Monday, August 11, 2014

Nick & Steve...

Yesterday, at church, something totally cool happened. As you may remember, Hubby and I changed over to the Episcopal Church - for a variety of reasons, which I'll someday enumerate, but suffice to say that we had had it with the Roman Catholic Church, just about the time they started telling the nuns how to do their jobs...

Anyway, our organist, Tom, has been sick, so last week we had a "said service" with no songs. This week, there were 7 of us - which was most of the choir - and we thought we could muddle through most of it a capella

I looked in our service bulletin and saw what I thought was a baptism. Nope. Well, yes, but MORE. We had a "Blessing of the Adoption" AND a baptism. 

We have a lot of lovely families in our church, and as usual, everyone's baby-crazy. From Fr. Matt's youngest, to the most adorable Emma who sits and gurgles at the choir, to Oliver. 

And yesterday was Oliver's day. His dads, Nick & Steve, had their whole family in the pews to celebrate, with us - their faith community - the adoption of Oliver and his baptism into the church. 

In the RC church, to my knowledge, we never had a "Blessing of the Adoption." Well, RCs usually are good at keeping things in the closet, so I didn't ever expect such a thing. At St. John's, we blessed the adoption. That was the segment before the actual baptism. 

At the baptism, Fr. Matt invited everyone in the pews to gather round the font. He did warn those close that they were likely to get wet! And when it came time for the actual baptism, Oliver, good baby that he is, gurgled and kicked his feet. Not a peep as Fr. Matt poured water over his head 3 times, baptizing him. 

We sang a beautiful hymn for the baptism, and we did a lovely 4-part hymn in Latin for Communion. And at Communion -- Every. Single. Person.... Each one came up to a beaming Nick, Steve, and Oliver, and chucked Oliver under the chin and congratulated Nick and Steve for adopting Oliver and bringing him into our faith community. All three of them just glowed with happiness.

Maybe an over-used word. But here it is: Awesome. Awesome how we embrace everyone. Every. One. No matter who you are. All are truly welcome at St. John's. That's what makes us such a mighty community. Not large, but definitely mighty. 

And This Makes Sense How??...

So this happened:  Looting after a shooting. 

I'm having a concept problem here. I'm hoping that the comment by a resident of Ferguson, MO is correct: That (sadly) these were outside agitators who took advantage of the community's sorrow. During a candlelight vigil for a shooting victim (investigation ongoing), there were incidents of looting, stealing from a cash store, a cell phone store, and a tire rim place. There were also people taunting the cops -- standing atop the squad cars. 

I mean REALLY? Seriously? 

The community came together to mourn a victim. Who did what to whom and when is currently under investigation, so we won't even get into that now. Because all the facts aren't being reported to us and they're still investigating. Best not to theorize prior to the facts. 

But the basic sociological trend of looting in response to violence by cops? What kind of sense does that make? Because I'll tell you now that this just reinforces stereotypes. "Look at those animals." 

Right or wrong, that's what's running through a LOT of peoples' heads today. I know all the arguments: the cops are armed to the teeth. The cops are too violent and haven't been adequately screened and/or trained. The community has no respect for authority. The poor are desperate.

Ok. Fine. That's not without merit on a number of levels. 

But really...How would MLK have handled this? How would Gandhi have handled this? How is this a good way to resolve these kinds of community issues? 

Yes. We have an enormously unequal society. Both racially and economically. And the divide hasn't been this big in a long, long time. Sad to say that in 2014, we're no better than during the times of slavery, when a small percentage of the rich held all the money and the rest of the population either worked for them or belonged to them. 

But it's how we face up to this and how we make the system change that will be our legacy. Do we do it by this kind of criminal behavior? Does that make us "better" than those who responsible for the shift in power and wealth? 

I don't think so. The community of Ferguson came together for a vigil. Now, whether it was outsiders or not, LOOTING IS NOT THE ANSWER. No matter what the question. 

The Silence...

Yesterday, in the Chicago Tribune, John Kass wrote about his twins going off to college and leaving him and his wife as empty-nesters. I've corresponded with him off and on, and spoken to him over the phone. And his column resonated with me. So this is what I sent him yesterday via e-mail. 

Dear John:

It’s the silence that gets you. The silence and the sudden space.

I read your column this morning and you encapsulated what I’ve been writing about for the past few weeks. You see, we too are empty-nesters (albeit a bit more suddenly), and like you – I’m not buying the “freedom” song.

