Jul 31, 2007

Nine Very Old Eggs

Remember how I mentioned that you have to age your hen's eggs if you want to hard boil them because if they are too fresh they won't peel? Remember how I rudely laughed at everyone who has to buy their eggs from the supermarket and who think they're buying fresh eggs but aren't because I've never bought an egg from the store that wouldn't peel...yeah, that was just plain mean. I wasn't kidding though. Not to rub it in any one's faces, but I had to age these guys for three weeks. Yup. That says volumes about how old grocery store eggs must be.

I haven't eaten hard boiled eggs in a long time. I've been craving egg salad, or deviled eggs, or even just sliced egg on a salad nicoise (my version). Finally I get some boiled! But what do I do with them the second I boil them? Put them back in the fridge unused. Sheesh. They aren't getting any younger in there. I guess I'll make some egg salad today with my very tough and stringy garden celery. Doesn't that sound delightful?! (Why I can't grow good celery is a mystery. I think I will stop trying now.)

Every now and then I need to clear out all the wisdom in my head in order to let new wisdom in so I'm going to empty some out right now. Go ahead and dig in! Incidentally, if you need some advice about something please don't hesitate to ask while I have some wisdom left. I will dedicate a whole post to giving you advice if you like. (I always wanted to be an advice columnist). Here it is:

  • Pizza is not a diet food. Unless it has no dough, no cheese, and no lard-dotted meat on it. Marinara sauce is fine to eat on a diet though. Go ahead and pig out on some red sauce with barely roasted veggies, you won't hurt your diet on that.

  • Having a baby will NOT bring you and your spouse closer if you're having marriage problems. Instead, your infant will be like a megaphone amplifying all the ways in which you are inadequate and not working as a team. Babies are like bombs, not sutures.

  • Love is NOT all you need. While love is all well and good and we all need some of it, don't be fooled by this song. There's probably something wrong with you anyway if you're getting all your wisdom from songs. But seriously, love is not going to feed you. It won't change diapers. It won't pay the mortgage (unless by "love" you really mean "prostitution"). And it isn't going to make President Bush less of an asshole. So don't come crying to me when love doesn't turn out to be the answer to all your problems.

  • Life is hard and then you die. (Ooops, that was a very 1980's sentiment that slipped right out of the shadows of the grey matter. I had no idea it was lurking there.)

  • If you don't think parenting is difficult then you're probably doing it wrong or someone else is doing it for you and I don't want to hear about it. Because then I might be forced to smack you. Which would send the wrong message to my child. It would be very un-Ghandi-like of me.

  • Eggs and spermatozoa do not get better with age. It is best to use them before their expiration date which may not be convenient to your career or life, but in case no one noticed yet: nature doesn't give a shit about when we're emotionally ready to have babies. Science has made many things possible, like having babies later in life more safely, but often at a great cost.* So if you know you're going to want to have children, try to get moving on that in a timely fashion.

(I'm a lot less wisdomous than I thought, I'm now struggling to come up with bits and shreds of wisdom. I could never be a magazine mogul. Clearly. Maybe it's because I forgot to take my medication this morning. Yes, yes, I take wisdom meds. Doesn't everyone? I'm running off to take them now...wisdom will return after the following message....)

NEVER CHEAT ON YOUR SPOUSE OR KARMA WILL KICK YOU IN THE ASS WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT. (that threat was brought to you by the marriage police of America (me) and is supported by the Buttafuocos.)

  • You should never let other people's definition of success bring you down. Be your own yard stick and you will definitely succeed, even if you succeed in ways unexpected. This is perhaps the greatest piece of wisdom I have acquired in my life lessons. Lately I've been struggling a little with my self esteem, but the one thing that really keeps me afloat is knowing that no one else's measurement of my life so far has the power to take away what I feel are my greatest triumphs.

Well, for right now I'm tapped.

*Just to be clear, I am not judging people for having babies at older ages, just pointing out that nature is still giving us all a very clear message about how wise that is with the increased risks still associated with such pregnancies and greatly increased infertility problems experienced by couples in their late thirties or their forties. It's a fact of life that the quality of eggs and sperm decreases as we age. That's not a judgment, just a fact.

Jul 30, 2007

Color Theory

White is a sterile field in which my brain is stunned into cold suspension. In white it shivers and tries to remember what it was like when the sun shone in golden sheaves of light. It struggles to make something out of nothing like a drugged magician. White is empty depression in which all impulses to create and percolate thought is suppressed.

White is a noise like an insidious ringing in the ears blocking out the other more joyful noises in life. Sometimes I see the beauty of white like when it blinds you on a Mediterranean hillside reflecting the overbearing Greek sun. But there it is mixed with saturated blue doorways and windows. There it is doing battle with a hotter light.

I need color. I've missed it too. I've never had orange like this. In our first house we painted one of the walls in the kitchen a melon color. I miss being surrounded by colorful walls. I find it soothing and restful while at the very same time energizing and alive. The first coat is completely done and now I'm working on the second coat of paint (it needs it). When I walked in that studio this morning I wasn't walking into a 1970's brown nightmare, I walked into a glowing room with sunlight splashing the bright walls. I can't wait to get the flooring in and move into the room. It's wonderful!

*I realize that not everyone is going to appreciate an orange room as I do. I realize that orange can actually make some people kind of angry. Also, this picture makes the orange look truly bright orange when in reality it's a little softer than it appears here. But it really is orange. Think of orange Julius' in the summertime, that will take your mind off the fact that I just painted my creative lair ORANGE.

Jul 29, 2007

Beets: How I Love Thee

Indeed, I love beets. I've been wanting to pickle them for a few years but first had to find a good recipe for them (not easy) which I located in The Joy Of Cooking book "All About Canning". Is it really a good recipe? I won't know until the beets have sat around for at least a few weeks. Pickles are not good until all the flavors have had a chance to really get personal with each other in the jars. The concept of old food is interesting. People are so freaked out by germs and bacterias and yet it takes certain yeasts and bacterias to age or ferment some of our favorite foods.

Isn't it weird that most cheddar cheese is at least two years old? I find myself thinking about the age of my cheese and how it relates to my life. You could have a baby and make some cheese at the same time, and then when you're baby is a toddler and you're crying about how fast the years have passed, only then will your cheese be ready to eat. That's some OLD dairy. Yet the idea of drinking sour milk freaks the living sh*$ out of us all. What the heck do we think "sour" cream is anyway, angel farts?

It must be admitted though that when foods are purposely fermented or aged we're applying some muscle to the right kinds of micro-organisms. We aren't courting just any old yeasties. We are pretty specific about the ones we like, with good reason. There are some pretty dangerous ones out there.

