Jelly Time

I went to my mother’s house last weekend and we made jelly all day one day. For my British friends, jelly is what Americans call jam without chunks of fruit in it. Obviously, it’s not summer, so it wasn’t fresh fruit we were processing, instead we used 100% bottled juice. You have to actually read the labels on juice if you want to make jelly, because it could be labeled 100% juice and not be 100% the flavor on the front of the bottle. Apple is a common filler juice, so I spent a lot of time in the juice aisle reading labels before I settled on my flavors: pomegranate, apple, tart cherry, pear, and mixed fruit.

If you’ve never made jam or jelly, it’s a tedious activity that culminates in a multistep process that must be done very fast. You will at some point burn yourself. It really helps to have a second person doing part of the process. It was great having my mother there to do some of the steps. This became all the more obvious when two of the flavors didn’t set. We didn’t have an actual recipe for the last two flavors, so we winged it, and it didn’t work. I didn’t have time to redo them at my mother’s house, so I brought them home to redo them here. I successfully got them to set, but it was more difficult working by myself. Nonetheless, they’re all done now. Toast for everyone!

This is the recipe I used to make the pomegranate jelly.

Child of Two Worlds Review

I’ve been reviewing Star Trek books for Game Industry News lately.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy these book. I’ve watched all the Star Trek television series as well as the movies and, years ago, I read a lot of the Next Generation novels and some of the original series novels. Since I hadn’t read any in such a long time, this has been like revisiting old friends. Here’s my latest review for the Spock-centric Child of Two Worlds

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Well, that was weird

This isn’t a political blog and it’s not going to be one, but it’s hard to let something like Donald Trump being elected president pass without comment. So here’s my comment: I don’t understand hiring someone to do a serious, difficult job when they have no experience doing anything in that field. For example: if I’m looking for a doctor, the world’s smartest geologist is not likely to be able to help me.

That being said, I hope Donald Trump is a great president. I hope this for all our presidents, because to do otherwise would be foolish. On the other hand, I was raised to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, so I’ve recently switched all my charitable donations to organizations that fight for civil liberties. I’m a big fan of that “all men are created equal” line. I interpret “men” to mean people. I’m enough of a student of history to understand that we should never take anything for granted.

So that’s my two cents.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog. I recently bought a robot vacuum cleaner. My mother and one of my sisters have one and I admit to a certain level of jealousy in that regard. I’m a techie; I want a robot. What I really want is something along the lines of ASIMO to follow me around, keep my calendar, and carry my groceries, but I don’t have $2,500,000 to spend on that right now. I ended up buying an iLife V3, which is smaller than a Roomba and only works on hardwood floors, which is all we have. For the most part, I’ve resisted using the remote to chase the dogs around the house with it. It’s scheduled to clean the main floor of our house every morning at 1:00am. It’s quiet enough that it doesn’t wake us and it does a really good job keeping that floor clean, which means the upstairs stays clean as well. Every morning I empty the filter after I feed the dogs. It’s like having another pet, sort of a reverse-pet that cleans up after the others. It lives under a chair in the living room where it sits happily glowing until it’s time to go to work again. My husband has taken to calling it Scooter.

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I Heart New York

Sometimes a change of scenery can be a tremendous tonic. New York City is a tonic and a half and then some. My husband and I recently spent five days there courtesy of his parents and it was just what we needed to get away for a while and do something completely different. We ate like hobbits while we there going from restaurant to restaurant and occasionally enjoying a museum between meals. We caught up with some old friends, missed others, and generally had a resoundingly good time.