Our turn came on with a confluence of other events: I had an atrial ablation procedure that rendered me in “recuperation” mode; The Kid had to move because he obtained a teaching gig about 50 miles from the house and Fall Semester is upon us; Older Kid has been gone for a little over 5 years now.

See, the plan was that Kid #2 would move out eventually. He was teaching at a local school, and he planned on buying a house somewhere in the neighborhood. Instead, this opportunity presented itself, and before I was out of the hospital, he was ready to go.

It’s the silence.

Nobody playing random riffs on the bass guitar. Nobody laughing on the cell phone. Nobody playing with the dogs. Neither kid would qualify as a “big talker” – being boys, they’re inherently more quiet than girls are. But once you wound them up, then just sit back and enjoy the conversation. Older Kid is a welder. Kid #2 is an English teacher. Both of them are brilliant (ahem, I think so, and so they are!) and can converse on a variety of topics from “the state of the music industry” to literature, to politics, to sports. And both have pretty strong opinions.

Nobody comes home late at night; the dogs feel a bit bereft of their duty to guard the house. Nobody really “needs” dinner. Nobody asks your opinion. Nobody needs to borrow your guitar or your reference book, or ask you how to do something.

And as for that whole “reconnect as a couple” thing? Well…I’m not sure about that. Hubby works from home. I work at a local university. We notice that it’s a lot quieter because neither of us are big talkers either…And after dealing with people all day, the quiet is our “recharge” time. Like you, we’re not going to be taking art lessons or ballroom dancing lessons. We’re not even big “go out to dinner” folks.

But it’s that “other” silence. That’s the one that gives you pause.

Kids take up a tremendous amount of real estate. Not only the physical kind. Not only because of their stuff. But because of what they bring – and take – emotionally. Verbally. Dimensionally on many planes. And now, that’s gone. It’s us and the dogs.

I realize 50 miles is a piffle. Other families have sons and daughters continents away, whether for education, work or, God help us – war. My own mother-in-law has a daughter doing mission work in the mountains of Peru.

And maybe it’s because it’s the youngest one who’s gone. Maybe it’s because it was, in my opinion, pretty quick. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to face the empty nest, in spite of years of proclaiming, “You raise ‘em to let ‘em go.” And I truly believe that. But still.

It’s the silence. And the space. 


Worked at my new system for a bit yesterday. I knitted about 8 rows on The Teal Sock. Then I worked on the Fluro sock for a while. Still haven't tackled the afghan, and I have to get on that ASAP.

I was kind of hoping, though I knew differently from the order I placed with Jimmy Beans, that I could start small and work up. I wanted to do the booties, then the hat, then the cardigan and THEN the blankie. Oh well... 

Anyway, in with the knitting, we did this.


We are officially pickled out. Well, the vines are still producing, but we're now overrun with pickles. Yesterday we did 21 pints of Bread & Butter pickles, and 15 pints of Hamburger Dill Chips. 
Cucumber overload!

This is what it looked like: 

We got 16 lbs. of cucumbers off the last picking. Yes. SIXTEEN pounds. So Hubby ordered them roughly by size, and grouped them on the table. 

Then he went out to buy onions. I must say, the Ball Blue Book, usually my bible in all things canning, has a strange proportion in regard to Bread & Butter pickles. There seemed to be a LOT of onions in ratio to the pickles we were using. Hubby went by weight, though, and so off I went while he took Raisa to training. 

Oh, I learned how to operate our food processor. Scoff. Go ahead. My idea of a "food processor" is a good set of knives and a cutting board, but I succumbed to technology when it came to cutting up pound after pound of cucumbers and onions. 

So I got the totes ready. It's layering the cukes, onions and salt and then using ice cubes over the top for about 90 minutes each batch. 

This would have been a good time to have an ice maker... But I digress. I set the batches to marinating and went back to the Carole Lombard movie marathon and my knitting. 

While off topic, it's worth mentioning that it's tragic that Ms. Lombard was killed so young. Her talent was amazing and it was a lovely way to while away an afternoon since the weather wasn't cooperating and I couldn't get outside -- unless I wanted to be rained on. 

After the time expires, you drain them, rinse them and drain again. And then you assemble the liquid in a large pot. Bring it to a boil and then dump in your veggies. 

That has to come back up to a boil and then you're ready to stuff the jars and plop them in the boiling water bath.

I wasn't sure yesterday whether it would have been an advantage to open the house up. While it was around 70* outside, it was beastly humid what with the rain. We had fans running and the A/C was on. But it was still a steam bath in the kitchen. 

