Sunday, November 6, 2011

In the photo, lime marmalade. I started with 9 limes, a grapefruit and a lemon. Sliced it all very, very thin – 1/16 inch strips are ideal, but most of them were a shade thicker. Put it all in a 6 quart pot with about 2 cups of water and started to cook it. After about 15 minutes, I checked the recipe on the Sure-Jell light box – nothing like doing things in the right order. However, as luck would have it, I did begin with the 6 cups of prepared fruit (they suggested 5 ½) but because I was doing a Seville-style marmalade, I hadn’t done the fancy stuff about separating fruit and rind, peeling off the pith and boiling it separately and so forth. I just went ahead with the directions. As soon as the Sure-Jell entered the mix, it began jelling beautifully. I added the sugar, brought it back up to boil as directed, and it was done. The jars are mostly olive jars- one held jam, about 12 years ago; another once held maraschino cherries, which we couldn't quite bring ourselves to eat. I washed them in the dishwasher, then sterilized jars and tops in boiling water. They all sealed… though I had my doubts about one of them, so I suppose I’ll make the ultimate sacrifice and keep it. It’s very, very good.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Grandpa Bill is back after a whirlwind trip to Indiana to visit his friend Gerry. With my car. (I did NOT enjoy driving his truck!) We compromised, because it’s a long trip, on having him break his journey with Meg on the way there and the way back. Probably a good thing to do. While he was gone I did some canning and a lot of cleaning. I made apple butter that came out really, really good, much better than my grape jelly which came out as a dandy sauce to put on ice cream. They do say to watch proportions, and I clearly hadn’t been paying close enough attention on that one.

I was surprised Friday morning, to come back from a trip to the post office, after hanging out the wash, to see it actually steaming in the air! It did eventually dry, but it hadn’t gone on the line hot – the rinse cycle on the washer always is cold. It looked magical.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We’re not yet ready to say goodbye to the garden. It was a terrible gardening season – too much water in May and June, none in July and part of August, then way, way too much in late August and September…. and by the way, from the squelch of our shoes in the garden, in October also.

By August, the garden was far more “field of weeds” than “field of dreams.” So after I stacked the wood, I began digging weeds. There were enough to fill the second compost bin to way over the top! Then I dug a garden bed three times. Bill decided to dig it a few times, too. I planted a row of lettuce, a row of beets and a row of swiss chard and kale. The lettuce did not do well, but the others did beautifully…

What if we could keep the garden going just a little longer? My friend Sarah and her husband Chris brought their hoop-bender down and helped us – or rather, we helped them – bend ten 10’ lengths of ½ inch electrical conduit. we stuck these in the soil, and we’ll be putting “remay” row covers over it – probably this week, because it’s getting a bit chilly out there. With luck, we’ll have greens into December, maybe longer.

There are videos on the web that show hoop bending and make it look really instant and easy. They’re missing the sound effects, especially the grunts and groans and “oops!” that had Sarah and myself doing a sort of stumbling dance around Chris who kept yelling, “Is it level? I TOLD you to hold it level! Oh… okay.” It wasn’t instant, but it didn’t take a huge amount of time either. As you can tell from the variety of hoop formats, none of us are experts, though Chris is definitely more expert than the rest of us.

I learned a lot. I thought maybe four hoops would be enough for that row, though we had to buy a bundle of 10. We used almost all of them for the row, and then decided to extend it a little to cover some of our arugula… and use as a sort of greenhouse for early planting next spring.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here’s a news flash – work is NOT interesting, at least, not always. And I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, so I haven’t always had interesting things to write. or at least, not the most interesting to write about here… But today, work took me to one of the most gorgeous spots in the area. I was asked to write about the National Forest. When I talked to one of the foresters I know and like, he mentioned the former Caywood Point Boy Scout camp, which has been taken over by the National Forest. This summer they improved the roads and sort of created a new one. I hadn’t been down there for about 20 years, and Bill said he’d go with me. It was like walking through a piece of heaven.

This is the old “Queen’s Castle” – it was a small, private summer camp for a group of women who came here every year to live in tents in the woods and talk about voting rights for women and other intellectual stuff of interest to ladies… Camping here is currently free, because they haven’t gotten around to “formulating policy” yet – in other words, they were thinking about building the roads and haven’t yet made rules.

