Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lyme Disease

I spent the afternoon risking several deadly illnesses just to make sure that I had fresh wild blackberries for his desert.

I had spied them when I got to work. They were just in the bushes at the edge of the parking lot. I thought, "I'll pick myself a handful after work," all I have ever gotten were just a handful of wild blackberries at at time. And handful is a generous way of describing 6 berries. Then I promptly forgot about them for the rest of the day. Until I went to go home. That's when I wandered down to the edge of the bush in my sandles and skirt and realised that there were more berries there than the taste I had anticipated.

Visions of lovely pies and jams and cobblers danced in my head.

I ran back inside and asked my shoe size twin to trade me her runners for my sandles and bless her heart she never even asked why she just slipped off the shoes and handed them over. I put on my scrub pants. I was still wearing my cute white T-shirt but I forgot about that.

I ran back to the bush and picked berries.

I forced my way through those thorny canes. And I picked berries.

I sweated and picked berries.

One of the other doctors came out after her shift and picked berries with me.

In the heat and humidity we picked berries.

There were oodles of berries. There was oodles of sweat. My hair was plastered to my head. My pants were sticking to my legs. I was scratched and scraped. It wasn't a pretty sight.

We probably picked about 8 quarts of berries that day.

Juicy blackberries.

We talked about how we would make jam. About how we could eat them on icecream, in yogurt, on our cereal. About how we would freeze some for the winter.

I took my berries home and made my jam.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Seat Of My Pants Jam Making - AKA Not A Great Idea

Did I mention I lack a certain amount of concentration when cooking and baking??? I can do a lovely job but I need to focus and keep my mind in the game.

Sometimes I decide to experiment and fly by the seat of my pants... And most times I get away with it no problem.

But not on Saturday night I didn't.

What have I learned over the course of my two or three as yet not over jam making spree?????

Don't experiment with jams unless you are either:

1. rich and can afford to waste valuable fruit

2. have so much fruit you aren't worried about it not turning out


3. are content to have sauce or syrup instead of jam in case is doesn't turn out.

I crazily thought that since a blueberry pie recipe worked so well for Tammy, my sister-in-common-law, to make a saskatoon pie that a blueberry jam recipe would work equally well for me when making saskatoon jam.


I got sauce. A wonderful sauce that tastes amazing but is too chunky for a syrup and too thin for a spread. I ate it on my toast this morning anyways... Just to prove that it had turned out.

Well I would eat it on toast but I couldn't give it away at Christmas and call it "jam".

I would need to attempt "remaking cooked jam".

So I had a very lovely conversation with a lovely gal at Kraft Canada this morining who counselled me on the ins and outs of not substituting when making jam.

1. You shouldn't change the style of certo (that I knew already) and

2. Apparently you can't really get away with chaning fruit types. Blueberries and Saskatoons seem similar but apparently as far as pectins are concerned they are not so much the same.

What I learned is this:

1. You can do one redo of a non-set jam recipe and then yer done.

2. I have a lovely Chunky Saskatoon Sauce/Syrup Recipe and the lovely Kraft lady said people call up all the time looking for that.

4 cups crushed Saskatoons
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 box certo crystals
5 cups sugar

Bring the berries and lemon juice to a boil and add the sugar and bring it back to a hard boil and let it go for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and skim and stir for 5 minutes and then bottle it up and let the bottles seal.

3. Don't try adding 2 more cups of sugar like the saskatoon jam recipe on kraftcanada.com calls for - it also calls for certo liquid so you'll still be up the creek - refer to the rule that says you can't interchange certo types which I said I already knew but still considered doing anyways in light of my current non-set saskatoon jam situation. Desperate times call for desperate measures after all.

4. Really search that old internet well before concluding that there just are no saskatoon jam recipes out there and deciding to go it alone. In my defence I did consult my mom and the 4H cookbook but had not luck. Mom only had a saskatoon-rhubarb jam and I am currently rhubarb-less. The cookbook had a recipe for jelly and I am making jam.

I'm not stubborn at all.

So I have now emptied one batch of jam back into a sauce pan and have washed the jars again and started them on their journey towards sterilization again... And am getting ready to follow the remaking cooked jam recipe in the certo box.

For my next Saskatoon Jam attempt I intend to get the certo liquid - two of them as called for in the recipe - and make a real batch of jam.

If my remake doesn't work out then I've been told I'll still have a really nice sauce that I can give away as Christmas gifts instead of some jam.

So no harm no foul. I'll still spread it on toast and eat it.

Final thought - my two younger cats, Mako and Missy, both like jam. They seem to prefer raspberry though. They obviously aren't native prairie dogs like me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In A Jam

Well not really. I'm not... but the strawberries are I guess. Well I hope they are. That was the general idea and the point of all the steps I followed this afternoon and evening.

Three baskets of strawberries make three batches of strawberry jam.

It takes about an hour to hull and wash all of those berries.

Then you have to wash the jars and sterilize them and have them all ready for that strawberry goodness to fill them up.

Then you crush the berries, add the pectin, bring it to a boil, add the sugar and boil some more, stir and skim for 5 minutes and then fill up the jars.

Add the lids and rings and you're good to go right???

Well hopefully...

Jam making is an interesting thing... For me anyways. It requires concentration and I have a tendency to flit sometimes. My blonde roots show up at times like this. So I have to mentally chain myself to the stove and my wooden spoon to keep myself there and stirring so that I don't wander away allowing the jam to burn on the bottom of the pot or miss that critical hard boiling stage that you need to time so carefully so that the jam sets.

