Sunday, April 18, 2010

i guess it's been an industrious weekend, in a laid back sort of way. i canned 15 jars of meyer lemon marmalade (with lavender), which is always satisfying. my only complaint about this six hour endeavor is that the jarring part coincided with the start of the season premiere of doctor who (on bbc america). due to our crappy direct tv dvr being hinky we were forced to watch it in real time, so some of the middle 15 minutes it i only heard and caught glimpses of, but enough to still enjoy it. like the new doctor. wasn't sure i would, what with my resistance to change and all.

today i mowed and weeded the front yard. doesn't sound like much but we let the grass get way too high. attacking that with an old fashioned rotary blade push mower was no fun but i prevailed! now it only looks kind of culchie. in a few minutes i will hem drew's new pants. can't have him back at work looking all shabby in pants that aren't comfy. that wouldn't do at all.

tomorrow will be three months since devin died. i still can't believe it. with how sad i've been you'd think i would. you'd think it would be pretty fucking clear to me, but it still doesn't seem real in a way. i miss him so much. that doesn't even begin to cover it. when i think about never seeing devin again my whole body feels heavy and my tummy hurts. and i start to cry, of course. i think that's what i need to do... i think i need to go curl up in a ball in the bathroom and have a good old cry. i don't know why i like to cry in the bathroom, sitting on the floor with my back to the tub. maybe because there's usually an 80% chance herbie will join me, if he's in the house. or hitachi-san... they are vying for supremacy in the bathroom turf war. why it's such valuable real estate is beyond me.

i worry about my family, too. i worry about my brother and his wife, and son and daughter. i worry that they won't make it through. i worry that the pain of losing dev will change them for the worse. i worry that losing devin will be the horrible disaster that will keep on giving. i am afraid it'll be the tip of an iceberg of loss that my family will never bounce back from. it's already been permanently changed by devin's death in such a terrible, painful way. i don't want more of that on top of it. maybe we are more resilient than that but i don't know... i don't feel very resilient lately. just tired and stressed, and sad and lonely - isolated and generally friendless. i guess i just need to keep slogging on and see what happens, and try not worry so much, which is hard. i come from a long line of worriers (on my mother's side). well, i guess that's it for now... on that cheery note i shall leave to hem pants. it's always something.

Monday, March 29, 2010


i am pooped today. i didn't feel this tired when i got up but boy, my butt is dragging and the yawns are jaw-cracking! it was a busy weekend, though, so maybe i shouldn't be surprised. saturday i did a lot of gardening, which basically consisted of clearing out all the dead crap. there was a lot of it. i only hauled half of it out to the curb for recycling (or whatever they do with it). there's still a big pile in the garden. i did clean up the herb garden and dig out all the mint, which was taking over. digging out mint is hard, i can tell ya that for free! but i prevailed. the spearmint is going the way of the dodo but i'm keeping the apple mint, or some of it, in a pot. maybe i should go see if i can rescue any of the spearmint... we shall see.

yesterday we went up to san francisco. the weather was lovely and it was just a nice day to get out. first stop was the academy of sciences, which is always fun. we had a yummy but ridiculously expensive lunch there as well (it was a great ham sandwich, but still). then off to strybing arboretum in golden gate park. it's one of my favorite places in the park and drew had never been. it was fun to show it to him.

and today i rode my bike to work. bike to work = spring; it's official!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

adventures in canning

note from the blogger: i made this batch over the president's day weekend and am only posting it this week (3rd in march!). due to technical difficulties (or my incompetence, which is more likely), i got held up with the pictures. the story is still the same.

i spent the long weekend making marmalade. meyer lemons are a hybrid, a cross between a lemon and an orange. it's sweeter than a regular lemon but still tart enough that you realize it's a lemon, not an orange. it also has a thinner, more orange-yellow peel. last week i spied a meyer lemon tree in a neighbor's yard so on saturday i went by to see if they'd let me pick some. turns out they have two meyer lemon trees and they also said yes, so i was in business. i went home, got a five gallon bucket, and commenced to pick a wee bit over 22 pounds of meyer lemons. funny thing is, to look at those lemon trees you'd never know it.

