Sunday, October 31, 2010

... holy cow! Spiced Pear Preserves ....

What is that poem we learned in 4th grade ... oh, shoot, you remember .... October?? .... anyway, a line kinda goes - "the trees in apple orchard with fruit are bending down" .... guess that goes for pears as well.

The request for our favorite Spiced Pear Preserves created a search through shelves of cookbooks and recipe cards accumulated over the last 40 years. Being the type of cook that has a tendency of switching ingredients, the flipping of pages took a bit of time. Success:

The basic begins with 4 pounds yielding 3 pints. This is easily multiplied for larger quantities, at which point drop cut fruit into 2 Tbs vinegar, 2Tbs salt to a gal. water to keep from turning brown.

4 lbs. ripe pears
6 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

In a piece of cheesecloth or small bag,
2 sticks Cinnamon
8 Cloves
2 tsp. Coriander Seeds
a blade of mace
6 whole Allspice
Tie these together in the cheesecloth

Peel, core and cut fruit into bite size pieces. Using a sauce pan or pot, add sugar, lemon juice and spice bag or bundle with the pears. Simmer slowly, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon to keep from sticking for about 45 minutes. Skim as needed. The house will smell marvelously.

While the pears are preserving, sterilize jars. Instead of pints, you might want to use half pints simply due to the amount you want open in the refrigerator at one time.

A lesson learned as a child about that simmering time. Once a neighbor gave Daddy a grocery bag full of pears. His mother was one of those Southern cooks that could make a dish towel into a magnificent meal; hence, naturally he was convinces his observances would translate into the same results. Well ........... bless his heart, after some hours of simmering, at long last we jarred the sticky, stiff substance. Once cooled, nothing would do but have a taste. Suddenly confusion and frustration reigned ..... "I've watched her make jellies and preserves for years AND I did exactly what she does, what went wrong??" Mother and I decided the difference; we could not coax Daddy's out of the jar. I suspect my mother still has, in the back of her pantry, a jar or two of road patch.

With that thought, throughout the simmering time, remove a piece of fruit to a saucer, allow to cool and check for stiffness.... al dente works. Enjoy, it's really grand on fresh made biscuits or as the filling in puff pastry for a quick dessert.

Fruit substitutions we've used: fresh peaches, dried apricots .......... so Feast Ya'll

Friday, October 29, 2010

..... I'm going on a what's ??? ...

Memories .... that storage vault filled with everything you have ever done since day 1. Notice we are referring to "your" storage vault , not mine. That would be reminiscent of dredging through maral. No that isn't a made up word. It is ground coral, silt and sand ..... a moderately thick substance similar to quicksand but sinking usually stops between knee and hip..... found under salt water, as in the gulf's bottom; you really needed to know that .... right. Trying to make a point regarding a vault crammed full of disorganized "stuff" UNTIL a key word causes misfiring and wheels whirl. Suitcase Deer ..... AEDC Management Area ..... TWRA Diana Hunts.

Halloween weekend 1968, he is watching TV as I completed dinner that Friday evening. Was entertaining thoughts of a cozy fire, some wine .... oh, you know .... when I was confronted with a man so excited coherent communication failed. All that was heard " forget dinner, find a motel in Manchester, you are going on a Diana Hunt at AEDC". Before there was time to consider this, he was a whirlwind of packing, loading and waving me goodbye. I was departing and hungry and shocked that a man that size could be so lithe. [Oh, he was 6'2" and 240/50 lbs .... little fella to my 5'4" and 128lbs] He was like a running back receiving the ball on the 1 yard line, miraculously avoiding the opposing hoard to make the unheard of return "touchdown"!

Passing through some of the small communities, there were those miniature ghost and goblins collecting many TREATS. It was just me and our '67 Ginger colored Bronco heading west with not the first idea of what I had been shoved into. Looking back, this seems to be a continuing thread in my life. Lets skip ahead a few hours; checked into a Holiday Inn, then looked for food. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed immediately "you weren't alone". Right, 70% of the diners were women in camo and they really weren't military. At least, I hoped not with all that big hair.

Taking heart, asked if I might join 2 ladies and that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for years. Alma and Virginia became my new best friends from St. Petersburg, FL. Life is. The evening was a beehive of talk, prying area information out of others .... I felt as though my playmate had thrown me out into a lake with no preserver. So, if you paddle in one direction long enough, you'll reach the bank.... ha!

That Saturday, at 5 am, found me searching for the oak tree on the left corner of that 12 acre field just off the second dirt road on the right. RATZ!! O.K., you are absolutely correct, nothing. Lunchtime was spent at the checking station with a few Wildlife Officers picking their brains collectively. AH HA!! a little southern charm can go a long way weedling out information and the directions to an out of the way, quiet, little 5 acre field that seemed to have attracted a bit of activity. Pulling in to park, there was Virginia's station wagon well,drat .... all the same, grabbed my 12 gauge with a buck barrel and my Bernnike slugs [5]. Slipping down the right side of the field, spied Virginia facing off to the left and she indicated Alma was further to her left in the woods, leaving the right for me. We left the field that evening with a better sense of where what and how we would hunt Sunday.