You know how we always hear about how Native Americans respect animals more and show that respect by not wasting even a tiny bit of the animals they kill? They use every scrap. But you don't hear people saying the same thing about vegetables. I was thinking about this yesterday and enjoying the fact that in pickling my beets I was making use of all of their parts. Now that I have developed an appreciation for the beet greens I washed them all and saved all the good greens. I blanched them and put them in the fridge for a meal later this week.

There are two possibilities for the stems and trimmed bits: 1) the compost pile. Obviously you have a compost pile. Right? (Well, I can't be all superior here because I didn't have one until just this year. But seriously, you should start one if you don't already have one.) or 2) chicken scraps. My girls LOVE kitchen scraps. They do have preferences though and I know they don't care for carrots. They love greens and beets as far as I can tell. So these scraps go into the production of fresh eggs. That is so cool, I'm totally geeking out over it!

So am I as spiritual and cool as a Native American for not wasting any part of the vegetables I harvest? I know I'm not as good looking as a Native American. But clearly I have deep respect for nature.

I was supposed to ripple cut my beets. I don't have a ripple cutter though. So I sliced them in the Cuisinart. They are a little thin and the rounds were too big so I had to cut them in half while carefully giving myself second degree burns. They aren't going to look quite as pretty as I would like. If I get a chance to do another batch I think I'll borrow Lisa E.'s crinkle cutter or I'll julienne them. Either way would make a prettier presentation. Does it matter?


I like my food to be pretty. You know how some people are perfectionists with remodels and painting? You know how I'm not quite so particular with my remodels? But I am a perfectionist when it comes to the results I get in my kitchen. Food should be nutritious, tasty, AND look appetizing. It should be better than anything I could buy in a restaurant or store.

In the interests of giving others the courage to start canning some of their own jam or other foods, I am going to list here the most important tips I can think of for canning:

  • Always put your canning pot on to boil before you start anything else. It can take over an hour to get it to a rolling boil. Sometimes longer depending on the size of the pot and the strength of your stove.

  • The most important thing to know before canning is this: preserving food can never make bad food better. Never use old, bruised, or rotting foods to preserve. Preserving doesn't stop deterioration, it merely slows it. So you should always start with the best produce possible- you want it ripe for best nutrition and flavor, but not over ripe or the flavor and nutrition will be inferior as will be the texture.

  • Everything that you use for canning should be clean first. However, if anyone ever tells you to use bleach or disinfectant to sterilize your kitchen they are freaked out and giving very unsafe advice. It is unnecessary to sterilize your kitchen with chemicals. Hot water and soap will do.

  • Before eating any home canned goods check to see if the seal is still strong. If you can't pry the lid off with your fingernail it's good. It should be slightly concave, if it makes a popping sound and gives a little to pressure the seal is no good. There shouldn't be a primordial ooze leaking out. Smell it: if it smells foul, it probably is. Unless it's kimchi and you hate kimchi. Because if it's something you hate it's going to seem foul to you whether it is or not. If there's mold or bad smells, dump it out. The only other indication that the food has gone bad is if the texture is slimy. But you would notice these things in commercially canned goods too, right? It's really no different. Except that with home canned goods you can be sure there are no bug parts or rat parts in it. You can't be so sure about commercially canned foods. Once you start thinking about that you may never want to eat commercially canned foods again.

  • Follow the directions. If you follow the directions you will be successful. If you aren't sure of the directions you can call your local extension office and they will probably have someone who can answer your questions. Or you can call a friend who's experienced which is even better. Best of all is to find a friend to teach you. You can always e-mail me with questions and if it's something I don't know the answer to I can most likely find the answer somewhere else.

  • Start with jam. You can't go wrong with jam. It's the easiest and safest thing to can. It's high in acid so the risk of botulism is nonexistent if you follow the instructions and properly process it. Most people like jam. Jam is good. Jam is delicious. Right now it's berry season so get your buns out there and pick some berries!!

Jul 28, 2007

37 half pints+10 pints= 5 cranky kids
(I am surprisingly good at math)

On Tuesday of this week I went to pick silvanberries with the two Lisas and all of our children combined (six for the picking and then Maddy went to play with a friend so we had five for the canning). We went to the Efimov berry farm near Woodburn. I would have written about this earlier in the week but I promised myself I would first write an article to submit to my local paper. An exercise in restraint and humility. I don't actually think my local paper prints free-lance articles but the writer for the home and garden section did say she's interested in covering more on canning and preserving and would like to talk to me next week. That's pretty cool.

So now that they've declined publishing my slightly more conservative article (isn't it weird how the newspaper never prints swear words even in editorial pieces?)* I am free to tell you all about our day of berry picking and canning. In spite of the fact that I find large numbers of little people pretty stressful, I had a lot of fun and said little people only required periodical refereeing. They were cute little buttons picking berries and smooshing them all over their pretty faces and dresses. I have to say that I'm very fond of all of these little people. Even the bigger more tidy ones who aren't pictured above. (Maddy, Rex, and Max).

It took us at least two hours to pick thirty five pounds of silvanberries. Did I not already tell you about these berries? Oh my. They are so delicious! The charming Ana Efimov (who dresses in modest clothes and a headscarf that make her look like a Russian immigrant from the turn of the century, you know I almost fainted with excitement! Uh, I should mention here that she doesn't do it for the fashion, but for religious reasons.) isn't even positive what was crossed to produce silvanberries. She thinks it may be a blackberry/tayberry cross. They are huge, juicy (so very delicate when ripe) and have a flavor that captures the musky wildness of a blackberry with the tang and zip of a raspberry. I'm in love with this berry.

When children pick berries with you you have to pick through the berries later (when they're not looking) to remove all the moldy ones. The most helpful child is not as discerning as us seasoned adults. This work that you see here is messy. We milled the berries to remove most of the seeds and then cooked them down with sugar to make jam.

We cooked each batch for forty minutes. I'm still not sure if we ended up with mostly sauce or if it all set up. It's difficult to know until a couple of days later. In either case, it will be delicious! It's really quite fun to be so industrious with people you love spending time with. Way better than a party in my opinion.

The rewards of canning are so tangible. I love tangible rewards. We watched the lines of jars multiply into the night. We didn't finish the last batch until almost nine pm. The kids were getting quite cranky. Well, mine especially.

I am going to list a few good reasons to can or otherwise preserve your own foods:

  • Because it's FUN!!! (many more serious and grown up reasons to follow)

  • At a time when I often feel powerless about the things going on in the world, canning gives me a feeling of control. It makes me feel like I'm productive, capable, independent (if all trucking stops, I'll still be able to put produce up for the winter), and it connects me with the past as well which makes me feel a sense of continuity and flow.

  • Food preserving is a skill and a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. By learning to do it and teaching others to do it too, we are all preserving extremely important skills. It used to be that everyone knew how to do it. If we all just let corporations make and preserve our food for us we lose a lot of knowledge that is pretty fundamental. Food preserving is a life skill. Like building shelter. Like clothing ourselves. Civilization would not have been able to industrialize without people having learned to preserve food against lean times and long voyages. This isn't a cute little old granny skill (though many cute grannies have kept the torch lit for us).

