Pie or Should I Jam?

The song by the Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is a good one that for some reason has been really popular with my memory lately. It is coming up so much and there it was again when I was picking Juneberries. Should I pie or should I jam?

The Juneberry tree in our yard is something I bought with a gift certificate we received from some dear friends so I would buy something in memory of my dad. I chose a Juneberry tree. I did a lot of research on choosing the right one that would reflect some attributes of my dad and of me. It had to be a native of Wisconsin, not hard to look at, give back in more ways than oxygen and not grow too big for it’s britches. It had to love May and June and not be hard to grow. It seems that it is a lot to expect from a tree, but then it is a tree and we are allowed to expect a lot from something so wonderful.

It has pretty white blossoms in May and develops little round berries in late June. The almost black berries are sweet and have many great qualities.  They taste like a cross between a blueberry and raspberry. Some people think they taste like a cross between a cherry and a blueberry, but since I don’t enjoy cherries I tend to disregard that comment. They have a little soft crunch as the seed is very small and edible. Some say that there is an almond flavor. What I have thought is that the almond flavor is most notable when the berry is heated.

It’s official name is Amelachier. It is also known as Serviceberry, sarvis, sarvisberry, Saskatoon, Canadian medler, wild sugar plum, shadblow, shadbush, Maycherry, shadblossom, wild pea, chuckly pea or snowy mespilus. They are from the “pome” family so that means that they are more like an apple or pear than a berry. The individual berry is the size of a pea, yet they are easy to gather off the tree.

It was a key ingredient in making Pemikan. It can be made into jam, dessert, ect. It is nutrient dense with high levels of protein, calcium, iron and anti oxidants. It is similar to the blueberry in it’s nutrition.

I decided to make a jam. I have made it before experimenting using Chia seeds as a thickener and although the berries are not sour, I used some Agave to sweeten it a bit. I ground them up in the blender and then cooked them before adding the seeds and the sweetener.

I usually have to fight the robins for my share of the berries. They like them as much as I do. The berries are not my all time favorite, but when I pick them I think that my dad would appreciate that I was making something from the tree while enjoying it. He was industrious while appreciating the life of the growing thing. That meant that most things should earn their keep.

I don’t tend to think that way mostly because I suppose I have the luxury of not having to. I like things just because I like them, they don’t have to give me a tangible payout. Sometimes the payout is that they are just beautiful. When I could not pick the berries last year I liked it that the birds were having a feast.

They grow readily all over and as they are often planted now just for ornamental trees you could go to a business or an area that has them and kindly ask if you could pick them. I am sure that they would not mind as that would rid them of the falling ones that do not get eaten by the birds.

Since there is not a need to spray the trees for infestations you are safe to eat the fruit just passing buy. There is noting like eating right from the plant. A little dirt never hurt anyone. The Clash got their answer tonight as I decided to jam.

 

The Spoon Theory Using Slotted Spoons

I have this utensil drawer that goes through a makeover every so often. When I say makeover I mean once in a while I will throw something out. In this over stuffed drawer of culinary chaos lives a few slotted spoons. Most have slots, but there is one that just has holes for draining instead of slots…you get the idea.

Many people know about the “Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino. It was her way of explaining to her friend how much energy she has in a day by metaphorically comparing energy depletion to spoons. Christine has Lupus and it must be draining. She is the writer of the blog, “But You Don’t Look Sick”. When you get up in the morning you get a limited number of spoons and you don’t really know until you get up in the morning how many spoons will suddenly be yours for your day.

“Normal” people get a bunch of spoons to use up and ones with chronic disease and disability usually have less spoons to use. It varies on the person and on the day. I think that all of us would say there are days when you have given your last spoon and are pretty much cooked, the last straw is pulled, and you say, “I have no (spoons) left to give.” This usually is when you have been pushed mentally and emotionally until you just don’t care anymore for that day.

I am renaming that emotionally and mentally draining spoon metaphor, “The Slotted Spoon Theory”. This will do a few things. This will not take away the good idea that Christine Miserandino has for a comparison of chronic illness energy or diminish it’s significance. I have pains. I have pains that make me get out of the car way too slowly for where I think I should be. I walk with a little hitch as my feet hurt all of the time, my new knee hates me and my hips are starting to call it quits. My teeth are starting to bail yet I don’t have many of the physical limitations that some of my friends are starting to experience. Some of my friends have cancer, RA, heart disease, kidney disease, well…you know.

Some of my friends my age are running marathons and playing team sports on a regular basis. They are doing mud runs, flying behind motor boats, bicycling long tours and still bouncing along on snow machines. What I say to them is “Keep it up! You are doing great! Am I jealous? You bet, but I am not wishing you not to do it. I just wish I could do it or move more easily, because let’s face it I never did any of those things you are doing now when I was young. Just kiss that knee of yours and keep moving as long as you can.”

So, now to the slotted spoons. I get only a certain number of spoons delivered to myself upon waking up. I remind you that I don’t have those other things, but the aches I do have and the emotional baggage I drag around daily has me counting spoons. I have a very low amount of spoons delivered during winter months. The rest of the year I do believe that my spoons are slotted as the energy they do deliver does not even stay in them for very long. I have big slotted spoons too, the kind for serving big food.

