Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Addition

Prior to this week my place at the kitchen table looked like this. And yes, we really do have assigned seating here at the Hammond house! In a family with five children the number of permutations open seating allows is roughly equivalent to the number of arguments you will be subjected to. My survival strategy was to assign a permanent place at the table and in the van for each child. Now that they are all grown up the whole thing has, quite predictably, fallen apart. Not only has it fallen apart, two daughters-in-law have been added, so at holidays and family get-togethers we now have even more players for our version of Hammond musical chairs. Perhaps saddest of all is the fact that on more than one occasion I have witnessed my oldest son and his wife squabble over who called shotgun first when we have been heading out to go somewhere in our van. I digress. What I really want you to take note of is the computer in this picture.

You no doubt remember this computer since I blogged about its unfortunate accident a couple of weeks ago. While I was waiting to hear the prognosis I was formulating a backup plan in case the news was not good, and those plans did not include buying another PC. For over a year I have been thinking about switching to a Mac, and had decided this would be the time to do it. The only glitch in this plan was the fact my computer doctor was able to fix my PC. I kept telling myself this was good news. Over and over again, especially after each of my trips to the local Mac store to get more info. Here is a word of warning. Unless you fully intend to purchase a Mac do not enter the store, not even once. Because if you do, you will go back. Multiple times. Until this happens.

Meet my new MacBook Pro. We are just starting to get acquainted, but I have to tell you this computer is actually fun. In the past computers and I have had an uneasy relationship. I like being able to do things on them like read news headlines, blogs, check email and keep up with Ravelry (it has been referred to as Facebook for knitters and has almost a million users). However, I have never liked finding out more than the minimum required to be able to do those things. Computers and technology tend to give me a queasy feeling that starts in my toes and works its way up to the top of my head until it feels like I might explode. Enter the Mac. You can see from all the sticky notes and my little blue notebook that I have been hard at work figuring this new computer out. The surprise is that I am doing more than just the basics- I am working at really getting to know my new table companion. There are still times when I think my head might explode, but that's why my knitting is next to the computer. I just pick it up and knit a few rows, then I'm ready to dive back into another online tutorial. Hopefully I will have the basics down by Monday, which happens to be November 1. That is the start date for NaNoWriMo and in a moment of insanity I signed up. 30 days=50,000 words=1 novel. So far I have roughly 200 words mapped out, which leaves a mere 49,800 to go. I think my head might explode after all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Post

As October draws to a close it seems fitting to pay tribute to that most deserving of fall vegetables, the pumpkin. After the trauma surrounding my garden's last ditch effort to bury me alive in tomatoes, it was a relief to have my harvest turn from red to orange. I am seriously thinking about starting up a Facebook page advocating carving up those hideously shaped end of season beefsteak tomatoes into jack-o'-lanterns instead of the beautiful brilliant orange pumpkins that currently serve that purpose. I have a lot of respect for the humble pumpkin. Not only is it great to eat in many different foods, it also lets you know well in advance just how many of them will be showing up in your kitchen come harvest time, unlike some other vegetables I could mention. So as my way of saying thanks to this considerate resident of my garden, here is a picture parade of my pumpkins, some edible and some not.

Here are some of my wee pie pumpkins almost ready to be picked, followed by handknit pumpkin socks in the pumpkin patch. Seriously, if you look closely you will see the pumpkin design running along the side of the sock!

Add the right spices along with some sugar, eggs, oil and spelt flour and you have pumpkin bread- perfect with a cup of tea!

Pumpkin fingerless mitts are just right for cool autumn days.

Not wanting to be wasteful, even the pumpkin seeds were saved and toasted in the oven.

Of course you knew there had to be tea!

And saving the best for last, we have my personal favorite, the knock-off Starbucks pumpkin scones. Definitely worth the effort, and so much better than the ones you can buy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shirt Tales

This is a tale of three shirts. There is nothing striking in appearance about any of the three, most likely because they belong to me. If I was forced to put a label on my "style" the term that comes to mind is postmodern hippie. This would loosely be defined as sporting handknit socks and a nose ring. Any accessories to accompany those items, such as shirts and pants, need to meet my two rules of wardrobe consumption.