The first batch cooked up fine, but we were short on liquid. Again, following the recipe, it almost seemed like "Pickled Onions with a Few Cucumbers Tossed In" and we were DEFINITELY short on liquid. But it was all weighed out, so it had to be reasonably accurate.
Bread & Butter cooking

Lucky for us, I had set aside and canned some of the liquid from a previous batch. It was similar enough so that it wouldn't totally confuse the pickles. So we tossed a couple of half-pint jars of that into the first batch. 

Hubby came home during the finish of that and helped with the second batch. We adjusted the vinegar and sugar for that batch so that we did have a little more liquid, but even with weighing out stuff, we had much more than the 7 pints the recipe called for. 

Cooling off
While we had the kitchen heated up and in chaos, we figured we'd finish off the second round of the pickles. We had intended to do a "garlic" variety of Bread & Butter, but I found a Hamburger Dill Chip recipe in Ball which would take far less time. And no onions.

So I guess I can make more Vidalia Onion Conserve this week. 

For the Dill Chips, we couldn't use the processor because our slice-thingie was too thin. They needed to be 1/4" so Hubby did the cutting. On the bias, even! So fancy! Only wish I had a "ruffled" slicer. 

For the Dill Chips, you pack the slices into the jar, add the spices, and then you ladle in the liquid. We did essentially a double batch, though we went over by 1 jar. And we sadly had a TON of the pickling liquid left. We did discard that, though. And the waste annoyed me. I should, if I do this again, go one-and-a-half times instead of a double batch. 

I was able to use dried dill. Our dill in the garden went pfffffffffthhhhhhh and the butterflies and bees enjoyed it. I have to time the growing better - needs to coincide with the proliferation of pickles in our patch. 

Dill chips prep
So I fiddled with the recipe (no surprise there), adding more peppercorns than called for. If you're interested, it's about 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill to equal one head of dill. 

Since I'm such a Pickle Pro, let me proffer a product for your perusal. It's Heinz Pickle Perfect apple cider vinegar. It's a nice apple cider vinegar perfect for just about any kind of pickling and any oil & vinegar recipe you'd like to try. Nice tang. Crisp taste. 

Anyway, the brine for these dill chips was 50/50 water and vinegar. The only bad thing about the bias cut is that you have to be careful how you stack them in the jar. But Hubby is a big puzzle guy, so this was the perfect task for him. 

We were on a "10 minute boil" roll for the Bread & Butter, but Dills done in this fashion (where the pickle part is raw and the brine is hot) need a little more, so that was a 15-minute boil. In 2 batches, we were done. 

As they cooled, you could feel the heat radiating. 

Here are our finished products... A sight to behold, and we've already been asked, "Do you ship??" My siblings are lining up with their hands open for any of the varieties we have ready to go.

These have to sit for a month for everything to fully develop. Hubby is designing labels today and we'll be ready to go. 
Dill chips done

Bread & Butter done
We really do love to do this. In spite of the grumbling, it's fun to see your creativity come alive. And it's been a great garden year, too, so we may as well take advantage of it. 

Hubby has been muttering about ripping out the vines, but we figure we see at least a dozen more pickles developing, along with at least 2 dozen more blossoms. 

I would just start handing out cucumbers, but these are mixed up. We didn't differentiate between the salad cukes and the pickling cukes enough... Now, when we do this 5 years from now (!) we will know that one variety has to go in one bed and the other variety has to be completely opposite. We thought we'd remember which was which, but honestly, after they grew like kudzu, we couldn't tell where one variety began and the other ended. 

I almost wish the tomatoes were that prolific. But it looks like there may be enough for green tomato relish. Or my friend Doris will take the green ones... she likes fried green tomatoes. 

Random Picture...

Because everyone sits on the couch this way. Of course. 

Isn't this how you sit on the couch?
I'm in doo-doo with our trainer! I've had to skip a couple of classes because of the heart thing and Raisa is almost ready to attempt her CGC. Which, I'm sorry -- I think she'll likely fail. 

Not that she's dim. Though she is. Sort of. But she's still a puppy. And a SIBERIAN HUSKY puppy. They don't get smart (a/k/a "stop acting like a lunatic") till they're a lot older. 

Anyway, this was a shot I captured when she and Kid #2 were playing with her bone. 

By the way, if she's in the mood to play, she will toss the bone at you. And she usually hits what she's aiming at. 

Nothing says "Love you" like being clocked by a slimy rubber Kong bone. 

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