My first job in the day takes lots of spoons. Just going to work takes up spoons because I have to psych myself up to begin, but this is nothing new. I have to have a pep talk with myself before most everything. Parties, shopping, dinner, phone calls, driving…I know. A little praying, a little “come on girl, you can do this”. People are pretty surprised that I am like this if I have told them as they think that I am a total extrovert. What I guess I am is an introverted extrovert and it is exhausting. It is like living between two magnets. I enjoy talking to people because I like people and am interested in their stories and lives and when I get to them it is great, but getting to them is the problem. Once I am there it is very good. If I listened to the ideas in my head of all the reasons that I should stay at home I wouldn’t have such lovely experiences. The spoons I get have a little rocket fuel in them to put me into orbit. I can’t make rocket fuel that I can drink so I leave that up to Jesus to leave in my spoons.

To stay in orbit I also try to make more spoons with Diet Dew and carbs. Those make terrible spoons. They sort of glow from the Dew and melt easily as they are mostly made of chocolate. Sleep doesn’t really make that many spoons. It is pretty much a spoon lottery. You get what you get and you don’t get to pick your favorite numbers in this lottery. Sometime I try to make spoons with walking with the dog, but then spend the spoons on aching feet.

 

That is why I think that my spoons are slotted. The energy drips right out of them. The spoons can’t carry all the anxiety, thoughts and whirling ideas, but I have discovered that one of the best ways to not lose spoons is to write this blog. That seems to help. Seeing my kids and my grandchildren gives me spoons. Talking to my friends gives me spoons.

If you see any spoons laying around give me a call.

 

Joanna and Jane: A Magnolia Table Recipe Cook Off

Hello gentle readers. What I just made was great and I am not even a fan of that particular food. Probably because I had the wrong recipe before or the impatience to make them correctly.

I took on a one day at a time, occasionally executed throwback to Julie and Julia, the book by Julie Powell about how she cooked through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Let me be clear, I am not interested in mastering French cooking, but I am a fan of Joanna Gaines from the television show, “Fixer Upper”.

I do not know her. How can anyone really know someone on television? All we can do is guess and wish them well. I would think living in a public bubble is a tough gig and then she has her littles to be concerned with. Her husband, Chip, seems to be of good character as well and I wish them all well.

I got my hands on a copy of Joanna Gaines’s “Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering.” because well, why not? I started looking at the recipes and decided that I might try making her recipes in close succession like the book Julie and Julia. I leafed through it to get a lay of the land and thought that I could really do this. Then I soon came to my senses and for lots of reasons will only make some of the recipes. Not because they don’t sound good and easy to make, but because I already have lots of recipes that work for me, I don’t like all food mainly because of my past intestinal surgery and because there is just Rick and I here to eat all this. She won me over when she didn’t get all cra cra about the option of using a store bought pie crust and I even ran across a recipe that uses Velveeta. I know!!! This does not mean that she doesn’t use wonderful ingredients for most everything, but come on….she puts Velvetta in grits! That is the only thing that could possibly save such a vile concoction of wannabe food.  Plus Joanna has a houseful and some help. Still, it will be fun to make most of these and report on what I enjoy about them.

One of my friends asked me that if I was really going to do this, who would play me in the movie if this was like the blog, the movie and the book? Of course she was kidding. First of all, no one would want to see that, but I got to thinking about it because the thought is silly and entertaining, and that alone was enough for me to put that question on the wind.

The wind was in our living room and I asked my husband, Rick, what he thought. While he was thinking I was mulling it over and there is no one my age that is like me that is a famous personality that they would use in a movie. Or is there? My brain sometimes works overtime and I came up with a HUGE list in a minute. This brain thing is sometimes a problem for the hubs, but he is pretty used to it now. I digress.

These are roughly all the people that I would even consider playing me in a movie that are about my same age. The first one I thought of is Oprah, but she is older than I am doesn’t trip over her words and way more serious so that wouldn’t work right there. Here is the list I came before, “The Wind” or as I like to call him, “The Voice of Reason” aka, “The Hubs” came up with his choice. Here is my list in no particular order and the reason they might be able to pull “me” off in a movie, but face it, they would have to really be able to act.

  1. Emma Thompson: she seems funny.
  2. Angela Bassett: she seems smart.
  3. Megan Mullally: she seems funny.
  4. Jeff Foxworthy: LOL…he might be able to play me if….
  5. Marcia Gay Hardin: she is alive
  6. Michelle Pheiffer: she played a teacher in “Dangerous Minds”.
  7. Ellen DeGeneres: she is nice, but she likes scaring people in surprise attacks so       .  maybe not. My brothers frightened me enough for a lifetime.
  8. Sharon Stone: she is a fighter
  9. Kevin Bacon: he is six people away from knowing everyone.
  10. Annette Bening: she sticks up for herself
  11. Drew Carey: he seems like a nice guy and can be sarcastic.
  12. Belinda Carlisle: she was in the Bangles
  13. Joan Jett: she had great hair in the 70’s and is a musician

Then Rick says, “Melissa McCarthy”. Of course he is correct even though she is 47.