1. The item must last long enough to justify the money I have put into it. I don't mind spending extra on something if I know I will get years of wear out of it. Conversely, no matter how appealing a particular item of clothing might appear, if it doesn't look like its life expectancy is going to extend much beyond one season I am simply not interested, no matter how much of a bargain it appears to be.

2. The item needs to have a zero fail fashion rating. This means it has to be something whose wearability will be even greater than its durability. And yes, I made the word wearability up.

By now you are probably wondering what I could possibly have to say about any item of clothing that would be worth reading, and if I was going to stay on the topic of fashion your fears would not be unfounded. However, what I have to say has nothing whatsoever to do with the appearance of these shirts. Before I continue let's take a look at the shirts themselves.

The 100% cotton shirt on the far right is from L.L.Bean. The catalog description did not specify where this shirt was made. It simply stated that it was imported. Before writing this post I was browsing through the L.L.Bean catalog looking for an item that didn't have the ubiquitous "imported" as part of its description It brought back fond memories of looking at the Where's Waldo books with my kids when they were younger, but this seemed to be the updated post-Harry Potter version where Waldo had been handed an invisibility cloak. The only items I could come up with that weren't "imported" were the braided wool rugs and Waterhog Doormats. Then there were the L.L.Bean dog beds which were, quite oddly, labeled "made in Maine and imported." I have no idea what's up with that.

Of course, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that when I received the shirt the label said "Made in China." It doesn't take an overly active imagination to picture the kind of factory this shirt was produced in, or the gruelling conditions the people employed in it most likely endure. Last spring Rebekah and I attended the Kamloops Film Festival. We watched a documentary called Last Train Home about a family whose livelihood depended on the money the mother and father could send back home from their dismal jobs in a garment factory far removed from their home in the countryside. I now find it difficult not to have scenes from that movie pop into my head whenever I buy an item of clothing that says it was made in China.

The 100% merino wool shirt on the left of the picture was also made in China, but that is the only thing it has in common with its closet mate on the right. This shirt is an Icebreaker, and comes complete with a baacode. And no, that's not a typo. This description of the baacode comes from the company's website:

"With most of the things you buy, you're told little or nothing about how they're made. Icebreaker is different. We have a deep commitment to animal welfare, the welfare of the people who work with us, and the environment. And we have nothing to hide.
Your unique baacode will let you see the living conditions of the high country sheep that produced the merino fibre in your Icebreaker garment, meet the farmers who are custodians of this astonishing landscape, and follow every step of the supply chain. We're sure you'll find the experience as inspiring as we do. Enjoy your journey back to the source."

And here is a statement from the website regarding their manufacturing ethics:

"We require our manufacturers to respect their workers and provide them with a caring, community environment that includes good natural light, clean air and healthy working conditions. Workers are paid above the prevailing minimum wage, given three meals a day and offered accommodation if necessary."

Needless to say, I felt a whole lot better about my Icebreaker purchase than my L.L.Bean one. Not surprisingly I also paid quite a bit more money for that good feeling.

In the middle is the resident "Waldo" from my closet. Last month when I was in Costco there was a huge stack of 100% merino shirts. They were the same ultra thin washable merino fabric as the Icebreaker shirt I had purchased for my trip to Korea. I picked up the shirt, fully expecting to see the words "Made in China" on the label. To my surprise it actually said "Made in Canada." Needless to say I tossed it into my shopping cart and felt guilt-free about the purchase. It also cost considerably less than the Icebreaker shirt, due no doubt to the fact it did not come with a baacode.

So my question is, which of these three shirts is more righteous? The L.L.Bean shirt seems to come out in last place given the lack of information about the conditions under which it was produced, conditions no doubt similar to those in the documentary Last Train Home. It is a closer call between the Canadian made merino shirt and the Chinese produced Icebreaker merino shirt. I have no idea what conditions faced the workers in Canada who made these shirts for Costco. I would like to think they were paid a fair wage- after all, we do have minimum wage laws in place in every province- and safety and health standards adhered to in their workplace. The picture is a little less clear when considering the practices surrounding the production of the merino wool that was used in these shirts. Were the producers paid a fair wage for the product they raised? And were the workers involved in getting that wool to the mill, or the mill workers themselves, treated fairly? Given the huge price difference between this and the Icebreaker shirt I have to conclude that corners were cut somewhere along the line.

