Tying the Leather Knot

Sounds like a kinky wedding doesn’t it? Now that Fifty Shades of Gray is coming to a theatre near you, sex will be in our collective cultural mind again – not that it isn’t always there anyway but sometimes some other topic manages to edge it out of the spotlight for awhile.

The wedding season is upon us and most people I know are either attending one or know someone who is. My friend is at her son’s this weekend, on a mountaintop in Golden and at the other end of the spectrum, my son and his girlfriend are over from Vancouver to attend a backyard wedding. There aren’t as many weddings for lovers in their twenties these days. They seem to be waiting until they are a bit older and wiser which might be why there aren’t as many weddings at all anymore.

Back to the leather part. My son brought his pants and shirt hoping that Mum would iron them for him. I made him work for it before I agreed to. (I secretly enjoy ironing. There is something in the whish of steam and a nice, crisp crease that brightens my day – weird, I know.) Then I offered him his Dad’s rather limited selection of ties to choose from. My second son was also along and jocularly pointed out the skinny black leather tie that I don’t think Jerry ever actually wore back in the seventies (he was square then, too). Well, much laughter ensued while they tried to tie the hip thing that my son had already worn to a couple of costume parties with great effect. Neither of them were able to tie it – bring in Dad who proudly displayed his skill.

My niece is visiting from Oxford with her husband next month. She found him via the internet last year and they had a low key ceremony in the U.K. which my sister missed by a couple of weeks. She was a bit downhearted, having had all those emotional, mother-of-the-bride fantasies stricken down in one fell swoop of international romance. She is hosting a small reception for them and I find myself as excited about attending as I would be a wedding. I have our gift purchased and my outfit picked out. I’ve even knit the dear couple pairs of matching socks to keep them warm back in foggy, old England.

The rarity these days of two people yoking themselves together for better or worse is worth celebrating.  It can be a rocky road, fraught with discontent, poverty, sickness but so is the single life so why not find a compatible person to navigate the rocky shoals with you.  Survival makes the good times so much better and it’s nice to know that someone has your back when you need it.

None of my children have married yet although the oldest is 30 – the age I was during my last pregnancy. But, they say that 30 is the new 20 (which explains a lot if I think of my twin sons being twelve now). I don’t know if I’m ready to be the mother-of-the-bride/groom yet but I hope they can all find contentment in permanent relationships eventually.  It is statistically proven that humans fare better while being married.

I’m just getting used to marriage myself although we celebrate our 32nd in a couple of weeks.  I see that the gift for this anniversary should be something that features “the semi-precious stone Lapis lazuli or a conveyance.” Perhaps I should combine the two and present Jerry with a lapis encrusted pair of roller skates?

Plum Jam

My choice today is a) make jam or b) write blog post.  Although I gaze across the counter at an enormous pot of thawing plums, a couple of boxes of Certo and a sink full of dusty canning jars, I choose b).

It has been awhile since I assembled all the necessary components of a successful canning session and this time, the challenge is on as most of my stuff is in a storage locker.  But I am determined to make this work; my homesteading ancestors made this work.  I refuse to move a freezer full of plums to one more residence – ours has been moved three times this past year and my boys are giving me increasing dirty looks every time I suggest they help out “with a few things.” So, my husband has been sent to pick up a ladle from a thrift store because I refuse to buy a new one knowing that there are at least four in the packed boxes.  I will manage somehow without a colander when it comes to pit removal (currently working on a plan).

But the plums!  Ooh la la!  They are a deliciously sweet and sour, rosy-golden variety I have yet to identify.  They are from the bumper crop our tree produced last year – the last year on the property where we had lived for almost 23 years. My Dad chose the tree when we first moved there, he being the real gardener, wanted to set up a few fruit trees for me right away. Over the years, the other members of the orchard were attacked by disease, deer and bear or never really produced.  This lovely bearer of clouds of plum blossom in the spring outdid herself by the end of many summers with branches that creaked with the weight of plump fruit.

