Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chokecherry Jam

How to make Chokecherry Jam

1. Talk the summer camp kids into coming out and picking the berries for you.
2. Make a deal with your offspring.  Take over one of the chores that they do not like to do if they will pick all  the leaves, stems, rocks, and dirt, out of the basket and wash the berries.  Don't tell them how mind numbing tedious this job is. 
3.  Get LOTS of sugar from the store.  And a candy thermometer.  Do NOT forget the candy thermometer.
4.  Make sure the younger generation measures the chokecherries as they are cleaned and put in the big pot.  For every 4 cups of berries, add 1 cup of water.
5.  Cook on low heat until the berries are very tender and will squash easily with the wooden spoon.  This takes awhile.
6.  Put the cooked berries through a sieve.  Ours is a good one.  We don't have to take off all the tiny stems first.
7.  After everything has gone through the sieve, measure out all the good stuff and put it back in the pot.  The pits and other bits still in the sieve are not used.  Maybe the chickens will eat some of it.
8.  Add an equal amount of sugar to the pot.  This refers to how much of the good stuff is left after getting the pits out.  If you started out with 23 cups of chokecherries, you will have about 10 cups of good stuff.  To the 10 cups of good stuff, add 10 cups of sugar.
That's right.  This is basically a recipe for chokecherry flavored sugar.  Or syrup.
9.  Cook on a medium high flame, STIRRING CONSTANTLY CONSTANTLY CONSTANTLY, which is, of course, a job for the heirs apparent, until the candy thermometer....
reads 220 degrees.  This is hot.  Really hot.  Be careful!
Do not....I repeat, do not let it get hotter than this.  You will end up with sticky, chokecherry goo.
10.  Put into sterilized jars and seal with sterilized jar lids.
11.  Process jars to seal them properly for storage
Find lots of friends to give them to.  Tell them to eat it right away.
Supposedly it goes well on ice cream. 

12,  Repeat.  If you have five chokecherry bushes, like we do, find lots of friends.  

(if it doesn't turn out, it's obviously because the kids did something wrong.)

Next..... taste test.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Here is our studio!  We're hoping that there will be a deck added on soon.  We are inheriting a nice wooden deck from John and Coco's new house.  Now, if we can only find a way to move this 8' by 16' monstrosity the 14 city blocks between houses. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We have an open door policy at Studio Foxhoven

Good Hedges/Good Neighbors

When we moved into our house, nearly 20 years ago, we immediately fell in love with the quiet neighborhood and the many lovely tall trees and bushes.  The latter has been a mixed blessing as the trees and bushes all require lots of care.  Leaving an elm hedge go for a season means doing battle with an elm fortress the next season.  Elms also have a nasty tendency towards disease.  Dying elms are not beautiful to look at nor is it healthy to keep them around.  Some of those nasty diseases spread to the other elms in the yard and the neighborhood.  
I've been battling our elms this summer. I'm determined to take out the elms and let the lovely honeysuckle, lilac, and chokecherry bushes take over.  At the moment, it's so crowded you can hardly tell what's what.  Now, when I'm lucky, I have about two hours in the morning when I can do this work, so it's proceeding very slowly.  I started on our south side where some of the bushes were completely dead.  
I thought I was doing a good thing until our neighbor informed me that they did not want me to take down any of the bushes by their property.  They like their privacy and, if I decided to take the bushes out, could I let them know?  They would immediately go out and buy 8' tall trees to replace the bushes.  They like their privacy.  I explained that the bushes were dying, many of them were dead already, and that we had decided to take out all the elm bushes.  
She told me I would be sorry if I did because it would be so open.  "Just watch.  You'll get a lot more visitors if you do that."
She said it as though having visitors was something to be avoided at all costs.  I looked at her, puzzled, and told her that I would like that very much.  Privacy is one thing.  I was feeling claustrophobic.  I can't imagine purposely closing myself in, and other people out of my life. I realize that our neighbor has some significant health challenges which explain her reclusiveness.  I am trying to be understanding.
For me, my health challenges have made me much more aware of how dependent I am on having others around me, both for my physical health and for my emotional health.  I go to the other extreme and try to make sure people feel welcome to stop by any time.  Open up the doors and the windows!  Come work in the studio for awhile!
If cutting down the elm hedges bring in more visitors, then by all means, cut them down - cut them all down!  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Make it Beautiful

I wrote this in 2008 as a preview for my writing and, just perhaps, an introduction to a book in the future.  Who knows?  I do a lot of dreaming.