i made some meyer lemon marmalade a few weeks back with the lemons from our little tree, i think i had about 22 of them, funnily enough. so far as taste went i was very happy with how it turned out and it was my first foray into canning, which really isn't hard and is very satifying - so much stuff to show for the work. the one thing i wasn't happy with was the distribution of the peel in the marmalade. the recipe i used said to chop the peel by hand and it ended up at the top of the jar. once you got through the peel it was more like jelly than marmalade. luckily i found a different recipe that recommended using the slicing attachment on the food processor to slice the lemons and not only did that work much better in terms of distribution of the peel throughout the marmalade, it also shaved off what i am guesstimating to be two hours of work. woo hoo! i've never used the slicing blade before so i feel confident when i say i'd never have thought of that on my own in a million years.

the marmalade cooks...

i made two kinds of marmalade: meyer lemon with lavender and meyer lemon with vanilla bean. in subsequent batches i have made plain (at my dad's request), and a combo lavender/vanilla bean. drew likes the combo best, i like the lavender best, lucy likes the vanilla bean best. they are all pretty damn good, imho.

some of the finished product...

a closer look...

you don't like marmalade? neither did i, until i had my first taste of lemon marmalade. i started making lemon marmalade years ago when i was living in berkeley with regular lemons from the tree in the backyard but i didn't go so far as to can it. i'd just make a small batch and eat it until it was gone, then make some more. i like meyer lemon marmalade better. the thinner peel cooks up softer and tastes better; less pith = less bitter. since meyers are a little sweeter it takes less sugar - but regular lemon marmalade is still pretty effing tasty. i have heard from many family members i've send the marmalade to that they like it, even those who have never cared for marmalade. i suspect, like myself, they only ever had orange marmalade, which i've always found too sweet. i also made some blood orange marmalade that drew and my lovely sister-in-law, val, both love and say is their favorite. it's not my favorite but it'll do in a pinch. my plan is to never be totally out of meyer lemon marmalade, if i can help it.

i will get around to posting the recipe and instructions soon, but right now i have to go walk the little dog. marmalade is easy and canning is easy, too. i was all intimidated by canning but it's not hard, just time consuming. drew and i are planning our garden, which will be replete with heirloom tomatoes. canning some of those lovelies is definitely in our future

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

better late than never

i never did post a picture of my birthday cake, what with getting the news that devin was in the hospital and then, most unfortunately, having to go out of town to attend the funeral. it's the chocolate candy cane cake from the 2009 cook's illustrated holiday baking and it's amazingly good! some folks said it was the best cake they'd ever had and with the exception of the carrot cake recipe from my martha stewart cookbook, i have to agree. it's definitely the best chocolate cake i've ever had and i've eaten some good ones over the years. i got the squiggly candles at safeway after tromping to three party stores to get nifty candles to no avail.

this is a picture of what it was going to look like. i had planned to be just as fancy but once i got the news about devin i was on the phone with my parents, mick, justin, mary, teri and lucy for almost three hours solid, so i got a late start. i also had to tidy up the house, though drew really stepped up to the plate with the cleaning. he rocks! i almost ruined the white chocolate frosting with my impatience but luckily the freezer trick worked. guests for the party were already arriving and i was just starting to put it together, so i dispensed with piping and garnishes. i will make it again some day and it'll be really snazzy. i must say that mine had a lot more of the crushed peppermint candy sticking to it than this one, but alas! i don't think i got a picture before the candles were lighted and lights were dimmed and i can't find one online.

i did get a special birthday treat. diane, kira and shannon sang "happy birthday" to me in german after the first, english go round. that was really cool. i was so glad lucy and laurence's godchildren were at the party because they provided such uplifting excitement as only kids can. with everything else going on that day i don't think i could have enjoyed myself if they hadn't been there.

still don't know what i'm going to do with the bottle of champagne that mary and jeff gave me. i decided drew and i would drink it when devin woke up, but that didn't happen. now it just feels kind of, i don't know, tainted? as it is, it's sitting in my fridge, with the festive, curly streamers still attached. i guess i'll just have to think on it a while.

here is the recipe:

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

For the cake:*
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups boiling water
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. espresso powder
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling, frosting and garnish:
8 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¾ finely ground peppermint candies, plus extra whole candies for garnish

*I made three 9-inch cake layers, and increased the amount of cake batter by 50%. I made the regular amount of filling and frosting called for in the recipe, and it was just enough.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease the edges of three 8-inch round cake pans. Dust with cocoa powder and tap out the excess. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment or wax paper. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water, chocolate, cocoa powder and espresso powder together until smooth.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans, and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cakes right side up and allow to cool completely.

