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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Deer, Deer!

Imagine my surprise when I came out of church last Sunday to find two deer standing on the lawn near the walk.

There had been a congregational meeting that morning so nobody had left the church yet, except for a few members of the choir. Bill was waiting in the car for me and he had left a good 20 minutes earlier (I had to file some choir music and pull more for the upcoming Easter season) so when I left it was likely there had been little foot traffic to disturb them.

I knew deer had come into the neighborhood because I had seen their tracks in the snow on my way to choir practice a couple Thursday's ago, but I never expected to see them so close, in broad daylight, at 11 am on a Sunday morning.
I should explain I live in a densely populated area (Chicago, IL) and that one does not usually expect to see deer in a busy metropolis. But I also live near the forest preserves which serve as picnic areas and parks to area residents. There has been a thriving population of White Tailed Deer in the area for as long as we have lived there. But it is still a surprise for a "city girl" to come across a pair of deer only a few feet away.

We usually see then in the evening when we drive home past the forested area. They are usually in among the trees but sometimes we see them crossing the road or grazing in the yards of the houses along the road.

It had been quite cold in Chicago, and we have had snow on the ground for the past several weeks. I'm sure the deer in the area are having trouble finding enough to eat, prompting them to be a little bolder in their search for food. That's probably why they were willing to venture through this settled neighborhood during the day.

I stopped, surprised, and stared at the deer closest to me. He (she?) stared back and seemed a little affronted. Probably he (she? it?) expected me to keep walking and was taken aback when I stopped and stared.

After a moment he moved his head side to side (not sure if he was trying to see me or to see past me) and then stamped his front feet in the snow. I continued to stare (am I rude or what?) and he waved his head and stamped again.

His companion began to look uneasy as well so I moved slowly to the car hoping to call Bill's attention to the deer. Bill loves to see deer. Bill was dozing in the car. I pressed on the bumper to wake him and he seemed to nod to tell me he had seen them. But when I got in the car, he said he had not noticed them.

How can you not notice two full grown deer less than 10 feet from your car in broad daylight?

As I walked past, the deer retreated a few feet to stand between the two giant pine trees on the church lawn and stayed there until we drove away. We did not see any more deer on our way home that morning. I think the two I saw, so close, was enough!

Quotable Quotes; in the category There's No I In Team!

"They run like deer, jump like deer and think like deer."
Charles Barkley on the Portland Trail Blazers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Look At The Orange Marmalade!

Citrus fruits are at their best right now and as usual, I bought too much. Clementines from the grocery store, grapefruits from the place in Texas where I buy pears and cheese for the in-laws for Christmas, something called "Honeybells" from a place in Florida that runs a half price special in the women's magazines every few years. The result is citrus that I have to use NOW or else throw it away, which is something I hate to do.

So I decided to make marmalade.

I love to make marmalade and I love to eat it. Marmalade was something I hated as a kid (I think it's a rule that kids have to hate it) unless it was the generic Smucker's brand that had too much sugar. Marmalade is basically a way to use the whole citrus fruit (including seeds) to make something bitter and sticky to spread on toasted English muffins. As an adult, I love it.

I have made marmalade from grapefruit, from oranges, from the can of Seville oranges you can buy at Le Store Expensive, from the calamondon oranges I got from a little tree that I bought at the grocery store. Twice I got about 6 little oranges from this tree (before it died) - enough to make a jar or two of delicious marmalade. I've even made marmalade from kumquats (the BEST)! This time, I made marmalade from the clementines that were not going to be nice to eat in a few days. The resulting spread is quite tasty.

I am a casual gourmet. I start out with great intentions and slice the fruit as thin as possible. After a while, though, I get a little careless and my slices are less exact, a little chunky, a little misshapen, but I figure the fruit is going to cook for a long time and the rinds will be tender, if chunky, so it really doesn't matter (ask me about the first marmalade I ever made, which found its way to my dad, who loved it).

I have a recipe that I always use. I may look at other recipes but I always return to this one. Mostly because I don't even have to look at the recipe to remember exactly how to make it. It's so easy I can write it down from memory. Making marmalade may look like a lot of work (it's a three day process) but the actual hands on time is only a few minutes a day, once you have sliced and measured all the fruit.

You may wish to process the finished marmalade in sterilized canning jars. Or you may wish to simply put the finished jars into the fridge where it will keep for quite a long while. Either way, you'll have a superior home made product that will be delicious on your morning toast or especially good on a toasted English muffin. And be sure to try it on a toasted bagel with a little cream cheese.

My Favorite Marmalade Recipe

Citrus fruit (use any fruit or any combination of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, kumquats, Meyer lemons, Calamondons, etc).
Sugar and Water

Slice the fruit, peels and all, as thinly as possible. I usually cut it in half (quarters for the larger fruits) then slice across into thin strips. Place in a large measuring cup as you go and keep track of how much you have. Pull out the seeds and keep them on the side.

Place all the sliced fruit, pulp and juice, into a heavy pot at least twice as deep as the amount of fruit you have. You may place the seeds in a little bit of cheesecloth and tie it into a bundle and place that in the pot. Some recipes say the seeds add flavor and the cheesecloth makes it easy to retrieve them from the pot. They will be discarded later - or just trash them now if you don't want to bother.