Back in the days of running a busy home full of kids and pets, an acreage with fowl and small  livestock and flower and vegetable gardens (yes Dad, I did have a big garden one year) I found time to do pantry loads of preserving: peaches, pears and plums, salsa, pickles, jams, chutney, vinegars and tuna (once!). And then there were the veggie freezer packs and the chickens, turkeys, rabbits and sheep to process and freeze – not that I did it all myself. There was nothing like the smug feeling as autumn blew in that I was ready for any breakdown in the world order whether by war, martians, zombies, an arctic winter or financial ruin, that no matter what, I would be able to produce a five course meal and snacks!

Although I’ve made plum cakes, sauce and sorbet, the jam is just so good that the investment in time, burned fingers and kitchen mess is worth it. Hell yes, I’m jammin’!


Update: decided to go big and quadruple the recipe in the big canner. Immediately, I accidentally flipped a drift off the tip of the sugar mountain with my wooden spoon, scattering the white poison over my counter and into the toaster. (Now toast smells like a sugar plantation.)  Then, a bit of sizzling and cracking on the element suggested that there was a small leak in the tiny chip on the bottom of the pot. In the old days, I would have ploughed ahead figuring that a 50/50 chance of the product working out was good enough for me. But not now. I have matured. I have learned from disasters of the past. (Jerry enjoys reminding me of my sloppy liver muffins – a failed attempt at fancy French mini pates.)
Dutifully, I divided the batch into four manageable portions that fit into the heavy bottomed pot that was available. I cooked, I sterilized, I sealed (4 times) and to my great joy, I wound up with 18 pints of beautiful, golden jam cooling on my counter.

Today, I’ve just made dilled beans.  I’ve  added an inspirational sprinkle of red pepper flakes to each jar. Tomorrow, I’m making dill pickles – 1 quart thanks to a cucumber donation from a friend’s garden.  In the pickling heyday, I wouldn’t have considered making less than 24 quarts in a session.  Now, small is beautiful.

p.s. Jerry forgot the ladle so I used a measuring cup for pouring  and just dove in with both hands for plum pit removal – a tactile experience I recommend.


Lavender, Wine and Woodchips

We just moved to a new place this month that is sort of countryish but not as much as our old place which was deep bush, and sort of urban as in it only takes five minutes to drive to one of the small Vancouver Island towns of Comox or Courtenay.  We like the relaxed feel of having other people living near but not hanging over the fence, beer in hand.

Last week I experienced the fun of trying out a couple of neighbourhood enterprises.  The first was a birthday surprise planned by my good friend, Sue, to a local Lavender farm.  Shamrock Farm lazes in the heat of the Comox peninsula, its rows of purple blooms abuzz with bees, some scampering goats working on the ingredients for the farm’s homemade soap and in the pumpkin fields, glimmers of orange ripening for Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en. Children, grannies, tourists had all appeared for the open house and were enjoying the sensory luxuries of this July day.  We crunched on lavender meringues and refreshed ourselves with lavender lemonade.  Who knew these things even existed? Certainly not the Superstore.

A couple of days later, my husband suggested that we try out the local vineyard, 40 Knots, on our way to Campbell River where he had to check on a boat (more on that later). The winery had just changed hands – new owners, Brenda and Layne have joined us from Fort St. John where the wine ripens in the store and not the field. We chose to taste the Summer flight which included everything from their signature “Spindrift Brut” (excellent!) to a pinot gris, rose and “Safe Haven,” a delicious port. Amidst the vines, under blue skies with wine rinsing our palates with a palette of subtle flavours, we could have been in the Loire or Sonoma valleys or the heat of Australia. But… and this is the great part – we were only about a mile from home.

On our way to the boat viewing, we stopped in to admire the work that had been created at the Shoreline Arts chainsaw carving contest in Campbell River. This is a sculpture gallery for the working person meaning there is no faffing about with the perfect block of marble or esoteric meanings. You take your hunk of wood and make it into something else. The surprise is that the results are so …. artistic. There were the usual eagles and sea themes, each a unique interpretation but there were a couple of unusual sculptures too: stairs to nowhere and my favourite, “Tongue Lashing,” an enormous mask that looked a bit like a Nori mask although I think it was a native design.  Amazing that there are so many people with so much carving talent who choose to go beyond the sunlight soap carving of a banana most of made back in grade one. It made me wonder what Michelangelo could have done with a chainsaw.