There are, of course, no easy answers. And the reality is in today's world it is almost impossible to avoid purchasing items that are produced in countries that have very few, if any, workplace standards in place- after all, I can't go around wearing just a nose ring and handknit socks. Given that fact I have decided that the best I can do is support companies like Icebreaker and hope that more companies will be inspired to follow their lead.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seattle Times

This week found me headed south of the 49th parallel to visit an old and dear friend in Seattle. And by old, I mean in terms of the years of our friendship not her actual calendar years! Both the weather and the scenery were amazing on the drive down. This picture was taken on my favorite stretch of the Coquihalla Highway. It never fails to impress.

My border crossing experience was unique. The border guard asked me if I had travelled outside of Canada or the US in the past year. When I said I had been to Korea he quipped, "Hopefully South Korea, not North." I said South, but then commented on the fact I had technically been in North Korea as well. Here is the unique, never been seen at the border before and surely never to be seen again moment. He actually smiled as he said, "Oh, you were in the building at the DMZ!" I have been crossing the border for years and have never once witnessed such a thing. My assumption had been that the US government only hired people whose facial nerves had been severed, but there it was, proving me wrong. An actual smile. It turns out that this gentleman had served in the US military and during that time had been stationed in Korea. We chatted for a few minutes about what a strange place the DMZ is before he waved me on through.

The drive through rural northwest Washington was picturesque with scenes such as this. You can just make out Mt. Baker in the distance.

After spending what seems for me to be my obligatory "lost time", in which I drive around the point I am actually trying to reach in concentric circles, I finally arrived at my destination. However, all the frustration of the concentric circle thing faded away the moment Hilary spoke these seven magical words. "Would you like a cup of tea?" In case you are wondering how seriously my friend takes her tea, here is the picture that decorates her kitchen wall.

Wednesday we did some shopping, then went for tea and cupcakes. In an effort to make the decision making process as stress free as possible we picked two cupcakes each. It was a sacrifice, but clearly we were were going to be there for hours if we had to narrow it down to a single choice. You can see from this picture the dilemma we faced.

We brought cupcakes home for Hilary's son Sam, who I must say is an all-around great guy.

It was a lovely fall day, so after fortifying ourselves at the cupcake store we went to Green Lake for a walk. This heron, carefully camouflaged behind a fallen tree, also appeared to be enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

Thursday started off with a cup of tea, followed by more tea at Starbucks while we met with a friend of Hilary's to discuss some business. Then came The Event. We picked up Hilary's lovely daughter Rachel from her dorm room at SPU so she could accompany us on this great trek. As we approached our destination even I, perennially lost person that I am, knew we were closing in on our goal. I might be missing my inner compass, but there is nothing wrong with my sense of smell. The air around us was thick with the heavenly smell of chocolate. We had arrived at the Theo Chocolate Factory, the only place that makes organic, bean-to-bar, fair trade chocolate in the United States. Here are Hilary and Rachel soaking up some of that amazing chocolate scent in front of the building.

The tour was fascinating, filled with interesting facts and trivia about chocolate, interspersed with samples to illustrate the points the guide was making. Here is our tour guide. She might have been a wee bit on the quirky side, but she had personally chosen salted chocolate caramels to be one of our samples, so I thought she was wonderful in spite of her eccentricities. And let's face it, so far my eccentricities haven't landed me a job at a chocolate factory, so I'm reserving all judgment.

There are two pictures that did not get taken because I am trying to avoid being publicly humiliated. First up would be the one showing all my purchases from the gift shop at the chocolate factory. Crossing back North of 49 the customs agent asked me what I purchased and when I said some chocolate he didn't even ask to see the receipt, obviously thinking "some chocolate" meant a couple of Hershey bars. Clearly he had never been to Theo's Chocolate Factory.