Tonight I made Joanna’s biscuits printed on page 17, called Jo Jo’s Biscuits. They are the very first recipe in the book and when she said how she tried over and over to get the right recipe, well, she had me at 3 sticks of butter. I appreciate someone who tries to get it right in everything and baking is no exception. She made so many batches for a long time and took note on what her family thought of each batch. Were they too dry, too light, too hard, too salty, too something…. She finally got it right and that is the recipe that they use in her newly opened restaurant. These were the best I had ever tasted. I can see they would go well with jams, eggs and ham, or paired in the way I made them tonight for supper. I was super careful to follow the recipe exactly and I was not disappointed.

I have a tendency to get a recipe and tweak it. Then when I get a good result I forgot what the tweak was because I am not a good recipe note taker. I would be a terrible scientist. I think that might also come from buying a different product than the one mentioned to either save money or because I am afraid that if I buy the exact thing needed and it is not something I use all the time it will go to waste if not used up quickly. I am a child of parents that came through very hard times.

We are from Wisconsin and sausage gravy is not something that is on a typical menu around here. When we recently went a few states away from us there it was on a breakfast menu and Rick had it and thought it was ok. I myself would not eat it. I saw this in the book so I made it for Rick for supper. I guess it is more breakfast food, but we are not around together for daily breakfast, and to be honest with you…I’m not cooking for breakfast for anyone during the week. Weekends, sure, but M-F…ah no.

She called for a national brand of sausage and I of course bought the pork meat and seasoned it myself saving some bucks. I did try it. It was fine, but there I go tweaking things again. I don’t think I will make that again unless someone really wants it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it just doesn’t appeal to me. Probably because of my culture here in my area.

When I figure out how to post pictures on here I will post some of the lovely biscuits. Until then, who would play you in a movie? Go…

 

Hole in the Road

When I was a girl we lived on a dirt road. Mom said that it was actually named Dirt Road before things got serious. Then it was covered in gravel and had a name of O’Reilly Road, named after the infamous Bob O’Reilly down the road. I would have liked it better to be named after his super nice wife Viola. I have issues with the departed Bob O’Reilly because he ran over my dog, but that is another story.

Dad used to get flack from my mom because it was so dusty on our road and the wind would sift the dirt in and making her job a little harder. Open windows for air circulation was our cooling system with a big black fan seated on a wooden chair came in handy when it was super hot.

When it got too dusty from what Mom thought was the road dust, dad would call up the township road people and ask to have it sprayed. For us this mean that a big truck would come down the road and spray oil on the road settling the dust. Dad would call this oil kangaroo juice and I liked the whole idea of that name because it didn’t make one bit of sense. Now you know where I get it from.

Later our road was upgraded to blacktop and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was so much easier to ride my bike the few miles to Roseanne’s and Kathy’s houses. Now we take such roads here in Wisconsin for granted. I have learned when teaching 4th Grade History that our country roads were some of the first to be paved in the country because of the value they put on getting the milk from the farms for distribution.

When I go see my friend Rachel in Nebraska you don’t have to drive far off the main highways to find a dirt or gravel road. When Rick and I drive on them there we are reminded how easy it is to slide a little more on such surfaces and are transported to when we were so much younger.

I am feeling a little extra grateful for good road surfaces these days because both of the towns on either side of us are enjoying new road construction. We are assuming that the Department of Transportation has lost their minds in doing these projects simultaneously or they are evil geniuses. Nevertheless we are bumping along streets to get to our main destinations each day and thinking about how much it will cost in new suspensions on the vehicles.

That takes me to the road we live on now and have for the last 35 years. It is blacktopped and usually a smooth trip unless I am trying to run down cranes with my car. I digress… Winters are pretty rough on roads and since our road is not that heavily traveled the blacktop lasts for a while. Once we had a culvert wash out in the night and our Erin was the first to come upon it without diving her car into it. We have a few pot holes from time to time and once in a while I have been known to take a shovel to them and see if I can fill this a bit before the township gets at it. I think it is nice to see if you can fix your own part of the township if you can, but I always end up dropping a line to the town board to see if they can send some trailer and bucket out to patch it.

Recently I had an idea that made Rick look at me, not with surprise, because let’s face it, he is never really surprised anymore about the ideas I have, but with a dead pan expression that feigned interest yet was trying to see if I was kidding. He just looked off in the distance, probably thinking about whether the Brewers were playing in town tonight. Silly man. Of course I wasn’t kidding. My idea is that since it is just one deep hole all by itself and we have a bunch of rocks left over from the septic rampage, we could as a sort of fill your bucket (hole) gesture take a rock from the pile and as we went past it each day, slow down just enough to be accurate and drop in into the whole. It would be sort of a game and do some good at the same time.

Rick has not chosen to comment on this technique or whether he will partake in this road building exercise with me. He is just quiet. I believe that one of the roles I have in this marriage is to make him question my sanity and to make him think about his.

I put a few rocks the size of my fist on the seat in my car so I wouldn’t forget in the morning.