To prepare the filling and frosting, melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler until smooth. Set aside and let cool until no longer warm to the touch. In the meantime, beat the butter on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer about 30 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt, and beat at medium-low speed, scraping down the bowl once, about 1 minute. Add the cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed just until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Transfer half of the mixture to a separate bowl and stir in the cooled white chocolate until smooth. Add ¾ cup of the ground peppermint candies to the remaining frosting.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard cake round or cake platter. Spread half of the peppermint frosting over the cake. Top with another cake layer and spread evenly with the remaining peppermint frosting. Top with the final cake layer. Reserve ½ to ¾ cup of the white chocolate frosting in a pastry bag. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining white chocolate frosting. Coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining crushed peppermints. Use the reserved white chocolate frosting to pipe a decorative border around the bottom edge of the cake, as well as decorative swirls on top. Garnish with reserved whole peppermints as desired.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, Holiday 2009

Thursday, February 4, 2010

beautiful darcy anne, my oh so dear friend for over twenty years though it feels like many more (did i ever not know darcy?), sent me the link to an article in the new yorker called good grief. as i just said to her in an email, i feel both better and sadder for having read it, but glad that i did. i'm lucky to have a friend like darcy. she helps me feel saner and i know she loves me when i veer off into crazy. fundamentally i don't think she really cares if i'm sane or if i'm nuts, and how many friends like that does a person really have?

the article talks, in part, about our culture's impatience with grief.... you're supposed to get through it and move on and if you can't, then at least have the good manners to not burden others. understand that when the vast majority of people ask how you're doing they don't really want to know and it's not even their fault. it's just how we do things. tomorrow will be three weeks since devin's accident. it's 17 days since he died and it feels like the blink of an eye. i suppose it is. being back at work is bizarre because i just don't give a shit. i understand it needs to be done and our bills need to be paid but who cares about research grants and quick vouchers? i can barely concentrate on anything except things that make me feel connected to dev and anything that interferes with that annoys me. half the time i want to hide in the bathroom. if i could i'd spend a month at home just being, which runs counter to everything i am culturally supposed to do. i'd sleep late and feel sad, and sometimes feel happy. i'd wander about aimlessly. the article mentioned that as something grieving people do and i identified with it so strongly. i don't know what to do with myself and i just feel myself drifting, but i can't do it as much as i need. it's easier to drift when everything is such a supreme effort. getting up is an effort. so is taking a shower, drying my hair, walking the dog, making dinner, doing dishes. talking. i'm exhausted and just want to wallow in it a while but day to day living interferes, and that tires me out even more.

moving on means different thing to different people, i suppose, but i'm in no hurry to do it. most people are talking about how the pain and sadness aren't so oppressive, so overwhelming, so sharp and raw and brutal. i know that will happen eventually even though it doesn't seem possible now. the things people say, the things i say to myself, just strike me as so odd... how do you ever move on, really, from such a loss? jamie died over six years ago and i think of him every day. every. single. day. why would i want to move on from that? why would i want to move on from devin? it just doesn't compute. it's not even realistic. i don't want to. i don't want to assure people i won't be sad forever, or manage their expectations that life goes on and that i get that. of course i fucking get it. i fucking hate it.

last night herbie wanted petted and instead of hopping into and then flopping in the tub like he usually does he flopped on the mat outside it. i petted his butt, just by his tail, gently digging my fingers into his fur. i petted his head, rubbing between his ears so that he tucked them down and back. it always looks to me like he's wearing a baseball cap backwards when he does that. when he flopped on his side i kept going, petting his chest, his side, even his belly a little bit, then went back to his chin and face and head. having beside-the-tub-time-with-herbie, petting him and listening to him purr like a motorcycle, was the best part of my day. i didn't have to re-assure him i'd be okay. i didn't have to feel self-conscious for being so down. i didn't have to worry that my delight in him was going to be misinterpreted as turning a corner or making progress. it was probably the only thing i did yesterday that wasn't an effort. i didn't have to do anything but enjoy how happy he was to be getting what he wanted and it was such a relief. i thought about how devin would have found herbie and his tub time so funny and how he would have enjoyed it, and how i was sad he never got the chance.