The other picture that is missing is the one of our kitchen upon my return. Really people, and by people, I mean the ones living under this roof, if I feel the need to sterilize the sink so it is clean enough to put your dirty dishes into- those would be the dirty dishes left on the kitchen counter where they don't belong- there is something seriously wrong. Ditto the fact that the same kitchen towel and dish cloth that I took out when I left on Tuesday were still being used on Friday. Actually I retract that last accusation. From the looks of things I don't think they had been used a single time while I was away.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pride Goes Before.....

Well, we all know how that saying finishes. Pride goes before a fall. Not even 24 hours after my sanctimonious post about making the switch to green tea there was An Incident. An incident that proves, if such a thing was truly necessary, that there is no cure for stupidity.

I was talking on the phone and had my new tea glass sitting directly in front of me. As I reached across the table to grab my knitting (lengthy phone conversations are prime knitting time) somehow I managed to send my tea glass flying, along with its contents. You are no doubt expecting me to say the tea ended up all over the sweater I was knitting. Oh, I only wish it was that simple. Sweaters are easily washed and no lasting harm would have been done. Unfortunately the same can't be said for computers.

Thankfully my kids' circle of friends includes a computer whiz. A quick phone call was placed, and in a manner reminiscent of an earlier time when physicians used to make house calls, in no time at all our family computer doctor was at our door, bag in hand and an appropriately concerned look on his face. My computer now looks like this, stripped of its dignity while it is in detox drying out.

The early, tentative diagnosis is a trashed keyboard with a high probability of the mother board having escaped any damage. However, we won't know for sure until later this evening when the doctor pays another house call. In the meantime my beautiful green tea glass and I are having a little time out while my teapot and I get reacquainted. I plan to calm my nerves with a cup of soothing, and at least in this instance, very expensive black tea.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Going Green

I have been suffering from delusions. Sweet ones, but delusions nonetheless. The thing is I love my tea. I am an early morning person, and the first thing I do when I get up is to plug in the electric kettle and throw a tea bag into my favorite teapot. I should add that not just any tea bag will do. No, I will only drink the best, and since this is one of the top selling teas in Britain I consider myself to be in excellent company.

As soon as I pour the hot water over the tea bag I grab my mug and place the tea cozy over the pot. For those of you who don't know what a tea cozy is- Americans, I am talking to you!- it is basically a cover to place over your teapot so your tea stays piping hot. Two summers ago I hand knit and felted a cozy for my teapot, which shows just how close we are since I only knit for very dear friends.

It might not seem like this would be a problem, and I am sure you are wondering what I could possibly be deluded about. After all, drinking tea has many health benefits, so I should be feeling good about this morning/mid-morning/afternoon ritual of mine, right?

This is where the situation gets a bit sticky. Quite literally. You see, I like to put honey in my tea. Lots of honey. And while I know honey can be healthy, I am pretty sure this would only hold true if one kept to a reasonable level of consumption. While Rebekah was still living at home I could pretend I was coming in under that bar because she would occasionally put honey in her tea too. I must be pretty good at pretending, because after she moved out I was actually shocked to see that it hadn't slowed the rapid dwindling of the honey jar at all. I was confronted with the unavoidable truth of the matter and decided to take action.

While the obvious solution was to simply stop drinking my tea with honey, it was not to be. I tried and failed. Multiple times over many weeks. Part of me wanted to believe I had the Thomas Edison thing going- you know, where he said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." But I'm a realist and in the end had to admit I was leaning more towards the Einstein end of things. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

So it is with no small degree of sorrow that I am announcing the end of my daily cuppa(s). However, there is good news. In the midst of my whole Edison/Einstein tug-of-war it dawned on me that I only like honey in black tea. Green tea is best consumed plain, and is supposed to be healthier than black tea. Rather than focusing on the honey, I needed to rethink my drink of choice. I just needed an incentive, and found it online at this site. I promptly ordered the libre glass n poly and promised myself that immediately upon its arrival my beloved Yorkshire Gold and I were parting ways. Henceforth we would only be allowed contact with each other on holidays and when I was visiting friends.