The morning was so foggy one could get lost in the parking lot. Being the first actual organized Deer Hunt ever, we seemed to require alot of "checking out" many possible areas bring us to lunch. Girls, we have to decide ..... you are welcome to join me at the "little field" or you may like another place better....... so we went to the "little field". Funny, for all our future hunts, Mitchell and I would scout the areas and line up good, active locations AND we were successful.

Settling into a honeysuckle screen had a grand view of a fireroad that appeared to be well used. NOW, one of the very few things I resent about men IS ..... they don't need to remove 90% of their clothes to relieve themselves. Over the years, this one thing has been a burr under my blanket. Well, any way, there I was pulling up and fastening snaps/zippers/etc. when movement caught the corner of my eye. Oh, crap ... the head went down, my hand moved toward the tree, head up, I froze.... what seemed a week of stop and go and nearly breathing, he stepped behind a tree, the stock settled into my shoulder and I leaned into my tree. I could have smoked an entire pack waiting then there he was ... broad side ... no thought, found the spot, fired, could not have missed. After the initial back flip ..... quiet. Not wanting to jump him, sat down to wait 30 minutes. Soon there was the sound of crunch crunch crunch behind me. This continued until I was able to scoot around the base of my tree and see behind me ..... through the woods came Alma and Virginia to check out my harvest.

Lapsed time, we were surprised to find .... nothing!! After much looking, Virginia signaled she heard movement off to our left. Again, barely breathing we stood frozen in the middle of that fireroad when all of a sudden there right in front of us .... as though presenting himself to his fans
..... Alma was first to shoot, he didn't flinch; then Virginia caused him to jump sideways; well, what the ..... my shot and he did that back flip and down. Needless there was enough adrenalin raging that we probably could have picked up a car and run down the road. WOW!!!! just remember to breath. When we finally stopped congratulating ourselves and realizing the afternoon was waining. Need to get him to the checking station. Makeing our way to him, we almost tumbled over his twin brother from earlier. Oh, lawrd, thank goodness we hunted in threes. Two clean shots; a nice 6 point and a 7 point brother ..... Virginia checked one out and shared the meat with Alma that year, and we had forged a lasting friendship. I learned recently that Virginia had died and Alma was dealing with Alzheimer's.

By 8 pm that Sunday, Ginger Bronco and I rolled into the drive. What I didn't tell you early on was the statement, if I bring home a deer we would buy a long wished for freezer. Descending the back steps "Well, how'd you do? ..... You owe me a freezer!" Oh, yes, I also failed to mention I was "a little bit" pregnant with our first baby. My goodness, odd what tumbles from that stuffed vault amd it's Holloween weekend. Unfortunately for the ladies of Tennessee, we no longer have Diana Hunts.

Memories like bubbles burst and evaporate into thin air. Sure glad we can share these moments. Are you ready for that cup of Ginger tea and honey? It's chilly, let's have a fire too .......... what do ya say ......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkins and perspectives

Isn't it odd how the priorities we set for ourselves are really obstacles. It's pumpkin carving or they just end up collected together as a Thanksgiving decoration. Tonight our geographic location is experiencing extreme weather. Oddly enough, the pumpkin is taking on a character of it's own and it isn't Betty Boop. Unfortunately and paralleled in time, tornadoes, downpours and traffic mayhem is occurring across our viewing area.

As I listen to the rain, yep it's raining at long last, there are thousands without power, trees on their roofs and other personal crisis. However, for me, the sound of water falling is soothing, relaxing and welcomed. AND, my life crisis seems far away and totally insignificant.

Pumpkin carved, Fierce Finnegin. Whether obstacle or goal, it is all perception. Your choice..... and I choose .... I choose ..... what to choose ..... O.K., health and happiness .... how does that corrolate..... lame. What do we want ? Is that perception as well? Actually, it's very simple [rather like me]. What's wanted is [drum roll] love and respect. There was love and respect for 35 years and I miss that. Will it ever come again? .... probably not. However, I'm willing to have an open mind .... obstacle.

During the afternoon and tonight freak weather super cells have attacked our dam, highways and homes. This time luck held for the south end of the weather ravaged areas. Pumpkins will go out tomorrow. It's five days and counting ..... passed all the pre-testing yesterday ..... obstacles, goals or perception ..... weather, pumpkins or what. Surely to goodness this makes sense to somebody besides me. I've never been here before and uncertainty makes me ambivolent. What do ya think
......... what's your perspective ......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

... and then the "other" shoe dropped ...