  • You have more control over the quality of the food you feed your family. In the USDA booklet on canning they say that the quality of properly home canned food is higher and the nutritional value often greater than most store bought canned goods. When you select the fruits and vegetables to be canned yourself you can make sure you don't use old, bruised, or unripe foods.

  • Canning or preserving foods that you have either grown yourself or bought from local farms means that the food you are putting up has used a minimum of gas to be produced. The less miles your food has to travel to get to you, the better it is for all of us. Canning your own food is green in more than just one way though. As I will point out.

  • Buying food to put up from local sources means that you can find out who uses pesticides and make choices about what you put on your family's table. A lot of small farmers are responding to consumers wishes to have less toxic pesticides used on food, many are not using chemicals at all even if they don't have an official organic certification. When you buy from a local farmer you can know who is growing your food and what practices they use because you can ask them in person. It is empowering to know the person who grows the food that feeds your family.

  • Buying produce from local sources to put up for the winter also supports your local economy, and when a local economy is being well supported by its people, it grows stronger and healthier which helps it withstand the influences of the greater global economy which we have a lot less control over. Buying locally is both a green choice and a political choice.

  • When you produce your own canned goods you reduce packaging waste. Generally speaking, most canners use glass canning jars which can be used again and again for many years to come. You can't reuse the cans from the supermarket and the jars from the supermarket are not made for repeated use and so aren't as reliably shatter proof. Although you have to use plastics for freezing, the home canner uses a lot less packaging than commercially made food. So canning is a great way to be more green.

  • Plus, did I mention how FUN it is?!

*Yah, I know. It's not weird at all. I was being sarcastic. Wasn't that obvious? Am I losing my edge already by trying to write for the masses?

Note: I don't have a lot of local readers that I know of, but if you are local and you want to pick some silvanberries, you can do it now but you have to move fast because they're almost done for the year. You can call the Efimov farm at: 503-634-2813 for directions and information. Their address is: 34885 S. Barlow Road, Woodburn Oregon. The Efimovs also grow boysenberries and marionberries. All of these berries will be available for the next week but probably not long after that.
How I Don't Love Remodeling Work
and other true facts

The priming is under way at last. Philip kindly volunteered to start it last night. I didn't TSP or sand the paneling so it was kind of slick. He couldn't use the roller for it so he used brush strokes to create a kind of slight texture to make the paint adhere better. I hope to get it completely primed today and then start painting this afternoon or tomorrow. There is a tremendous pressure to get it done. I had to turn down a project for a friend because she would need it much sooner than I will have my studio ready and I can't do a new project with all of my supplies scattered and packed around the garage. That was work I could have gotten paid to do. Money, which I need. Much too stressful.

Some executive decisions have been reached:

1) I am covering the floor with carpet tiles that Lisa E. has left over from her last house. It seems there will be plenty to do the job, they are free, and they come up as easily as they go down so that when I can afford a more permanent solution like wood floors I won't have to undo glue or tacking. It's a reddish orange which I actually quite like, though I don't think it would be to many other people's taste.

2) I am not going to change the hardware on my built in desk right away because I couldn't find anything I like at Lowe's that fits the screw holes that are already there and I'm not willing to fill in holes and make new ones just yet. The hardware is brass which I want to call vomit-metal in my more childish moments. I hate brass. I REALLY HATE BRASS. I'm a chrome girl. Or wrought iron. Or in my trendier moments I sometimes enjoy a brushed nickel finish.

3) I'm not going to fix the particle board sub-flooring where it has dry rot because it isn't soft, the damage is right by the sliding door, and the piece that is affected can be easily replaced by a professional when we are ready to replace the flooring. Every detail that can be shaved off the time it will take to move into that room is vital. Angela (from Cottage Magpie) will be very disappointed in me I know, she's an agent of precision and solid remodeling practices. Which I totally admire.

4) I've come to realize with absolute certainty that I derive no enjoyment what-so-ever from doing remodeling work myself. Even painting rooms I find completely tedious to the point of constantly fantasizing that I can afford to pay professionals to do it. I feel a lot of guilt around this realization. As a Do-It-Yourself advocate, I should relish doing it all myself. While I am proud that I can build a chicken coop from scratch*, use a circular saw, a power drill, and can rip up carpet like a pro...I don't like doing it. Is this a crime? It feels like a crime.

I still have no extra freezer or fridge. It is beginning to sound like a joke. Right now I have my one and only completely stuffed with beets because Bernard's farm had beets at the farmer's market for only .79 cents a pound. I only spent five or six dollars and have a fridge full of beets. Enough for one or two batches of pickles. I've been wanting to do this project for a couple of years now. It calls for sugar and I'm just hoping I'll like it. I think all the pickled beets I've previously enjoyed have been made with sugar. I'm going to go check right now....

Yes they do. Generally speaking I loathe sweet pickled items which is why I'm desperate to find a recipe for canning marinated three bean salad with either no sugar (and no green peppers) or just a token of sugar. I wish I had a mandolin for this project so I could slice my beets using the fancy ruffly cutter. Ah well.

It's exciting to watch the larder fill up. Not that I have a "larder". I should have said pantry. But doesn't larder sound kind of cool? I think that's kind of literal. The place where you keep your lard. Gross. As a non-meat eating individual (no, not fish or chicken either which I consider to be meat as they are the flesh of animals. I eat eggs and milk products, but I don't eat the flesh of any animals.) I think the idea of lard is really pretty awful. However, if I did eat meat it would make total sense to use the lard for cooking too. But when I think about lard I inevitably think about how I could just scoop some right out of my own belly to fry up some chitlins. Ha. Are you fully disgusted now?

*Actually, I really did enjoy building the coop from scratch. The one we have now is much nicer looking and came as a kit, but our first coop I did all by myself and I have to say it was funky. But FUNCTIONAL. Yes, I enjoyed doing that project.

Jul 26, 2007

In Spite Of Weeds
(Plus late nights watching hospital dramas)

In spite of weeds having completely taken over my yard in seven foot tall patches of blinding arrogance, things are ripening and growing in the vegetable garden. This is cathartic as I am certainly not going through the best of times at the moment. A little nasty deja vu is difficult to shake. So I focus my vision down to the micro details so that I may ignore everything else. So look at these pretty little carrots! And the Romano beans are coming in now too. They are difficult to find in my densely tangled bean tee-pee, but I managed to gather enough for a dinner side of carrots and beans slathered in butter, honey, and mustard.

My bee balm is already almost finished with it's first round of blossoms. They are so fantastically weird, like air anemones from another planet. I'm wondering if I'll get another flush if I pinch the flowers?