Measure water equal to the amount of fruit you have and add it to the pot. Bring to a boil and boil about five minutes. Allow to cool, then cover the pot and place it in a cool place for 24 hours.

Next day, bring to a boil again and boil for 10 minutes. Again cool, cover and let stand in a cool place overnight.

Next day, measure the fruit again and add an equal amount of sugar (I usually skimp a bit on the sugar, adding maybe 3/4 cup sugar for each cup of fruit). Bring to a steady rolling boil and cook until it thickens and gels (or until it measures 220 f on a candy thermometer - 12 degrees above the boiling point of water).

Meanwhile, you will have washed your jars and lids and bands and kept the jars in hot water and simmered the lids and bands in a small saucepan of water, and prepared a canning kettle of water for processing.

Ladle the hot marmalade into the hot jars, wiping off the rim and topping with a lid and band. Place each jar in the canner and when the canner is full, process for 10 minutes, remove jars from the canner and allow to cool in a draft free place. Next day, check the seals and remove the bands. Your marmalade is suitable for gifting if you use a pretty jar and a fancy label.

Quotable Quotes; in the category Do You See What I See?

Q: What did the chick say when he saw an orange?
A: Look at the Orange Mama Laid!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last time, I blogged about this picture and the black shoes. Now I am going to tell you about the coat.

Back in the day, this was popularly known as a "cotton candy coat". Do you remember them? They were very lightweight spring coats, always jacket length and always with wide sleeves and wide cuffs. They were made of an obnoxiously fluffy material not unlike the fleece we know and love today, but without any of the warmth and cuddle quality of today's fleece fabrics. Instead, this was scratchy and had no insulating quality. Not warm enough for cool spring days, too hot for warm spring days, the kind of garment that could only be worn one or two days in alternating years depending on the whims of the weather patterns.

All the girls wanted one.

We used to get boxes of "hand me downs" from friends of our parents. The dress I'm wearing in the picture was another hand me down, possibly from these very same people. They had a grown up adult daughter with the fabulous name of Kippy! Probably her name was really Katherine but who wouldn't rather be called Kippy?

Kippy was tiny, probably not much taller than five feet or so and probably no bigger than a size 6 (the equivalent of today's 2 or even 0). That's why we girls were able to wear her adult clothes, the simpler styles anyway. Mom probably had to hem some of them but at least we had something to wear, even if it might not fit just right or be a season or two out of style.

Kippy must have belonged to a country club or been married to a doctor or some other circumstance which required her to have expensive and glamorous clothes. We suspected her of shopping at Jacobson's in Detroit - not the more globally oriented Hudson's and certainly NOT Federal's or any of those department stores!

How else would she be able to pass down to us pink satin formals cut just like Jackie Kennedy's, or those amazing and wonderful clear acrylic see-through high heels? When we saw those in the box it was every dress-up girl for herself. Can you say Cinderella? And they fit ME!!!!! For a few weeks, anyway, until I had to admit defeat.

But that pink cotton candy coat was the creme de la creme! The magnum opus! The Piece de resistance! Too small for my older sister, too girlish for my mom, it could only be meant for me, and for one glorious spring I got to wear it. So it was a season or two past its prime, who didn't keep a coat and wear it for another year? (Look closely at the picture and you'll see it was too big - but wait another year? Not when I had a genuine fashion item within my grasp! A lifetime of hand me downs and catholic school uniforms made me hungry for any fad or fashion and I was not going to let this one pass me by!

Sadly, the coat came to an unfortunate end. A classmate, who shall remain nameless, fell under the spell of the "popular girls". You probably already know I was not nor was I ever to be a "popular girl". Not then. Not ever.

Funny thing was, this girl and I were friends. We were in scouts together. I went over to her house after school. We played together on the playground at recess (schools still had recess in those days).

But for some reason, the popular girls decided to cause some mischief. Probably they made up some story about something I had said about her or some such thing. Who knows really, all I remember is that suddenly and without any apparent reason, she and I were no longer friends.

One day, open warfare erupted on the playground. I cannot tell you how it started because I have forgotten, if I ever knew. All I know is that suddenly the popular girls were yelling at her to "get her" (meaning me) and then she was chasing me around the playground and throwing an orange from her lunch at me. Of course, I ran.

Although she missed, orange juice found its mark on the fluffy non-washable coat. And then she caught me. She ground both halves of that cut orange deep into the fabric of the back of my coat. Without even looking I knew the coat was ruined. And there was no chance there would ever be another. Even had my mother been willing to buy one, they were out of date and no longer available for sale.

Like air escaping from an popped balloon, like a dream fading in the waking moments of morning, like a gull wheeling on the horizon - - - okay, let's reel it in a little - the point is, that was the end of that fabulous episode in my life. Ground into a sticky, pulpy mess of orange and acrylic fiber. Gone, never to be recovered.

This was just one in a series of childhood disappointments - like the favorite nightgown, outgrown and worn to a tatter, the toy elephant that disappeared mysteriously (probably right at the time my mother decided I was ready to outgrow it), and countless other disappointments, I would get over it. I did get over it. Until a picture from the past arrived in the mail to remind me.

Quotable Quotes; in the category I Guess I Don't Have Either . . .

"Fashions fade, style is eternal."

Yves Saint Laurent