It is a beautiful glass, and watching the green tea leaves float inside the glass chamber is mesmerizing. My honey consumption has come to a screeching halt, and I feel quite virtuous. It's all good except for a few small details. I don't like green tea nearly as much as black. I miss my morning ritual. I miss that sweetness mixed with the slightly sharp and bitter taste of the strong British tea. I miss my mug, my cozy and my lime green teapot. So you can imagine the anticipation I am feeling about my upcoming trip to visit a dear friend in Seattle next week. This would be the same friend who originally introduced me to the pleasures of a decent cup of English tea. And in the interests of being a polite house guest I fully intend to drink what I am served.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing

It was 1963 when Bob Dylan wrote the song referenced in this post's title, and the 47 years that have passed since he first penned those words have made the guy look like a modern day prophet. I feel like a relic when my kids ask what movies I liked when I was a kid and I tell them I don't have a list- the only option for seeing movies was to go to a theater and we lived miles from the nearest city big enough to have one. There were no video players, pay channels or iTunes to watch the newest release on, which worked out fine since there was no such thing as a new release anyway. Not only that, but, horror of horrors, in 1963 we still had a black and white television set. It wasn't until two years later that we upgraded our operating system to a color set, which I might add rivalled some of the larger new flat screen TVs in terms of overall size since its miniscule screen was housed in a box big enough to double as a coffin should the need ever arise.

In 1963 if you wanted to listen to Mr. Dylan's new song you had two choices. You could buy the vinyl record and hope the needle on your record player didn't need replacing, or you could listen on your tinny sounding radio hoping to hear it by chance. By the time I was in my late teens things had advanced considerably and cassette tapes were all the rage. Of course, that technology has now been replaced by downloading from the computer directly to a listening device such as an iPod. My kids have literally thousands of songs loaded onto their devices, and I must confess this perplexes me. How do these children of mine- the same ones who can't figure out whose night it is for dishes or where we keep the shoe rack in our house- keep track of thousands of songs?

The first computer to enter the Hammond house was an Apple 2C sometime in the late 80s. It was another decade and several computers later before the Internet made its appearance in our home. Prior to that if you wanted to know something you looked it up in the dictionary or the encyclopedia. These used to be actual books with pages, and we still have the old blue leather set of World Books in our living room. The only time they have been used in the past decade was a few months ago when Rebekah and her boyfriend Anton had them out reading and laughing over outdated entries.

And that brings me to what, in many ways, has been for me the biggest change of all since 1963. I grew up as a child of the Cold War, and have very vivid memories of being afraid the Russians were going to attack us at any time. We lived relatively near to two prime targets should an attack ever happen- Fairchild Air Force base, at that time home to nuclear bomb carrying B-52 bombers, and the Hanford Nuclear facility, which produced the plutonium that went into the bombs on those planes, so my fears were not totally unfounded.

If you had told me in my growing up years of the 60s and 70s that some day the Berlin Wall would come down, that we would be able to adopt a child from previously communist Romania, that I would have a daughter travel to Russia on a mission trip, that one of my sons would marry a young woman from China, or that one of my daughters would date a guy from Russia I would have said your ideas were more far-fetched than the plot of the latest John Le Carre novel.

I am glad to say I would have been wrong. All these things and many more have come to pass over the past two decades. On a global scale there have certainly been many changes, but these are generally not the things that make me sit up and take notice. Rather, it is what I see and experience in my own house that often times leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. Like this past Thanksgiving weekend when I went upstairs to ask Anton if he wanted to play a game of Scrabble. I paused at the door to his room when I heard he was talking to someone and was startled when I realized the conversation was in Russian. (He was using Skype on his computer to talk to his parents in Toronto. ) It should not have been a surprise- I clearly know he speaks Russian, and I know that is the language he uses when conversing with his parents. So no, the surprise was not that he was speaking Russian. It was in the fact that our world has changed so much from the Cold War world of my youth that such a thing could be possible in my own home. The times they are a changing.....and for this I am thankful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Turkey Triumph

Thanksgiving 2010, the Canadian version, has come and gone. The weather cooperated, which is always an added bonus when you live north of the 49th parallel where anything from the final days of Indian summer to the first blizzard of the year are within the realm of possibilities. We were able to participate in several outdoor activities including a trip to my favorite place, the Kamloops Farmer's Market. Here is my daughter Rebekah picking out some "mix and match" apples at one of the fruit grower's stalls.