This is one hell of an eggplant. It's called Rosa Bianca and I've grown it before. I tend to only get one eggplant per plant on this one but I enjoy the colors and the exquisite flavor of it so much it's worth it.

The dill is doing great. The flowers have all bloomed so it shouldn't be long before they're ready to use for pickling. The ladybugs are busy licking the heads clean of any aphids. I have to say they look pretty pest free, unlike the monster weeds growing right next to them.

This is my squash mound. I have learned some things about a big pile of squash plants:

  • Pink banana winter squash plants get huge, are aggressive, and prolific.

  • I'm happy they're prolific because maybe I'll get enough winter squash to get me all the way through the winter, but it's busy choking the life out of my summer squashes.

  • Spacing really is important for summer squash. I should have thinned the summer squash and then stood over the mound night and day to direct the winter squash traffic.

To get through this stressful time of not knowing if I get to keep everything I have and love, and being afraid to appreciate it too much for fear that I am just about to lose it all- (why invest the love?)- I am staying up late watching old episodes of ER. Not only does Noah Wylie have a fantastic nose which I enjoy watching while chugging beer, but I really wish Eriq La Salle had been allowed to smile every once in a while. It must have been hard to play such a tightly wound serious individual.

I've come to a few conclusions about doctors and medicine that I'm going to share:

  • People expect doctors to be miracle workers but rarely appreciate the miracles they work.

  • Doctors make mistakes like everyone else, the reason they get paid so much is because they have a high risk job. When they make a mistake lives are at stake and people are not all that prepared to forgive them for it.

  • Without doctors the population of people on this earth would be greatly reduced. Which wouldn't be a bad thing for the earth. Yet for all the lives they prolong and save, we generally only remember the ones they couldn't save. People are so crappy.

  • I am deeply happy not to be a doctor. I'm not terribly squeamish about blood, but I prefer not to see people's organs exposed. Or their bones. I'm very squeamish about seeing exposed bone. I saw my own once and almost passed out. I cut my knuckle when a glass broke that I was washing and I saw the knuckle bone. It's incredibly creepy.

  • Doctors aren't the enemy in the health care system, insurance companies are.

  • Nurses deserve as much respect, OR MORE, than doctors because they do a lot of dirty work with less pay and recognition than the doctors get. I've met a couple nurse Ratchets in my time who I secretly suspected were trained S.E.A.L.s because of their ability to not feel any pain or recognize that other people do, but mostly I've just met a lot of compassionate nurses who remove gross medical implements and papered beds with smiles.
  • If ever I am unfortunate enough to have to get surgery, I am going to listen to the undercurrent amongst the doctors and nurses and see if I can guess who is sleeping with whom, who is the most viciously ambitious, and who everyone secretly despises. Hospitals are clearly places ripe with intrigue.

Jul 23, 2007

The Very First Pickle

Want to freak out the Master Canners of America? All you have to do is whisper in their ears:

"Ingredient Substitution"

and they will flutter around in paroxysms and will require smelling salts to revive them at which point all you have to do is say:


to send them into a catatonic state. You must not cross the line though and suggest you're thinking of selling your home made jam to the neighbors because it's entirely possible they will send your entire state on a man-hunt for your wicked ass.

There is an oppressive attitude persisting out there that home canning is a dangerous activity that only USDA officials should attempt. The first time I wanted to make some jam I consulted the book "Putting Food By" which almost put the fear of God in me it was so filled with warnings and precautions and the assumption that the average person is incapable of preserving food safely or paying attention to such details as WASHING YOUR HANDS. I almost didn't try canning after that.

Which would have been a shame because it is one of the most soul satisfying things I do in my life. Canning was "discovered" and developed by non-USDA officials; by people trying to figure out how to eat things once they'd begun to rot; by people who needed to save the food they had in abundant times against those lean months when their babies were hungry. Ordinary men and women experimented over centuries to learn how to dry tomatoes in the sun, how to bury disgusting fish in the ground to dig up later and eat like wild dogs*, and how to ferment cabbage to make the world's most repulsive condiment**.

Preserving food revolutionized human existence. It enabled people to be able to stay in one place during the winter and survive. Although scientists have made quite a lot of advances in home preserving and it's overall safety, they are hardly responsible for the very developed knowledge humans have of what kind of mold is safe to eat and what is not. Scientists have unlocked a lot of answers as to WHY certain methods of preserving aren't as healthy as others, but it was people like you and me who have been developing this craft for thousands of years now.

So when I hear people get all twittery about messing with the USDA's safe recipes I get a little itchy for a fight. I practice safe canning methods. I am clean. My utensils are clean. My kitchen is clean. I follow the recipes, I understand what elements of recipes can be altered and which should not be messed with. However, I refuse to believe that my food will not be safe unless I bleach every jar and pot and counter. I refuse to bow down to the deep fear that has taken hold of many modern people concerning home canned goods. You are NOT safer eating foods from commercial canning facilities. You can get botulism in all kinds of interesting ways and home canned goods are merely one small way. And all you need to do is be reasonably careful and understand the importance of acidity in foods to make safe food.

You have a way better chance of dying in a car crash than you do of dying of botulism from some one's home canned goods. The odds are staggering. Yet almost everyone is perfectly willing to look in the maw of death every day to get somewhere else.

But here's the deal: there aren't very many recipe books for canning. Not really. There are hundreds of minute variations of the same old piccalilli that your grandma used to make. There are a million reprints of the exact same recipes that are approved by the USDA. I think it's time that we all invested some money and expertise into coming up with new safe recipes that better reflect our modern tastes and needs in the kitchen. What about more pickles that aren't sweet? Or how about salsas without any green bell peppers and sugar? How about an apricot glaze for meat? Or what about a mustard that we can safely process and keep in the pantry for a year? How about a ratatouille for pressure canning?

I mentioned this need for new recipes to the master canner from the OSU I spoke with this morning and I'm pretty sure I sent her into an instant panic attack:

"New recipes? New recipes are UNSAFE! You must NEVER EVER change anything. There are PLENTY of recipes already. Why can't you just be satisfied with bread and butter pickles like everyone else? Who are you anyway- AN ANARCHIST?!!!"

*Burying food really connects us to our wild animal roots. My dog has refined the art of fermenting rawhide. I'm actually quite impressed with her ability to get it just black and stinky enough to please her very singular palate. She also manages to leave these tasty flaccid moist morsels on the carpet by my chair when I'm least expecting to step on them.
**I'm not a fan of sauerkraut or kim chi.

Jul 21, 2007

The First Carrot
(And all kinds of talk about faith and karma and other heavy topics.)

This morning I came in with more beets (all small in size), one carrot, one tomato, two impossibly small yellow crookneck squashes, and a few more pickling cucumbers.