When I was younger, I enjoyed the city in the company of natives. We took the subway or walked everywhere, but for some reason, even when walking places, I never really oriented myself. Perhaps it was because my friends always knew where they were going, so I didn’t really worry about it. On the rare occasions when I’ve had to go to NYC for work, I really just went from the train to the hotel to work and back again and never really thought about where I was in reference to the rest of the city. On this trip though, I was walking around with my husband in Chelsea which was a part of the city I’d spent a lot more time in than he had. For the first time, I had a real sense of where I was going and where I was in relation to other parts of the city, and I really felt like I knew where I was. Some of this was because we walked almost everywhere, and when we weren’t walking, we took a cab or Uber, so I was able to get a real sense of the map. The subway, as wonderful as it is, is pretty disorienting in that regard, or at least it is for me. To me, the subway is like falling through the rabbit hole. You disappear underground and magically reappear somewhere else with no reference points as to how you got there. I know that the platforms are labeled and there is a subway map, but for some reason that information just doesn’t stick in my head. On this trip though, by the time we were walking to dinner Saturday night, I was completely comfortable with where I was going and knew exactly how to get back to where I’d been. That’s kind of a great feeling in a city that large and I needed that.

The view from our hotel room on W 23rd Street and 7th Avenue.

The view from our hotel room on W 23rd Street and 7th Avenue.

A Eulogy of Sorts

I haven’t written anything here, or anywhere else for that matter, for some time because my father was dying, and now he’s been dead for a few weeks, and it’s taken me this long to sort out what I wanted to say. My sister, Julie, wrote a beautiful eulogy for his funeral. It’s never easy to eulogize someone, especially someone who was so loved by so many people and who lived such a long, rich life. Julie did a wonderful job of blending her personal memories along with family memories to express a full picture of our father. I’m not going to try to do that here. My relationship with him was complex in the way that happens when two people have very similar personalities and mostly different opinions. We often rubbed each other the wrong way. Probably because we saw the flaws we saw in ourselves in each other.

On the other hand, from a distance, I think we both appreciated each other. We shared a deep interest in people and animals and we were loved and trusted by a great many people. It took us a while to see that in each other, but I think we both got there. I never doubted that he loved me, even if he didn’t always like me, and I hope he understood that was true of me towards him as well. We argued a lot when I was younger, but as I got older I think we best expressed our love by not engaging in conversations we knew would piss the other one off. That may not seem like much, but it took real effort on both our parts, seeing as how we were both talkers and not afraid to pass our opinions. It was a much less contentious, much more quiet relationship than we’d had before, which if nothing else, was probably much appreciated by my mother. In the last decade or more, we’ve essentially stuck to topics like weather, football, dogs, and growing vegetables. The most interesting conversation we’ve had in years was this one about these two films. I still marvel that he wanted to watch them and that we actually agreed on their tragic similarities.

During the last month, in all the talk between Joan, Julie, my mother, my enormous family, and myself, one abiding memory keeps popping into my head. When I was in middle school, and we lived in Abingdon, Daddy and I were driving out of our subdivision when it started to rain. I have no idea where we were going or why but the sky opened up and it poured. We could barely see the road ahead when my father suddenly stopped the truck, put on the blinkers, jumped out of the cab leaving the door open, grabbed something from the side of the road, jumped back into the truck, and dropped a bird in my lap. It was just past fledging, probably only flying on its own for a day or two and it was completely soaked to the skin. I’m not sure what happened immediately after that. Did he continue with his errand while I waited in the truck with the bird? Did he turn the truck around and go right home? I don’t know. But I remember we put the bird in a cardboard box with a green towel and the next morning we took it out on the deck and it flew away. Why does this memory stick in my head with such unusual (for me) clarity? Was it the rescue of the bird? Was it the fact that he even saw the bird in such a downpour? I don’t know. But here’s my father in a nutshell: he was the kind of man who would stop in the middle of the road, in the pouring rain, to save a drowning bird. I loved that about him.

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Anarchist Coffee?

My husband was in Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse recently and picked up coffee for me.

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They call it a medium dark, but it’s more dark roast than medium. This is a classic American dark roast. This reminds me of the coffee you used to get when mainstream American’s were just getting into coffees that weren’t Maxwell House or Folgers. That’s not a slam, it’s good. It’s darker than what I like. My sister, Joan, would love it. Thread Coffee roasts this for Red Emma’s, so if you’re in Baltimore pick it up at the store. Otherwise you can order it online at http://www.threadcoffeecoop.org/.