Next up was clearing out the 2010 garden. In spite of the fact that we still haven't had out first frost I decided it was time to end my relationship with the tomatoes. There comes a point when you just have to admit it is time to go your separate ways. Having four helpers made it an easy and fast job. It was so great I plan to make this an annual Thanksgiving weekend activity, so be forewarned that if you show up for turkey you will have to work for your dinner! Here are Rebekah, Kellen, Anton and Anita hard at work. My apologies for the blurry photo, but they had no intention of slowing down for me to take a picture.

The other major outdoor activity, which I absolutely did not participate in and therefore do not have a picture of, was a Sunday afternoon game of barefoot soccer played with some of their friends. Rebekah, Anton, David and Alexandra headed out the door with me informing them I did not want to spend my Thanksgiving afternoon at the local emergency department so they had better be careful. They came home a couple of hours later injury free, so I will let myself believe they actually listened to me.

Dinner was a success, which to me is loosely defined as not having poisoned anyone. I am a self-confessed paranoid when it comes to handling raw meat, and especially raw poultry. For my kids I am sure the smell of bleach will always trigger fond memories of family holiday meals. I have to say this year's turkey was maybe the best one I have ever cooked. It made me feel that spending all that money on a bird that was both hormone and video game free was worth it.

Here is my lovely daughter-in-law Anita, provider of some excellent apple pie.

And Kellen, who can even turn making whip cream into a competitive event, the goal of which is to get it as close as possible to butter without actually crossing that culinary line.

It was nice to see Alexandra recovered from her most recent attempt to scare me witless.

Rebekah's boyfriend Anton celebrated his first ever Canadian Thanksgiving with us last year and had honored guest status, meaning he got to eat for free. This year he was demoted to family status, so not only did he get put to work in the garden, he also peeled the potatoes and did the dishes. When I went to give him instructions about the potatoes he assured me that, being Russian, he knew how to handle a potato.

And best of all I am also pleased to report that not one cell phone rang, sang, or danced its way across our Thanksgiving table. My son David managed to make it through dinner without having a serious case of DTS (Detached from Technology Syndrome), but it was a close call.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Unwelcome Guests

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. As far as holidays go it just doesn't get any better, and a large part of the reason for this is due to what's missing. There is no two month long assault on the senses brought on by snippets of carols you once loved but now leave you wanting to pull your hair out. Not once will you catch a whiff of fake cinnamon scent as you walk down the aisles of stores. The ubiquitous Santa hats haven't yet sprouted on otherwise intelligent people's heads. And best of all? No gifts = no pressure!

So, without the pressures and irritations other "holidays that shall remain unnamed" offer, this one pretty much boils down to food and family, two of my favorite things. Food preparation is still in its early stages, but so far I have managed to procure fresh cranberries to make sauce and the yams to make our famous brown sugar and butter yam dish. (Okay, it might only be famous in our immediate family.) My extremely smart daughter-in-law Anita managed to get her name on two of the apples pies a local group of elderly Lithuanian women bake every year as a fund raiser. We can only have this dessert because my dad won't be here. He won't touch anything that comes from a kitchen he is not personally acquainted with. The rest of us are not so picky, and if these pies live up to their reputation all I can say is bless you, you lovely Lithuanian ladies!

Potatoes will be purchases at the Kamloops Farmer's Market Saturday. Sadly, so will the Brussels sprouts. In one of my bleaker gardening moments this past summer I planted three Brussels sprouts plants, only to discover a month later they had been labeled incorrectly and were actually cauliflowers.

Last on the list, but first in terms of importance, is The Turkey. On order is an organic free range bird, guaranteed to have never been exposed to hormones, antibiotics or video games. I made the switch years ago to fresh as opposed to frozen turkeys and will never go back. More recent is the move into the birds that apparently cost more per pound to raise than my children did. Oh well. If it is any consolation at least I know it has been raised in a humane manner right up to the moment its head departed its body.

So here's the thing. There are some guests I absolutely do not want at my table this Thanksgiving. You might think you need them for companionship and comfort. You might think your life isn't complete without their presence. In fact, you might even experience feelings of abandonment and rejection if you can't have them by your side at the dinner table. Call me unfeeling and cruel if you will, but on this I will not bend.