I also managed to pick this modest vase of flowers. If I want more flowers I'm going to have to go out there and pull up a truckload of weeds which are choking everything out. I'm going to have to deadhead the roses and pinch off the dead flowers from the daisies and zinnias.

Where I will find time for this while caring for my child who refuses to go outside unless I fight him tooth and nail, while Philip sends in resumes and looks for work which he needs to have if we are going to avoid having to sell our house, I really don't know. If I were to manage to squeeze out even a few moments to accomplish any fraction of the above chores...I have to pray my sore back doesn't turn into a broken back. I wake up every morning unrefreshed with that nasty ache in my shoulders, neck, and back. I think it's my bed trying to kill me in my sleep, but I can't seem to catch it in the act. It would never stand up in a court of law.

A low grade insistent insidious depression has been gracing me with an annoying inertia. I have no energy to do anything even when I have the time. Partly that's because having the store made my household come in last place for a year. Things are so out of order (and I have all the furniture and my whole studio from the store packed in my garage) that to do any small thing here requires a huge chain of events to precede it. Like, if you want to put away the emptied out canning jars as we use them, you must first make room for them somewhere which requires shifting everything in the kitchen just a little.

There's also this colossal anxiety. Always. Every day. Panic in my chest. Dread. Which mounts to an untenable cacophony every single day I listen to my boy complaining about pretty much everything in his life and how he may as well have not been born. Philip does a great deal to add to that cacophony with his own anxiety and the fact that he is always saying the right things to piss our boy off just a little more. How does a six year old access so much negativity? How does he come to see a spat with the neighbor kid as conclusive proof that he will never find any boys his own age who like to do the exact same things as him and he shouldn't even bother because there aren't any in our WHOLE TOWN?!

I guess the apple didn't even bother falling off the tree.

On a lighter note, if I just push everything aside for a few hours by using my superpowers to freeze the whole world in it's tracks, I could do my first batch of pickles of the season today. Maybe. If I can muster up the energy while I put Max in his closet with his game boy, just maybe I could do it. I've got enough from my own garden for a small batch. I love dill pickles.

One thing that feels really good and is a tremendous relief to me is the clean wood floors in my kitchen and dining room. AAAAAhh. No more repulsive animal and people stained oatmeal colored area rug. It's wonderful to walk on that smooth clean mopped surface. Cool to the toes, not harboring diseases or nasty little what-have-yous. The kitchen floor was just scary. I am not crazy about having wood floors in there, I mean to say that while hardwood is my all time favorite flooring, I'm hard on everything I own and use and the kitchen is a room in my house that gets tremendous wear. It just seems like that finish on the wood is going to wear out super fast.

Maybe not, though, it actually still looks pretty good when I mop it.

I don't have a lot of spiritual faith. Most of what I believe in I believe because I can see that it's true. Like karma. The concept of karma is even in the bible. It isn't called karma, but it's there. The whole concept that there are consequences for behavior, whether good or bad, that will lower on our shoulders. When we live thoughtfully with compassion for others we tend to have better relationships and people will reach out to you in times of need. If you live selfishly and meanly then you will find yourself shut off from all help in times of misfortune. This is a concept you can verify in your life. Try it and see. It's true that you will reap what you sow, though perhaps not immediately. That's not something I have faith in, it's something I believe because I've seen it born out my whole life.

I also believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything that happens is supposed to happen. I came to this sometimes uncomfortable conclusion in my early twenties when I found it couldn't be refuted by a reasonable mind. I don't think there's a person on earth who hasn't wished to refute it at some point in their life. But if something has happened, you can't reasonably say it wasn't meant to happen. Maybe YOU didn't mean it to happen, but it was meant to happen because it did. You can reasonably say that YOU didn't mean something to happen, but if you unload your own intentions and back off a little, you will see that the Universe, or God did mean it to happen, because it happened. Humans do not control the universe. Nature, facts, life cycles, maybe even God does, but we don't. So ultimately, what we mean to have happen in our lives is only a small part of our life. We have only control over the choices we make, not on the outcomes of our actions.

Somehow I think I may not have spoken as clearly as I had hoped.

It has always bothered me when people say "He/She wasn't meant to die so young!" But how can that be true if He/She is, in fact, dead? We are surprised when people die young, we are devastated, we are sorrowful, but how can we know what is meant to happen except by seeing what is happening and what has happened?

I take comfort in these beliefs. I have never been able to believe in the idea that God will take care of your needs if only you have faith in him. Oh yeah? I don't know about that. That's not something born out by proof in my opinion. I guess it depends on how you think God interprets our needs. I know that there are a lot of people out there who desperately need food and are dying because no food is available to them. Does this mean that what they really need is to starve to death? Or that they don't have enough faith?

It's entirely possible that when the bible mentions God always taking care of his children that it means only in a spiritual sense. Not in a literal corporeal sense. But if that's so, then I think it's unconscionable to tell people that God will take care of their needs as a form of comforting the poor, or the sick, or the lost and letting them think that if they pray enough and give the church money or whatever it is having enough faith means, that their sickness will be cured, their poverty lifted, or that they'll find their way back to themselves.

The idea of faith bothers me a lot. Faith as in: a belief not based on proof.

I do believe in the other definition of faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing.

They are not the same. Often, religion asks you to have a faith not based on proof.

I guess I'm thinking about all this right now because I believe that whatever the future holds for me and my family, whether we have to sell our house and rent something to get by, or whether we are fortunate and find work and get to stay here in some degree of comfort, I believe everything will unfold just as it's meant to. What we can do for ourselves is keep slogging away at trying to find work, put our best feet forward, try to tame the chaos that having and then closing a store has wreaked in our lives, and if we still end up a wreck, then that's just what we have to go through. As scary as it is to me to face joblessness in this strangling economy, I do not get to decide the ultimate outcome of my life. I steer it as best I can and then the rest is up to nature, luck, the forces that be, and possibly even karma.

The thing that worries me is that getting therapy, chiropractic medicine, massage, and counseling for Max, plus necessary trips to the dentist all cost money we can't afford to spend. Not to mention visits to the vet. I don't feel I'm in a position to take care of these important things until we have an income again. It's a classic American problem. It doesn't matter how important all of these things are, if you don't have the money for them, you don't take care of them.

I think I need to drink more coffee. I just heard from Philip a minute ago that the new pot of coffee I brewed spilled all over the counter because I failed to put the pot in correctly. Damn.

What's weird is that we are exactly where we were a year and a half ago. Exactly. As though we have made no progress at all. It kind of freaks me out. How long can a person go without work? No, don't answer that question, I already know the answer. I'm going to go investigate the coffee situation and put my head in the grounds.