Friday, January 29, 2010

the beginning of after

i am heading home for california tomorrow. i will be happy to get there and see my husband, who left for home on tuesday, and i'll be happy to see the furries again but it is bumming me out. it is making me so depressed and sad. it's the first step on the road to life going on without devin and it hurts.

all of my family were here except my sister-in-law, marie, who had to stay home in holland with her and patrick's little boy. otherwise we were all here... from pittsburgh, from san jose, from amsterdam. it was great and horrible to see everyone. seeing devin in the casket... i don't even have words to describe just how terrible that was. seeing and meeting his friends and all the people who loved him gather for two days and then pack the funeral to standing room only... i don't have words to describe how incredible that was.

if a funeral can be neat, devin's was. we couldn't do what his dad, my brother mick, and his brother, my nephew colin, said he'd really like - a viking funeral pyre - but we did our best. we had ziggy stardust and justin sane, friends singing aeroplane over the sea by neutral milk hotel and playing irish traditional music. we had grandpap singing danny boy, love and farewell messages written on an irish flag, memories shared and even devin's own words that showed his zest for life. we gave him as good a send off as we could and i believe we did him proud.

he died in a fall, in an accident. it wasn't hit and run, a drunk driver, nothing like that. a fall, an accident, a piece of horrible, terrible, dreadful luck, and that helps. it gives me comfort, truly. he wasn't left for dead. he wasn't left like a piece of trash. people did try to help him and even though it didn't make enough of a difference to save him they tried, and that's what matters. devin was an organ donor. right at this very moment someone has his heart. someone has his lung. someone has his kidney, and someone has his liver, someone has his corneas (i think, anyway), and that does NOT help. that he's helping others to live doesn't give me the slightest bit of comfort and i always thought that knowing your loved one helped others to live would be some sort of consolation, but i was wrong. i know it's right, but it doesn't help because it doesn't bring devin back and it doesn't give his death purpose or meaning. someone else gets to live for a while because devin and the rest of us were robbed and brutalized. it's not that i begrudge them and their loved ones, because i don't. it's just they aren't my loved ones. they aren't devin and they never will be and that is a very bitter pill, indeed.

i love you devin patrick geever. always have, always will, and i will always miss you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


in the generation after mine the geevers run to boys... of the eight grandkids, six are boys. devin was the third of my nieces and nephews and he died today. he turned 19 on january 17th, while he was in the icu of tallahassee memorial hospital. on the evening of the 15th of january he was, from all indications, the victim of a hit and run accident on the main campus of florida state university, where he was a freshman. someone hit him so hard they broke his hips, fractured his pelvis, broke and fractured his ribs, bruised his kidney and pancreas, mangled his spleen so badly it had to be removed, collapsed both his lungs and by the time he was found, caused almost all the blood in his body to hemorrhage out of him. at first we thought his head, at least, wasn't injured but we were wrong. two days after his birthday, after a CAT scan and and EEG determined his brain was no longer functioning, he was removed from life support. he was surrounded by his family and friends and i will regret until the day i die that i wasn't able to be there.

whenever a loved one dies everyone says how great they were, how special they were, and devin really, really was so incredibly, amazingly, wonderfully special. on both his personal and memorial facebook pages almost every single person mentions his sunny disposition and his wicked sense of humor. just like his brother, colin, he could have you laughing so hard it hurt, so hard you thought you'd never catch your breath. he was incredibly smart and could have done anything, really. he wanted to be an engineer. he was a sweet, loving, darling boy who i didn't get to spend enough time with. i let geography and money dictate how much time i spent with him and his brother and sister and my brother and sister-in-law. like everyone else i thought there'd be more time. i thought there was all the time in the world, but i was wrong.

so what do i remember most about devin? his smile. his laugh. how blue his eyes were. how tall he got! how funny he was. how he was the fattest baby and the skinniest young man. how much i loved that his birthday was two days from mine... i'm not sure i ever told him that but i did. i was so happy he was a capricorn, too. how he looked like the spitting image of his mom and his dad at the same time. his easy going, fun loving personality. how he and his brother, when they were little , used to bicker but how they always forgot about it and were soon thick as thieves again. watching him tease his sister, play with his dog, his delight at having the birds at butterfly world land on him. how much fun you had when you and your cousins were together... that was a delight to witness. i could go on and on and never run out of things to say. the hole his death has left in my heart, in my family, is impossible to describe. one of his friends wrote to him on his facebook page that a lot of her memories of him made her laugh but they all made her cry, and that is exactly how i feel. i simply cannot imagine the world without devin in it. it doesn't make sense to me... it never will.

i love you, devin, and i always will. i am sorry i didn't get to spend more time with you, and i'm glad that you seemed to like hanging out with me when we were together. you were such a blessing, such a delight, such a precious gift. my life is richer for you having been a part of it and poorer for your absence. there are not enough words in all the languages of the world that can express how much we all love you. how much we wish we had more time with you. i would trade places with you in a heartbeat if i could but i can't, and i hate it! so i'll just keep loving you, keep holding you in my heart, and hope that some day i'll get to be with you again.