Making jam is a bit of a lottery. You spend all this time and money and energy. You hope it all turns out the way you want but you just never know until later that night you here the tell tale popping (which I haven't heard yet) that tells you the lids sealed. And then you need to wait until it cools to see if the jam actually jammed.

I guess it remains to be seen if I hit the surgary jackpot... I'll let you know when I know.

Still no tell tale popping sounds though....

Update: All the tops popped and all the jam jammed! Whoo hooo!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Social Yoga

Every Sunday morning, well... just about every Sunday morning, for the last 2 and a half or 3 years I have been going to yoga class in a nearby town. The "advanced" class (somehow our yogi named it wrong) throughout the year starts at 10:30AM, in the summer we start earlier and try to do yoga outside. Well it is supposed to start at 10:30, in actual fact we end up having a conversation about what happened this week and who did what until almost ten to eleven. But that's OK with all of us including the yogi.

She gets us to close our eyes and bring our thoughts into ourselves and we ohm once to start our practice.

Inevitably half way through the cat-cows we start talkin again. It's not that hard to have a conversation while doing cat-cows, or thread the needle or C-spine stretches for that matter. None of it takes a whole lot of energy or thought to do. Unless you're me and in that case thread the needle could end badly. I may be the only person I know who can fall over while kneeling on the ground with my head on the ground as well. But then that's vertigo for you. Balancing postures I ace, teddy bear head stand... no problemo. But the simple little low level thread the needle??? Well let's just say that everyone wants to be facing me while I do it just to see if I fall over this week. I use all of my abs in order to stay upright and have to really focus in order not to topple over.

I'm glad when we move on to the C-spine stretches and the donkey-kicks. Our yogi has wonderful and creative names for the assanas, or if she doesn't think of one then one of us will. I think donkey-kick is one of those names. But it is sooooo descriptive. One of my other favourites is dead-bug. We think the real name is actually happy baby and that is truly an accurate description but dead-bug is so much more interesting and warped. So we go with dead bug. We like to decompose at the end by doing chavasana.

We do dolphins which we and our abs take seriously and move on to down dog and then the superman series of poses which are good for the back. And we really like to try out new poses on people who have missed a few weeks. Such as the side bow pose which is really entertaining to watch someone trying to get into.... Picture someone one their stomach arched back and holding onto their ankles with their hands trying to roll over onto their sides... You could almost gut yourself laughing if you weren't trying so hard to roll over onto your side while holding onto your ankles too.

We do our sun salutations. Aschtanga-style. 4 A series and 3 B series and suffer when one particular person is not there. She counts for us. The rest of us lack the concentration to count to 4 and then 3. When she's not there we do it carefully, methodically and OUT LOUD! Other than that there is no taking in sun salutations for the most part. You have to really concentrate during sun salutations or you may just fall over trying to go from down dog to warrior 2. And that wouldn't be pretty.

Balance postures become almost competetive... OK not almost... OK not just the balance postures are competetive. Anything involving holding a pose for an extended period of time can become competive. Have you ever tried to hold a pose for as long as you can while laughing or trying NOT to crack up??? Yoga really does require concentration to pull it off the way it was meant to be done. We do our best and sometimes our best is better than others.

But our yogi is very understanding. We are her special class. She says she thinks she's lost control of the class and we tell her that this seems like a very un-yogi-like thought... having control and all. Somedays we do free style yoga. Somedays we let her have control for a little while and then we wrest it back from her.

After we're done decomposing we all go for lunch together and chat some more. I'm not sure I would make it through a conventional yoga class. I'd probably be kicked out for making too many comments or asking too many questions. So I have to say I'm glad to have found a social yoga class that accepts me for who I am. A vertigo challenged individual who struggles with thread the needle but who can do tree posture with her eyes closed... Well at least for a few seconds before the vertigo takes over again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pause Point And Proceed

How do geese cross the road????

The right way of course. By stopping traffic! By following the rules we are all taught as small children. To pause, point and then proceed. My young niece and nephew have known this rule since they were very small.

It is truly amazing that these wild animals are smart enough to learn this rule too.

Geese are really cool creatures.... and smart too. And Canada Geese are all over the place here. And there is one specific spot where there is a wildlife park situated between the river and the road. The geese cross this road in order to eat grass in the other ditch, I think. Or maybe they are just bored of being on the canal side so they cross over. I don't really know how a goose thinks....

But needless to say they cross the road. And they follow the rules. I witnessed it one day.

That day two goose families needed to cross back to the canal side.

There were two mamas and two papas on the left side of the road (away from the water) and each had a family of three babies that were about half grown but clearly still dependent on mom and dad. Let's call them family #1 and family #2 There was a third family of similar size on the right or river side of the road. Let's call them famil #3 and that family had to cross an approach to get to where everybody wanted to be.

Well when I came upon the scene the traffic coming towards me had stopped to let the birds cross the road. The car in front of me drove on through but I stopped too. Papa #1 came out into the other lane about 1/2 way and waited and. And watched me. And shook his head in the direction he wanted to go. And waited. And when he was convinced I wasn't going anywhere then he took his little family across the road. Now it was papa#2's turn. He came out about to the middle of the road and his babies sat down in the opposite lane while he decided what to do. He waited while family #3 did the same sort of deal to cross the approach to the park and then wandered into the park across from him and cleared the shoulder of the road. Then pap #2 got his little brood up and took them across in front of my lane and into the ditch after he waited to make sure we, the car drivers, didn't move and shook his head to show where he was going.

I was amazed. But it doesn't always take much to amaze me.

But still... a goose knowing the rules of crossing the street??? They must do it all the time to know enough to pause, point and proceed.