If one were to look through the work of our first graders, they might wonder at a few things they saw. Every now and then, in the middle of their words or sentences, there would be drawn a lovely flower or heart, or maybe even a cat. Why was this drawing in the middle of their sentence? It’s because they made a mistake. When you are writing with a crayon, there isn’t a way to erase a mistake. At first, many of the children become frustrated every time they “mess up” and want to tear up their paper and start over. But this is not allowed. The teacher gently instructs the children that when they make a mistake, they must turn it into something beautiful.
Sometimes I think that this is the most important lesson they learn at our school. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were a rule for all of us? What might happen if, every time we made a mistake, we turned it into something beautiful? Just think. When we say something we shouldn’t or hurt someone in any way, we would begin, out of habit, to find a way to fix it. Not by tearing it up and starting over, ignoring the fact that we blew it, but by seeing what we have done and finding a way to fix it. We’re not allowed to tear up our life and start over. Turn it into something beautiful.
I guess that is what I hope to do with my writings. I want to take all my blunders, my failings, the moments when I stumble the most, and make them beautiful. Or at the very least see the humor in my own stumbling and, if I am really lucky, make someone else laugh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not Bored Yet

It's been nearly three years since I asked the nurse practitioner about disability and was told that I was not disabled at all.  All I needed to do, according to this expert, was to stay at home and do nothing for six months.  After that, I would certainly be bored enough to want to get a part time job, maybe at a local library where I could get out and see people.
When I told my kids, they started laughing hysterically and my oldest son looked at me and asked, "Doesn't she know you?"
It's been nearly three years and I'm still waiting.  There are moments when I think a boring day would be nice.  I'm not fooling myself, though.  I can't imagine how my life would be without all my projects. 
Fortunately, my doctor didn't agree with the nurse.  She told me that people with Parkinson's disease come to a point in their lives when they can no longer be gainfully employed but that doesn't mean they can't be active.
I'm glad she said that because in the time I've been retired, I have taught a few art classes, written numerous articles, and created a website for my art work and writing, in addition to a few other odds and ends.  At the same time, I've become a mother-in-law and a grandmother.  Grandmothers have no reason to be bored.
I'm also on the yellow brick road.  That's what I tell my dad when I visit and help take care of my mom, who has dementia.  "Don't worry, Dad," I say, "we'll go down this road together, one yellow brick at a time."  It's a challenging road for all of us, but the tremendous gift has been the chance to really get to know my dad.  He has a wicked sense of humor!
Dad's never been bored, either.  At 85, he finally decided he won't go up on the roof anymore and he willingly lets my husband or son mow his lawn.  I did get a little worried today, though.  When I checked in with him, he said he had called the plumber to fix the leak in the shower instead of trying to fix it himself.  Of course, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a few months ago.  Maybe it's time he can slow down, just a little.
If he gets bored, maybe I'll suggest that he find a part time job at a local library.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Becoming a Blogger

When I started publishing my writing on my website, I was told by a few people that I had to write shorter articles.  A blog entry should be no more than 400 words.  I immediately felt chastened and for the next few weeks, I tried hard to restrain myself when I was writing.  It was a disaster.  No matter how hard I tried, my articles ended up with too many words.
Maybe this has something to do with being female.  When our friends came back from their trip to California, we heard two different accounts of their adventures.  The first version was from the female point of view and included a wonderful description of the disasters they encountered as they house-sat; including the dog being sprayed by a skunk and the washing machine overflowing and flooding the studio.  There was more to the story and I delighted in listening to it all.
The male version was somewhat different.  "We had an exciting holiday in California and we are very glad to be home."  That was it.
In regards to my articles, I decided that whatever rules were being tossed around about "blogging", who was going to enforce them?  I'm not getting paid to write so there isn't an editor telling me what to do, either.  I figured I could do what I'd like and my articles could be as short or long as I wanted them to be.  Oddly enough, the people who told me to write short articles were reading my long ones regularly, without complaint.  My articles just weren't blog-worthy.  So, I decided not to have a blog. I'd have an online journal instead.  That's my Studio Foxhoven website through Squarespace.
So, why am I here?   Well, first of all, it is free.  Then I puttered around and found that I could create a blog page that matches my business card almost perfectly.  Wow.
I also realized that Blogger was popular and included stuff that I could not do on my website, like match my business cards.  I can have a feed directly from my website, so you will be able to access all my articles from here, as well as anything else from my website.  I'll try to be good and make my posts 400 words or less.
We'll see how it goes! 
I won't do twitter, though.  I don't want my writing turned into tweets.
More to come....