If the roof line of the building - and it's really a very, very tiny cottage to be called anything so grand as a castle - looks familiar, it's because one of the small wineries, Shalestone (that's not the one Uncle Andrew worked for but a different one closer to Lodi) copied it for their building.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You’re never too old to have kid-style fun. I’ve gotten an extra summer job – in a play. I’m the judge’s assistant/stage manager/sign carrier/ sound effects – and also sometimes the ticket-seller and usher for a new theatre in Montour Falls. You can find information on it if you look up the Old Havana Courthouse Theatre on Google – it’s a summer theatre for melodrama.

The plays are short and silly. Here we are in the “Old Cookie Shop” where the heroine, Nellie (Sara Eisman, in the long yellow skirt) is valiantly baking because she “kneads the dough .” Her evil landlord, Mortimer Whiplash (Joe, on the far right in the picture) is about to foreclose on the cookie shop’s mortgage (or rent, it’s not completely clear). Nellie’s mother, in the aqua apron (Jane, who’s a health inspector by day and sometimes a professional clown after hours – she taught a clowning class I took several years ago) is told throughout the play that she’s ill because the heroine’s mother in any melodrama is always ailing. The tall guy on the right, in back of the villain, is playing all the bit parts and at one point comes out on stage to say he can’t come out on stage because he hasn’t changed his costume yet. The tall girl in the back row was carrying signs last night – these are the ones that remind the audience to cheer or boo. And all the way on the left, the old guy in the hat is supposed to be the love interest. No photos of the villain getting “pied” – because when this photo was taken, it hadn’t happened yet. Not seen is the singing and dancing cockroach, in a brown polyester outfit with waving tentacles which is so very hot, he only wears it when he has to.

Okay, so here’s how the play ends… there’s a last-minute story about a dark and stormy night when two babies were born – and then accidentally switched by an absent-minded nurse. It turns out that sweet Nellie actually owns the cookie shop and a nice bank account and it’s her evil landlord who has nothing (except the pie, which is actually made of shaving cream).

The theatre is very basic, and the backstage areas are very small. Everyone has to change in a room the size of my bathroom, so everyone wears body suits under their costumes – or arrives dressed. We’re not only actors but support staff and stage crew. Last night I sold tickets; other actors ushered or took tickets; two operated the chair lift. During the play, I do sound effects too. Last night the villain wanted to create his own shaving-cream “pie” because he said I put too much shaving cream in the previous one. When he came off-stage last night after getting pied with his own concoction, he complained that this time he’d inhaled shaving cream. (He also ate some). I guess villains will always be villains!

But it really is fun! Our audiences are fairly good, and they always leave smiling. We do too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grandpa Bill had a heart incident a few weeks ago - first his heart was beating really fast, then it slowed down so much he felt dizzy. So we spent two days in the hospital getting tests, doing fun stuff like having various things attached to his chest, and afterwards pulled off taking lots of fuzz with it. He lost more hair from that experience than the cat has been shedding, and that's saying a lot.

But the garden has been suffering, which made him feel even worse. so last week, David and great grand-dog Ausable came over to help. Sable blew out her other knee, making her as gimpy as the rest of us; what you see here is Grandpa trying to wrestle a tennis ball out of her mouth. She really likes to have the ball thrown to her, but because of her knee, you can't throw it so she's got to chase it. She's basically got to chase it sitting still.

Midway through the afternoon, David and Grandpa disappeared in the truck, coming back with wood for the compost pile of Grandpa's dreams. David did all the hammering while Bill supervised. I helped hold boards, but David did the heavy work. Now, thanks to David, the fence is up, tomatoes and corn are planted, the compost pile is the prettiest one in all of Hector. Also the planter at the front of the house is finally draining water - we had six inches of rain fermenting in it until we dumped it over, drilled holes and refilled it. Actually David refilled it -he took about 5 minutes to do what would have taken me an hour.

The next day, David came and took Grandpa fishing.
Thanks, Dave - you really are one of the greatest!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quick trip to Gettysburg

You didn’t want to keep hearing about the weather did you? On and on, for months it’s been nothing but “Spring is coming… Ooops! It’s not, winter came back.” Yup, it was pretty boring for us, too. March can be a hard month. It’s allegedly May now. My father told me once that in Hungry, in the 1920s (my family was Hungarian) children ran out in the early morning on May first, picked flowers and made them into small bouquets tied with ribbons, and then left flowers hung on peoples’ doors – like Halloween in reverse, YOU deliver the treats. The “trick’ was to knock on the door and leave flowers when no one saw you do it.
I just checked. There aren’t any. Of course, there are Bill’s gorgeous daffies – he’s decided this year he likes the ones that look like fried eggs. I predict more daffies in our future… After the main garden is finished. But as for now, the garden is still way too wet to even think about planting it. After last year's early spring, this year feels like we're way behind.