No cell phones. Period. No exceptions. I don't want to hear whatever awful ring tone of the week you have chosen cutting over me as I ask someone to please pass the turkey. I don't want you table texting either. You know what I am talking about- the hand held under the table, eyes darting between the actual real live person talking to you and the phone in your hand. And no, you can't just put your phone on vibrate and call it good. I don't want to see multiple phones skittering across the dinner table like the ghost of turkeys past is after them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Enough Is Enough

Dear Garden,

Please stop producing tomatoes. Just in case you haven't checked your calendar, it is the third of October. You are breaking a strict garden commandment, and I hope you pay the severest penalty possible tonight. In case you have lost your garden bible along with your calendar let me spell those consequences out for you. F-R-O-S-T.

We have eaten tomatoes in salads, side dishes, main dishes and straight off the vine. Repeatedly. I have canned tomatoes, canned more tomatoes, and, no surprise here, as this is being written I am waiting for yet another batch of tomatoes to come out of the canner. For the past week not one person in this family has made eye contact with the ever-present bowl of cherry tomatoes sitting on the counter. It reminds me of meetings I have attended where a request for a volunteer for some particularly hideous job is put forward. All eyes instantly detach from the speaker and fixate on more urgent and important things like the ear on their neighbor's head or the design on the carpet. The fear that a mere glance at the speaker will be mistaken for a raised hand is universal among those who want to maintain their invisibility. So it goes with our bowl of tomatoes. It is as if by even glancing their way they will somehow be transported into our mouths, mouths whose taste buds are suffering from severe tomato fatigue.

I also want to publicly apologize for having had such bad thoughts about the customs guy who confiscated my tomatoes at the border back in July. You are welcome to come take as many tomatoes as you want. In fact, I would be so happy to see you show up to relieve me of this burden I might even make you a cup of tea just to show there are no hard feelings.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things

After the train wreck that yesterday turned into (see my previous post for the details), I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up this morning and realized I could turn the calendar to October. That can only mean one thing- it is October 1rst, a day that I look forward to with more anticipation than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined! You can even throw in Victoria Day and Boxing Day and October 1rst is still going to come out the winner.

So what is it that makes this day special? Simple. It is my self-imposed starting date for putting the flannel sheets on my bed. And not only do I get to crawl into those soft, cozy sheets when I go to bed tonight , I will also now start letting myself start wearing the wool socks I have knit this past spring and summer. On cool September days I would pull out a pair of older socks, much worn and loved, and look longingly at the pile of new socks sitting next to them knowing they were off-limits until October rolled around. Sweet anticipation! Today I pulled out the finished pairs, and added the socks I completed last night while Alexandra was at the hospital, and was surprised to see I have seven new pairs to ward off the cold this fall and winter. Here they are in all their glory!

I acknowledge that for the uninitiated, that is anyone who has never put handknit socks on their feet, this might all seem a bit strange. All I can say is you are missing out on one of life's frugal luxuries. What I find disturbing isn't that I have seven new pairs of socks to wear. Rather, it is the fact that when I put this picture up I suddenly realized a pair was missing. When I dug around in my wool chest (okay, it might be a bit over the top to have a wool chest- what can I say) I not only found the green pair I was looking for, I also discovered a brown pair I had totally forgotten about. So that brings the grand total up to nine!

Aside from flannel sheets and new handknit socks, the other great thing about the days moving full speed ahead into fall are the beautiful colors. Everywhere I look I am surrounded by brilliant shades of yellow, red and orange. This is the Kamloops Farmer's Market, which is at its very best this time of year.

In order below is a glimpse out of my kitchen window, the view from our neighborhood looking across the South Thompson River towards Paul Mountain, and my pumpkin harvest.

There is one item today though that is significantly harshing on my mellow. Summer seems to have made a reappearance and it is supposed to get up to 79F (26C) this afternoon. The socks have all been tucked back into my wool chest, and I think I might hold off on those flannel sheets for a few more days. Oh well, when the cold, crisp days do arrive I am ready to take them on. Happy October 1rst everybody! And Happy Birthday to my son David, who turns 22 today.