Jul 20, 2007

Out, damn spot!!!
(my whole life is the damn spot right now)

Unlike me, my garden is really putting out now. Although the lettuce is almost gone (well, actually there is tons of it left and perfect for eating if you like tough bitter greens. Which I don't.) it is now giving me a few tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, eggs, and a satisfying amount of summer squash. Whoops, I guess eggs don't really come from the garden. I don't think there's enough food out there to sustain us in times of extreme poverty, but it's comforting to know that there's something out there to eat.

It's been raining now for days. I should be complaining about it I suppose. But I'm not. Because I love it. the only thing I don't love about it is that it may resuscitate my dying lawn which is not what I want. I want NO lawn. Well, I did want to keep the dog's lawn alive, but I kind of failed at that too. Maybe the rain will bring that one back. Anyway, I love rain. It makes the world smell better and look cleaner and feel fresher.

No progress on the studio because I had to vacuum my house today. I also removed the area rug that was in the dining room becoming less and less savory. I have my friend's steam vacuum that I was going to use to clean it with, but you know how sometimes a thing just gets to a point where you can't help it anymore? It's there. So now I need to mop all the wood.

I have a permanent pain in my neck and shoulders. I never did make it to the chiropractor. I'm not saying I don't want to, I'm just challenged when it comes to making important appointments.

Like taking my cat to the vet. I don't want to take him because I think he might be in a deep decline and I don't want to find out that this is the end of his life. On the other hand, the dude is attacking everyone and all other animals kind of non stop. He won't eat dry food anymore and has what looks like bloodshot eyes. Don't think I'm a bad cat mom, it's just that he's thirteen and every time I finally think "OK, this is it, I think he's really sick" he stops throwing up and mellows out for a short spell. Then I just think he's the same old cantankerous old man he's always been.

I am going to go mop some floors. I might even go outside and wade through the weeds to get to the roses and see if I can put together one vase of flowers. I want flowers. Oh, and I want summer to be over and school to begin again because this whole thing about kids having the summer off is stupid and I'll be lucky if I survive. Damn lucky. Why do teachers need a break anyway?*

Ah heck. I should just go mop my own head. I'm going to go find out if that's even possible.

*Oh boy... you realize that's a rhetorical question, right? I mean, I LOVE the work teachers do. I value them immensely. But the rest of us don't get breaks so it's just a little hard to take, you know?

Jul 18, 2007

Design Studio: progress report

Here's what my studio looked like at 4:47 pm. Most of the things that used to litter the floor have been removed. Now, I don't want you to get too overwhelmed by my talents, but not everyone knows that I am an experienced carpet remover. It's not just that I'm experienced at it...I'm damn good at it. Which is so fortunate since I have not only my studio carpet to remove, but in the very near future I have the living room carpet to remove, and then at some rather hazy time in the future my office carpet must also be removed.

Before I show you the progress I made today, I would like to share a very revealing photo to you. I want you to know what disgusting interesting things lurk around in my house. My menfolk collect peculiar things. Look closely at that garage window sill. I include this picture merely to give you an idea of the scale...

...of this dusty dead vile creature. This is not the first time I have discovered nasty dead things in my house unexpectedly. It's a good thing I don't have any anxieties or anything. Because if I did I might find it extra distressing to be living in the same house with a possum carcass. Now, it's been a long time since I lived freely with roaches, so maybe my memory is a little hazy, but doesn't this look an awful like like a cockroach? If it is, I can't help but wonder if Philip saved this one from our first apartment together in San Francisco.

Here we are then... peeling the oatmeal plush carpet away as though it was light as air and as accommodating as a cloud of cool whip. For most people, negotiating carpet off of the floor and out of the house is a rather burdensome awkward as ass kind of job, but not for me. You know, removing this carpet would have been a mite more satisfying if I got to uncover a beautifully worn hardwood floor.

I think carpet padding is really creepy. I don't like touching it or being near it. But a woman cannot shirk her work. Is it necessary for all carpet padding to be this loud unsavory blue color? Is this to keep us from trying to eat it?

You may not know the history of carpet tacking...originally a medieval torture device it was invented in the 1200's by a very angry wife who needed a way to punish her spouse for bathing more often than is seemly and thus shaming her amongst their more appropriately pungent friends. She invented these narrow strips of nail shot wood to spank him with. Ouch.

No, but seriously, if you have not gotten up close and personal with carpet tacking and tried to remove it without puncturing yourself five hundred times, you are missing out on a real treat of a challenge.

These are the tools I use for this job. See the subflooring I have revealed? On seeing it up close and personal I have decided that no amount of paint is going to really improve it. So I've made an exploratory trip to Lowe's in search of alternatives. The only thing I can both afford and also be capable of installing myself are those sticky backed tiles that Armstrong makes. Yeah, I can tell you right now that I will have those tiles peeling up and curling in no time at all.

As with virtually every house project, removing something in your house reveals the ugly truth. It tells stories about your abode you may not want to hear. Such as the fact that water has gotten into your cozy home and blackened the plywood where the nails have been soaking. Not good. There are watermarks all along the inside of the sliding door.

Here is my mounting pile of carpet tacking. This room is not unlike a mine field at the moment. An unwary child or dog could get very messed up in there.

I'm tired.

Jul 17, 2007

Summer Rain

It's raining here which is wonderful and unexpected (to me). It smells delicious out there and all my thirsty starved rhodies are feeling the love. Max does not agree to coloring in coloring books very often, but when he agrees, I always color in this coloring book that my friend Sharon gave to me to give to my little friend Sophie. I never gave it to Sophie because it is the best coloring book I've ever had. The illustrations are wonderful and the pattern mixing on the kimonos and interesting "western" outfits is exactly what I have always loved to do myself.

It occurred to me while coloring this morning that I might be best off choosing a color palette from the pictures I've already done. The ones I've colored can also be framed as a little eye treat in my studio. I have some Michael Miller fabric of little Chinese girls which would go well with an Asian theme. Although any traditional Chinese or Japanese people would be horrified to be paired together eternally in my studio.

I don't actually normally have a big appetite for Asian culture or food. I like Chinese food well enough, but Japanese food includes an awful lot of sea weed and fish, both of which make me hurl. The choices that don't include these things is tempura (which I love) but which doesn't agree with my stomach. I happen to really love Asian people and my favorite place to hang out when I lived in San Francisco was China Town, but even so, Chinese art, Chinese decorating and traditions aren't super high on my list of inspirations.

Though, while I'm writing this I'm realizing that that it isn't entirely true. Perhaps I should say that Japanese culture doesn't hold special appeal to me because I am a brash, outspoken, uncouth, person immune to the niceties of gentle company and manners. Japanese culture seems to revolve around reticence, delicate beauty, exquisite manners and an appreciation for the single object of beauty. I am the opposite of all these things. The simple, the single, the delicate is for more subtle people than me. If one orchid is gorgeous in a little vase, I generally want to see a huge vase exploding with them. I like bold splashes of color, exuberant floral displays, and when it comes to manners, I think of myself as being a fairly polite person but very forthright and not a single drop of reticence.