We’re just back from Gettysburg, PA. I had a class there, and we went to see the battlefield. It’s kind of peppered with memorials. Here’s one… You can see real cannon balls piled up (and welded together) behind it.

At the cemetery, a herd of embarrassed teenagers were led by their teacher in a recitation of the Gettysburg address. It was really moving, and surprisingly not at all out of date, except for the “Four score and 7 years ago” part. We took a tour with a park ranger and found the experience wonderful. He talked a lot about the establishment of the first national cemetery, and we got a sense of the sadness of it. In those days, people really liked hearing speeches, and 16,000 people turned up to hear a noted professor deliver a 2-hour speech about the war, in the middle of the war. Mr. Lincoln was given only a few minutes at the end. But his is the speech people remember, and it’s as true today as it was 150 years ago. Later we had a chance to tell Mr. Lincoln himself.

Then we stopped at a few other places, including Little Round Top. Here’s what things look like from the Union position. You can see that it would have been very hard for anyone to sneak up on them, and very few people succeeded at it… which is of course why the Union troops won, along with having greater numbers, better food and better ammunition. Bill spent part of the next day exploring the battlefield from the Confederate side.

We saw interesting people in town. This is the beginning of the re-enactors’ season. A little strange to see a bunch of cars behind her, isn't it? She looks like she should have been handed out of a carriage by a gentleman in a top hat.

But I had a class to teach. It was held in a store that caters, among other things, to people who want to create their own Civil War era dresses and uniforms. Bill spent a little time talking with the husband of the store owner, and learned the same factory in England that made the fabric Union soldiers used for their uniforms is still making the fabric today. He commented that the fabric would look a bit different after time on a muddy battlefield and the store owner told him it cleans up pretty easily. But would you really want to wear wool in July?

The class was in the store’s back room. Kind of like my studio, only a bit larger. Here’s most of the class. In honor of where we were, I chose a Civil War theme for the projects, and people seemed pretty happy with them. I got a brochure when I came in, where the lace guild says “Karey Solomon comes down every April to teach for us.” This was my first time with this group, but I guess I’m coming down again!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I didn't want to keep posting about snow, snow and more snow. Aren't we lucky? The precipitation has turned, for the most part, into rain. Though yesterday, during our exercise class at the church, a bunch of us looked out the windows and saw... oh no! that white stuff. After a while it turned back into rain.

After the last time I wrote to you, I was pretty busy preparing for various classes. I've still got a bunch to teach - next week I'll be in Spokane, Washington, teaching and selling my books and threads.

Here's an odd thing - both Grandpa and I broke teeth in the past week. Mine got halfway fixed - I've got several l-o--n--g dentist's visits to finish the job. Grandpa had his pulled. Both of us got the same snide question - from two different dentists - when we sadly showed them the saved pieces of broken tooth, "Were you saving that for the tooth fairy?" Then they took our tooth pieces and threw them away. Here's some sad news: when you're older than, say, 12, the tooth fairy no longer visits you with money or nice presents.

I found this poem - it's actually part of a poem called "The first Spring Day" by Christina Rosetti, and the last line sums up how we feel right now about the weather.
I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing, robin, sing!
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

This is getting old!
Supposedly it will be spring soon. According to the calendar, it has to be. Yesterday we heard geese, which Grandpa Bill means there will be bud- break in six weeks. (That’s April 16, in case anyone’s counting). Really, there were a whole lot of geese – the sky was as full of honking as a parking lot in a bad traffic jam. It was so warm last night that we were tempted to leave the winter coats home when we went out to a movie. I woke up during the night and heard rain. Good, I thought, more melting.
When I got up this morning, it was still raining. I don’t mind driving in rain and I had to get my friend June who was coming for breakfast, a chat, serious tea-drinking and knitting. When she’s around, she lives about 4 miles away. It was snowing so hard, with so much ice and slush on the road, it took about 15 minutes to get to her place. They’re now saying 12 to 16 inches of total accumulation is expected. I’m planning to settle in with a batch of handwork and, of course, more tea. I'm working on another tatting book - I've already begun laying it out!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here's the invisible cat with her owl-eyes look.