Have you ever taken your car, which performs just fine, for a simple "oil change"; and as soon as the hood rises, goules and goblins appear to have been at work on an overtime schedule. The mechanic, with a sheepish expression, begins to detail the myriad discrepancies for a "cherry" ride. It could be the alternator, the points and plugs appear to be worn, not to mention replacing all the hoses. What started out to be a $30.00 oil change is now spiralling into the stratosphere. How could everything be wrong .... how could it possibly have made the trip from home without a total breakdown. Oh, and the brakes and pads are badly worn.

If you have heard all this before, perhaps you will also appreciate my present predicament. This is beginning to resemble my past few months. "They" raised the hood and now we are tinkering around with the engine all the way to the exhaust.

Since August 10th, this anemia issue has required a three to four week off and on schedule with different members of the medical profession. This included a second Colonoscopy at the end of September; a physician's appointment preceding it to "discuss" the first findings. Then a follow-up enlightening phone call," Hi, Doctor removed 20 benign polops .... pause .... but there's that quarter size AVM that seems to be the reason you are leaking blood and it requires removal". While the brain is assimilating pertinent information, benign rolls over and over through the consciousness with a question mark. "We are faxing your records over to your next Doctor in the Oncology Dept. at the hospital." The conversation ended with "they will be in touch". Did you notice the size of that shoe as it fell? That was Wednesday October 6th and the emotional level appeared calm. After all, if it were bad news, logically there would not be a wait but go straight to surgery or whatever. RIGHT??!!? Never mind, I'm holding onto that thought, period.

Obviously we are far beyond mechanics, the specialist had the last word after simple diagrams. We will do a resection, staple the parts back together and you'll go home in 3 to 5 days. No more leak. When? So while the rest of you are racing to the polls to be first in line, that's right .... I'm first in line.

The funny thing about all of this is you realize how fortunate we are that medicine has progressed in so many areas. A few years ago I might not have had such a cavalier attitude. Don't misunderstand, this is concerning but let's not cross bridges until we are pushed. So there you are, hopefully just a brief hiccup in this life's safari. I will wager one idea .... bet that now these Doctors have me on their radar, I'm caught like a deer in the headlights.

The exorcism is now complete with the reading. Believe this evening requires a bit of time in the garden with a really lovely single malt before tackling those fresh apple cakes. What do you say, join me .................

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cruise Aftermath .... Anemia

Wishing I was still on board the Azamara Quest or ensconced in a quiet Roman Villa, my instructions were "get to your Doctor". Prodding was not necessary as I was concerned enough all by myself. Immediate fatigue, sternum cramping, shortness of breath, rubber band legs ..... o.k., o.k., got a bit frightened but I haven't seen a Doctor since ...... right. Hold on, if every time you saw one the closing comment was "you are as healthy as a horse, just loose a few pounds", would you keep going to see THEM...... right, no. So, called my Orthopedic Surgeon. It took 1 1/2 weeks to be approved an accepted but she was ...... a very tall South African with the blackest hair I ever saw on a white woman ...... an immediately was seduced by her straight forwardness, candor and sick sense of humor; that is until she refused to allow me to leave and had me admitted to the Hospital. No pass go, no $200..... suddenly I inhabited room #114. Seems my Red Blood Count was at 17; apparently "they" are concerned when it drops to 40. Hummmmm, well, o.k., are you sure this is necessary? That was greeted with a lecture on education and something questioning my intelligence.

Three days later, an echocardiogram, colonoscopy, extensive needles day and night of drawn blood, transfusion of 3 units of o something [positive, I think]; "they" determine my extreme anemia had caused my travel problems. BUT, we need another colonoscopy. Well, of course they do. This is when I begin to feel as though I've driven into a mechanics bay and what was a perfectly operating machine turns into ..... well, maam, this is wrong and that needs replacing .... you get my drift?? right. Amazing what large doses of ferrous sulfate [iron] 3 times a day will accomplish. Tah-dah! Blood work is greatly improved BUT, and there's always a but...... , we need a "cleaner" colonoscopy.

While I'm loose, free and not feeling like I did on shipboard, life is to be ..... taking walks on the truck trail, holy cow .... dancing !!! I have the energy to actually .... live, move, exist. Apparently, I have been leaking blood for a very long time until I was down to forcing the dear old heart to work excessively hard to pump a very small amount of blood. Now, just need to build back the muscle mass I lost. I'm here .... and that's a good thing. Now we know why I was accusing Ed of trying to give me a heart attack on those "forced" marches...... I was a bit low on blood!!! Isn't the course of life funny? Oh, come on, you gotta laugh!!!! "If only" won't buy a cup of coffee or tea ............... I'm looking out the window at the deepest orange glow of this day's setting sun and anticipating tomorrow's adventure. I've never felt such calm; but I wish I was still on Azamara Quest ..... WOW ..... what a ship; what an adventure. Thank you doesn't begin to cover my gratitude.... AND AFTERALL, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.................