In Japanese culture I would be unwelcome off-note.

But what occurs to me now is that when it comes to Chinese people, I feel more at home. They also observe more social rules than your average American of western heritage, but there is no holding back in Chinese decorating, in Chinese fashion, or speaking their minds. One of my favorite people on this planet is my close friend named Cam who is Chinese American and what I love about her is her honesty, her humor, her work ethic (incredible), and her ability to answer this question:

"So, all the older Chinese women I've ever met look like they just yanked things out of their closets with a blindfold on and smell like mothballs...is it my imagination that this is a cultural phenomenon?"

...without getting the slightest bit offended. There is no way I could fail to love a person who can answer such candid questions about her cultural back ground with the same degree of honesty in which the question was asked. And she gives as good as she gets. She's a firecracker and a brilliant designer.

We were design assistants at Mulberry Neckwear together. There was a designer we worked with named Xiaoye who I also loved a great deal who came from Beijing. I started learning some Chinese words and felt most at home working with Cam and Xiaoye because neither of them played office politics and worked their asses off as a team to get things done without bad attitudes as some of our other coworkers had.

Anyway, this all reminds me that I do find myself connecting with Asian culture I just don't necessarily connect with it visually. Still, I find I want to look at the pictures I've colored in this coloring book all the time. The paint chips in the first picture represent the colors I had settled on for my studio. The orange color was going to be the walls, the pink color was going to be the floor, the green was going to be an accent color used in the closet and picked up in a few other places like the curtains.

But now I'm unsure again. Now I want to use turquoise with that cool green and have pink accents as shown in the second picture. As you can see, I'm not doing subtle. How to choose though? I usually don't have a problem knowing what I want. But when it comes to color I find myself constantly undecided because there are a million different possibilities to be explored and I have such a hunger to surround myself with color, it's a lot like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach.

Today I work on emptying the studio out. Now that Future Girl has mentioned keeping the desk I am rethinking it. Mostly because I'm not sure what's behind it and if the paneling doesn't go all the way behind the desk then I will be faced with either matching the paneling before painting or ripping the rest of the paneling off which sounds really hard and unpleasant. However, I have planned on using my old Deco dining room furniture in there and there probably won't be room if I leave the desk.

Jul 16, 2007

Untouched Specimen

Now that the apron project is almost behind me... (I thought I was going to be able to say "completely" behind me, but I just now realized I have neglected to send a bio of myself. I hate writing them because I always sound like I left half my brain on my pillow.)... Anyway, now that I have ALMOST finished the apron project, I must focus my dwindling energies on revamping my "studio". Right now my studio is one of the 1970's add-on bedrooms which is completely covered in wood paneling and built in features like this desk.

The pervading feeling in the room is one of a deep brown study. As in, it will put me in a permanent depressive state if I spend time in there. The desk is coming out!

Wood paneling on walls is one of my least favorite design features. In fact, it's an emotional nightmare. Interestingly, Max, who lives in the other 1970's add-on bedroom, has declined my offer to paint the paneling a more cheerful hue. He likes it just the way it is, he says. He has the same built in desk.

That's a view of the closet. I do like the shelves in there. But even the closet is paneled inside. I suppose the idea is a kind of rustic cabin look?

Ah. The blinds. Papery-fabric strips of beige. I already dislike blinds. Most blinds. (With only a few exceptions.) But this kind is in a little category all it's own: DESIGNED BY SATAN. (Just kidding. I don't actually believe in Satan.)

So there it is. Oh yes, and oatmeal colored plush carpet. Don't forget the oatmeal plush carpet. It's going to take a Herculean effort to re-do this room. Think I can do it? You will pass out in fear when you see the colors I've chosen. Nope, not turquoise and red. As great as the temptation was, I felt it was time for something wild and fresh. The great thing about paint, obviously, is how relatively easy it is to change if you make a dreadful mistake.

I will refer back to these pictures as I progress to reassure myself that I'm making good changes. And by the way, if Ken or Betty is reading this: it's no offense to you that I can't abide this room as it is for my studio space. What was fresh and interesting and timely for you to design for a living space in the 1970's is a painful trek backwards in my life to a time I have yet to embrace aesthetically. It's a generational thing. So don't be offended, OK? I give you leave to faint in horror at the sight of what it looks like when it's done. My blessings.

Jul 14, 2007

An Honest Meal
(sort of)

Except for the fact that right after taking this photo I heaped on about a cup of Parmesan cheese. A little dusting is so much more photogenic though, don't you agree? I can say about my sauteed squash from the garden that there is nothing on this burning planet that could have improved it even a smidgen, it was that good. The pasta has a walnut sauce on it. One of my favorite recipes from my Debra Madison book "Vegetarian Recipes For Everyone".

Fresh garden squash is so sweet and nutty and just begs to be browned slightly and not cooked to mush, and not burdened with too many fancy flavorings. I used some dried thyme (from the garden), a very small amount of dried marjoram, salt, pepper, two cloves of pressed garlic, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. This is my first squash harvest of the year. Thank god squash is known to be prolific, and may mine be so!

The wine is a Ravenswood Zinfandel from 2005. That's right, you didn't hear wrong. I said WINE not beer. (see picture above for semi-reliable proof.) I like this wine quite a lot.

After waking up with the first-ever-in-my-life migraine headache...oh yeah, you can tell the difference!!...I got exactly nothing done for half the day. A lot of feeling fragile and sweating in this heat. It's not actually all that hot compared to how hot it is elsewhere. I think it was only in the low nineties or upper eighties. But it felt like 150 degrees.

I worked out at the gym. I then made many more jars of jam and a few jars of sauce. I really wish I hadn't bothered with a second batch of the jam because I had a lot less berries left than I thought for sauce. I can always get more, of course.

I am listening to opera. Highlights from Mozart's magic flute. I put it on when I started making dinner because for once there was no one here but me. I love to play opera while I cook. It makes me feel that all is right in the world. It creates a center from which I can keep steady. It lets loose a giddy magic that makes even the most mundane activities seem like a classy event. Not that I think cooking is mundane, but somehow I believe I can make anything when listening to this music. If I just reach inward enough for a moment the skills will come to me. The flavors will do as I bid and blossom in the pan.

I am never fat when I hear this. I am never mean, nor vapid, nor crazy either. I am equalized.

The spell breaks when anyone enters my space. I can only access this magic when I'm alone and not needed by anyone. I am definitely never sweating like a hog standing before the butcher's knife* when I hear these funny, pretty, and note-scaling rich arias.

It's time to go water some valuables in the yard and cool off from all this steamy kitchen work. I have laundry to do too. But I don't want to.

