprints above will take you to the recipe eventually. The photo of a cookie platter at top is from a few years ago. I hope tomorrow I can make a little more progress. It soothes my nerves to bake Christmas cookies.

The inspector signed off on all the corrections. She was surprised that “we” were able to get them done so fast. 🙂 I wish I’d had a plate of cookies to give her as she went out the door.

A happy hodgepodge.

Today was Goldfinch Day in the garden. It could be they were celebrating the rain; I know I am, for several reasons, not least that it’s warmer when it’s raining, and right now I have so many open spaces in my ceiling upstairs, it’s quite drafty when the wind blows through the attic. We had a very cold night and two or three suddenly wintry days.

A male goldfinch announced their event to me when I was standing near the sliding glass door: he flew right up to the glass and hovered, went away, came back two times looking at me. You say he was seeing his reflection? Well, whatever he thought he was doing, he did draw my attention to the dozens of goldfinches feasting, at the feeders and on the ground. I guess when they heard I was catering their convention, everyone wanted to come. I also stayed around so long I was almost late for church. I was trying to be the photographer, but they make it difficult by being so shy. And the rain that made their yellow brighter to my eyes only dulled the scene as a whole, and they look gray against the wisteria leaves.

It took me ages to get dressed for church; I was trying to find the boots I bought last winter, which were stored away “somewhere,” many moons ago when I was so certain that the remodeling project would be complete before another winter came along. I finally found them, and then other parts of my outfit. I am temporarily between dressing tables and have been just wearing the same earrings every day.

Granny Marigold asked how it’s going, the remodeling. A huge thing is that the floors are scheduled to go in a week from tomorrow. That means an incredible number of tasks need to be wrapped up in the next five days, if it’s all to be in the right sequence. My plumber doesn’t see how it can happen. He told me that gently when he was here this evening planning his part of the job; I was really glad he stopped by when he happened to be in the neighborhood. It seems he doesn’t use email anymore, and I’ve been writing him urgent emails. I’ve known him for almost 30 years, since he was in high school; we talked about his parents and his children before he left. He lives with his father and his son, and all three are named James.

Here is the floor plan of the changes in my upstairs. Three new rooms are being created from one very large room that had never had much done with it. Maybe because the original builders saw that they didn’t have enough support to bear any more walls; one unfortunate time drain has been the addition of great beams to floor and ceiling of the room, what the contractor kindly calls “deferred maintenance.”

My master bedroom, bath and closet are at the bottom of the drawing. The new walls are shaded dark. The door has been cut that will open my bedroom to the sewing room, and all the framing is done. A few pictures from the last year, in chronological order:

First, after removing the “popcorn” ceiling, and when they began to add support in the ceiling for the new walls:

The first of my two new windows framed:

How it used to look between my closet and bathroom (although not quite that crooked):

How it looks now:

They have put up plastic film in that new doorway temporarily, but it doesn’t keep out the cold. I’m so glad I thought to hang the sheet on a spring rod, because it’s always warmer on this side when it’s pulled closed.

Below, an example of the extra support that has been added to that end of the room, where the weight of the roof was not resting on enough beams that went straight to the foundation. When the team was looking at the situation and brainstorming what to do, one contractor who works for my contractor said to me, “You’re learning how not to build a house.”

No one worked all these four days of the Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving I did two things I’d never done before on that day: First I went to Liturgy, which was quite lovely, and I took my new friend Kay who I’ll tell you more about sometime. Afterward, we went shopping at my favorite market that has a vast deli section, to buy a few things to take to the feast we were attending, at the little monastery in town 🙂 I’d never had Thanksgiving at a monastery before, either.

Maybe twenty-five people were there. They are on the old calendar, so they had just begun their fast. Unlike many Orthodox, they do not bend the rules, so we had no turkey, and I didn’t miss it. We had various sorts of fish, and so many many different dishes that people had brought, or the nuns had made. One of my favorite things was the beautiful salad I had bought at the market. It was crunchy and pretty and everyone loved it: Mango and Jicama salad, those two ingredients cut in long matchsticks, with Chinese cabbage and cilantro and strips of sweet red pepper. It was lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Before we came home the nuns gave us boxes and bags of pineapple guavas from their hedge and trees; as we went to our car we saw just how prodigious a crop they have. Theirs are certainly situated better than mine, none of which ripened this year.

I didn’t go to the Christmas bazaar that was at my church on Saturday, but there were a few things left that we could buy today during the agape meal, like this origami garland that I hung as soon as I got home.

After selling items at a discount for a while, they eventually were giving stuff away, at which point I accepted edible goodies, which I have put away for Christmas. Who knows if I’ll find time and concentration to make my own cookies this year.

 

I had many things to carry to my car, and it was raining, so I dug the napkin bag out of the trash to carry stuff in.

How was that for a hodgepodge post? I guess it’s only fitting that I publish at least one that reflects the scattered and nearly chaotic style of my life right now. As soon as those floors go in I will be sharing that bright news immediately!

They like a little shade.

In this season when they are happiest, I took pictures of most of my succulents. Many of them are blooming, and it’s hard to get a good picture of that, because their flowers are often on a stem that stretches far from the mother plant before the blooms open.

They are pleasant images from my life, where this week the plumbers and other workers are busy doing repair work before any of my new construction can start. Just one day of it was unnerving for various reasons that are not pleasant, so I won’t bother going into all that. And eventually all will be well… it was good to sleep, and wake to hear the fountain singing.

I don’t know the names of most, but a couple that I do know here are Red Sedum  and Hens and Chicks…  The purple flowers are not a succulent, but bacopa or Sutera cordata.

The busyness around here makes me feel an affinity with these plants, which like the heat of summer, as I also do. They can live without water for long periods, but most of them require a little quiet shade in order to thrive. It occurs to me that I might brush some pine needles off the bench and sit a spell with my garden friends this very afternoon.

Aprons on the clothesline.

Space and light and order. Those are the things that people need
just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.
-Le Corbusier

A couple of images of civilized life, to cheer me up on a day when the feeling of living in a storage unit is growing like a heavy and darkening cloud. While waiting… and waiting… for the situation to change and the cloud to pass, I try to peek out from under the weight of disorientation and distraction to remember some little things I have the power to do, like laundry and cooking.

[Update already: Please not to worry – it’s only the feeling of being a storage unit, not actually living in one, that I am experiencing. It’s because my remodeling project that I expected to start in February has still not started!]

The aprons are my own, and now Elizabeth’s dishes are, too. Her son gave them to me after her funeral that was in the spring. I think they are pretty, though they don’t seem to fit with the tone of my house…? I will put them aside and think more about that when I am reorganizing my new rooms that I still have faith will come into existence before the end of the year, and my three other rooms that in the meantime are stuffed and unhappy.

Aprons and clotheslines — and sunshine! — go well together. 🙂