Not much is new because we’ve been flu-ish. People said, “Aren’t you enjoying this great sunny weather?” Ummm.. no. Grandpa Bill or I (and sometimes both of us at the same time) have been contagious with something or other since just after Christmas. It seems to take a lot of time to get anything useful done!
And when I did, it was sometimes overdue, so things had to go out the door fast. I made 14 quilts and someone else made two. They filled four big black plastic garbage bags. They’re now in Kansas City (look it up on a map. Hint: it’s not in Kansas!) and they’re going to make 16 people warmer when they get their very own blankies.

We had almost enough warm weather to melt the snow. Not quite enough. And then it turned around and snowed. Apparently we’re getting lake effect snow this time.
Here’s a terrible thing Grandpa Bill did. He told someone the temperature had dropped 80 degrees overnight, from 65 to 20. Oops! Fortunately, he made that observation to a fellow scientist. Unfortunately, we were all at a funeral when he said that. Fortunately, everyone else was too pre-occupied to figure out what was wrong with his mathematics. Unfortunately, the other scientist figured out that when you take 20 from 65 you have… a lot less than an 80 degree drop…. Right?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Invisible cat

When you've come to our house, you've seen the cat dishes and the cat box, but no cat, right? That's because Primrose is an invisible cat. We see her with her tail up and happy when she wants to eat, and she spends a lot of time with Grandpa Bill, but mostly she hides. She's getting a little bit better now - Aunt Meg Shoo-shoo has seen her and once almost touched her. And she somehow knows when Davy is here with Ausable. Those times she completely disappears.

When we first got her, we put her in the pantry, and after a few days she was totally gone. It's still weird to remember now that Grandpa Bill and I even unpacked the freezer (and defrosted it) looking for her. Luckily, she wasn't there. She wasn't anywhere. We looked for her for three weeks, then four. I called all the neighbors looking for her. Two people thought they'd seen her, but the SPCA person was sure Primrose had not run away.

And that turned out to be right. She had gone down to the cellar, looked around the shop and I guess she decided that she wasn't quite ready to learn how to knit, though she was apparently interested in the shop. Then she went into the downstairs bathroom, jumped on the sink and then the hot water heater, walked along the rafters and jumped down between the inside and outside walls. Five weeks to the day after she disappeared, she yowled. Grandpa Bill and I broke down the walls between the inside and outside of the house and we still couldn't catch her. We put out food and water, though, and caught her the next day. She spent three months in a hospital cage learning how to be a cat. She sort of knows now, but it's a long learning process.

I don't know whether I told you that when we came back from the wedding last year, we saw strange footprints around the house. Something had come out of the woods, run around the house, jumped up to Grandpa's study window and then run away. Uncle Andy said it was probably a cougar or bobcat. Miss Primrose was really upset! There was only one thing that made her feel better, and that was getting as close to Grandpa as she could, and staying there.

Don't try this yourselves - not that anyone other than Grandpa is likely to have the opportunity. Miss Primrose does not like to be noticed much - except to be told "What a pretty cat!" (from a distance). As I'm writing this, Grandpa is on the bed reading, and she is snuggled up next to him.

A non-Primrose note: we got a bunch more snow, then it got really warm and quite a bit of it melted. I forgot to call the snow-plow guy yesterday, and now I don't need to!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesday morning, February 1. This means we're mid-way through winter... and our woodpile (the stuff at the left end has to season until next year, unless Bill feels very very cold - it's red pine). Guess this is the year we should have covered the top with a tarp?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hello guys! This is for you, from me. I wanted to create a way to tell you stories and show you photos even when we're not in the same room. Some of you see a LOT more snow than I do, and some don't see any at all. I took this photo last week when it was snowing, out the living-room window The snow was falling so hard, the flash went off and made the light look strange - and it was so cold, the dragon rising off the lake filled the whole sky. Today it was snowing too, but it wasn't so cold. It was more like being on the inside of a snow globe. The weather report said "no significant accumulation." I thought this really meant, "not significant compared to how you're really going to get clobbered in February!"
Hope you're staying warm and happy!