I just want to sit here and day dream the night away. Not drinking beer. Because no one ever says "Hey, check out the wine gut on that bovine lady!" Wine is good. Wine has even been made by the illustrious pious Jesus. Jesus apparently never made any beer. Which just goes to show what he knows, eh? (Before you get your own pious undies in a bunch, go to your room and count to ten, if I'm still here when you get back go ahead and tell me all about Jesus. Then if when you're done, and I'm still here (which I very much doubt I will be), we can knock back a drink of your choice. See? Even if it's some vile Tang. We can totally work this out, it's what Jesus would have wanted.)

Sid and Dennis: my thoughts were with you while making and eating this dinner. I miss you so very much and I wish I had been serving you this meal! Lots of love to you and the kid. If I could I would be heading down to your house right now for some wine/beer and good conversation...and reassurance that you are still there and not vanished into the Bermuda triangle!!

*Blatant self serving lie to make myself feel less like a sweating hog. Oh so pretty.
Smith's Blueberry Flats

Blueberry season is here in earnest and I missed it last year so this year I am not letting it slip past me. I took a ride on highway 240 yesterday morning where all cars are going 70 miles per hour (note to traffic cops: you may want to show up every once in a while.) on a two lane highway whose highest legal speed is 55 miles per hour. It's a beautiful road and even though I was fully able to keep up with the speeding traffic, the cars kept insisting on passing me.

It made me angry. What the hell is everyone is such a goddamn hurry for? And why do they feel they need to be ahead of me just because I'm on a scooter? It actually brought out the testosterone in me and made me want to show them what a bad-ass my little scooter is. But this is the kind of behavior on roads that makes road-kill out of people. So the next time I'm on that pretty road I'm going to go the speed limit and let everyone pass me dangerously. (There's no shoulder to pull over on to let people pass).

People are annoying.
There were some people picking blueberries when I arrived. One couple was just finishing up picking forty pounds of them to freeze. There was one other person picking who engaged in some awed conversation with the couple and their forty pounds.

Man "Wow, that's a lot of blueberries."
couple "Yep. Forty pounds."
Man "What are you going to do with them?"
Couple "Mostly we freeze them."
Man "Cool. So how do you do that?"
Couple "Freeze 'em on cookie sheets in the freezer and then bag 'em."
Man "But you wash them first, right?"
Couple "Nope. The water will make them all stick together."

Thoughtful pause.

Man "So you wash them when you're ready to use them?"
Couple "Nope."
Man "So you never wash them?"

After the people left I was alone out there with the crickets and the hot sun for about an hour and a half. I can't say my thoughts were restful or pleasant, but still, there's something delicious about time spent industriously by one's self in the middle of nowhere.

Hell, it wasn't the middle of nowhere, it was the middle of the Blueberry Flats! I picked twenty pounds.

That's a lot of blueberries. My kitchen kind of smells smurfy now.

I always eat a lot less jam than I think I will. When Max was under two and still eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches we went through at least a jar of jam a week. I was eating a lot more jam toast back then too. I always thought that it would be great to make all the jam I could possibly use in a year which I calculated at around 52 jars. I wanted to never buy jam again. Unfortunately I haven't bothered to reassess that goal since neither Max nor I are eating much jam these days. So I still have lots of blackberry jam left from last year.

I certainly want some blueberry jam because I've never made any, but I finally realized that I need to make less jam. I'm more likely to use a sauce that I can put over yogurt. In spite of this new goal, I managed to make nine half pints of blueberry lime jam (very good!), and six and a half pints of plain blueberry jam which was supposed to be sauce because I didn't cook it to the jelling point, yet somehow, it is thick enough to be called jam.

I also prepared a batch of blueberry lime jam to make Chelsea's way: you cook your jam only for ten minutes then let it sit over night, or over many nights in the fridge, until you have enough energy to heat it up again and process it. Not boiling it to death before processing really helps to preserve a fresher flavor. Letting it sit for a day helps to develop the pectin or something, because this process tends to help the jam be a little thicker.

So I'm going to end up with over twenty jars of blueberry jam. Shit.

That was just using about twelve pounds of blueberries. So with the rest of them I'm really going to make sauce. Which means being careful not to boil for more than a couple of minutes. Sauce is great for pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, or to pour over something exotic like cheese cake.

I'd love to freeze a bunch of them but I still don't have an extra fridge or freezer. So no freezer space. Which is too bad because blueberries freeze very well and are great for using in smoothies or for tossing frozen into muffins or coffee cake batter.

Anyone else taking advantage of blueberry season? Tell me how!!

Jul 12, 2007

The Big Tease

This is the only detail I plan to show of the apron project I've been working on for Lark Books. Although I've been given permission to show it completely as long as I don't tell you how to make it, I feel somehow that showing you the design will ruin the punchline and possibly jinx me in this rather large moment of my small life. However, I want to commemorate this wonderful day (the day I send out the apron, instructions, and all necessary paperwork) with a peek. Just a tiny detail of what is to come.

This is a detail of the project I submitted which has now undergone significant fabric changes and a few minor design changes. This won't ruin your surprise, I promise. I share this picture because whenever I see it I want to eat those buttons or somehow inhale the fabric. This picture reminds me of the feverish two days I spent in the last days of my shop studio before being packed up; draping, drafting, sketching, and redrafting, to come up with something I felt really good about. During the hours I spent designing this apron I was in my element, doing the only other thing (besides writing) that I know for a fact I was born to do. Designing and drafting is as natural and as invigorating to me as breathing. I want to do more of it.

Here is one of the most exciting packages I have ever put together. It isn't a book I've written, it isn't a bundle of poetry, nor is it filled with articles for submission, which is perhaps what I imagined would be my first taste of being published. I really never imagined that the first thing of mine to be officially published would be one of my patterns. Isn't it funny how the lines of my two passions have been crossed?

I remember back when I was the shipping manager at Weston Wear Apparel daydreaming about the day I would get my break as a pattern drafter. I applied for jobs at Joe Boxer, at Jessica McClintock, and probably ten other design labels and never got my break. Then I finally got work as a design assistant at Mulberry Neckwear which turned into a job as the swatcher. A job I loved immensely. Yet, still I hadn't gone quite in the direction I had been sure I should be headed when I was seven years old, planning my life. I drafted custom costumes but custom work is tedious (usually) and no one wants to pay you for doing 14 hours of hand stitching on Victorian corsets.

So here I am. Jobless, except for my evolving company which is not paying the bills as of yet, and I am sending off my first pattern for publication. I just wanted to stop and enjoy this moment. You can be poor and be facing penury in the worst way, staring down the mountain of debt and uncertainty, yet still have a triumph in which you achieve something you've always hoped to achieve.

I'm really excited! The Universe is a lot less omniscient than I thought if it doesn't know how deeply thankful I am for all my good fortune.