I had been feeling a little sorry for myself not having gone anywhere on my holiday our sailing trip having been cancelled, again. (More on that later too.) But those two wonderful days of local tourism gave me the kick in the martyr complex I needed. One just needs to wake up and smell the home-grown roses.


Who Needs Words?

I do, I do! I’m building my blog – remember?

Obviously, Scrabble and crossword enthusiasts are always on the prowl for words but did you ever consider that pets need them too.  I just walked our old dog, Oscar, the three blocks down to our rocky beach for his therapeutic dip in the ocean. If I wasn’t able to say, “come” and he didn’t know the word, he may still be snoozing outside the front door. He would never be able to show his stuff off if it weren’t for the verbal commands, “sit, down, roll over and jump” which are his equivalent of,  “open sesame” when it comes to comestible rewards.

But people …. words make our world go around.  Wars, cultural upheaval, murders, marriages, the list of a moments where a few words made the difference is endless.  There are trigger words that pack a punch like: “I do”; “Solidarity”; “Never surrender”; “fear not”; “out damn spot” and  “make my day.”

Although other forms of communication are effective (a hug, a frown) there is nothing like a mutually understood phrase or word.  “No,” was my personal favourite when actively parenting.  Lately, my adult kids’ has become, “really?” when I can pin them down for a conversation; as in, “I can’t throw those out because you never know when you will need 4 garbage bags full of rags.”  And I’ve noticed that my 83 year old Dad has found a special multi-purpose response to any situation in the word, “whatever”.  Shameful really when English has more words than any other language.

Some words just sound really nice.  My daughter had a friend who was going to give her kids names like “Umbilicus” and ” Chiffon” because they rolled off the tongue so nicely.

Tablets, scrolls, vellum tomes, chapbooks, encyclopedic volumes, newspapers, first editions, pulp fiction – bizillions of recorded words gathered from the past are available for humankind to ponder. No wonder that many of us feel the need to leave our two bits as a sort of autograph in earth’s yearbook. “Roses are red, Violets are blue, I better jot this down before I’m through.”  Leaving your, “I was here” graffito couldn’t be easier now that we have the world at our keyboards and so many of us are penning  a few chapters for posterity or maybe as aide-memoire. I’m in the process of trying to upload my own into the ether. (More on that later.)

Churning out words can be therapeutic, educational, remunerable, edifying – once again the list goes on. How wonderful that there are so many of them to play with… words, birds, nerds, Kurds, herds … Stop!




Brave New Writer

First blog…first blog post…don’t fear the unknown.

I’ve read as much tutorial help as I can take for now (hot day, half beer, no children home to interpret) and will just write, post, customize as best I can.  After all, it’s the internet and any facet I finally absorb will probably change as soon as I grasp its implications.

Where would any of us be without the encouragement of friends?  I would include family but funnily enough, that often isn’t the case.  In families, you’re a place holder and sometimes it doesn’t appear to be necessary for the well-being of the pack to support your efforts beyond that role. But friends …. those chosen few that agree to peek into the cracks you open to your innermost soul and then still like you.  Those people – where would we be without them?

I certainly wouldn’t be here blogging.  Without a push from her off this high diving board, I would be making a shameful and lonely descent back down the ladder.  My mentor for this experiment in writing is infinitely patient, kindly turns a blind eye and gives mute expression to my more elementary blunders then suggests an answer and perhaps  a brief lesson.  It might be her training as an elementary school teacher but I like to think that she cares enough to spare my feelings. May her blog forever prosper.

When I review the interesting experiments in my life I realize that most of them would never have happened without the inspiration and support of friends.  How appropriate then that this foray into the electronic world forum should happen – so many more potential friends…