Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I made apple cider jelly last night. Or rather, I tried to make the jelly Saturday, along with apple butter. The apple butter came out perfectly, as it usually does, but this was my first attempt at jelly and it didn't jell. So I let it sit on the counter--it was in sealed canning jars, so I wasn't worried--until last night, when I boiled it again and recanned it, and now it's congealed and lovely.

I've never been particularly tempted by jelly- or jam-making before. What inspired this was actually our Ben & Jerry's cookbook; there's a recipe in there that calls for apple cider jelly, and mentions it's difficult to get ahold of; and though I'm not interested in making that ice cream, the idea of apple cider jelly intrigued me. I like apple jelly, and I know two good cookie recipes that call for it (or at least can use it with yummy results). I hope I'll like this as well. I got six half-pint jars out of it, 50% more than the recipe said I would get. And now? Now I'm wondering if sour cherry (juice we have from an ice-cream attempt) or pomegranate (it's getting to be that season) jelly would be any good. It may be a good thing I don't have any more jelly jars left.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Christmas shopping

I went Christmas shopping yesterday. Our plan was to finish Christmas shopping by the end of October, in order to avoid the too-early Christmas decorations and music. I found that, near the end of October, I was too late--to avoid Christmas merchandise, at least. Christmas merchandise in the fall is acceptable and even laudable in a craft store, because it takes that long to finish things. Lowe's? Not so much. Lowe's was even playing Christmas music, a circumstance that caused me to decamp as quickly as I could once I found they didn't have what I wanted.

Yet another reason to prefer Home Depot--they also had Christmas stuff out, but they weren't as obvious about it. Plus no employee there steered me away from the perfectly serviceable stones I was considering for my garden paths saying "You'll want something more decorative, and I’m afraid we don't have anything; you should have come in two months ago."

I did get some good things, including exercise equipment for Mom and a woodcarving vise for Dad (why did I buy such heavy things for flying with me across the country?). But I got quickly tired out. I don't have the stamina for shopping anymore. I'll go to the bookstore tonight (and return the shelving unit from BB&B I bought for us that fell apart as I took it out of the box), and everything else--except things for Eric's friends where he has no ideas and I can't help him--I'll order online, and we'll be done. And then we won't go shopping, except for the grocery store, until January. Let's see how well this one works out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Smile for me

I smile compulsively when I'm on the phone at work. That's how I make myself sound pleasant. I think. At any rate, I do sound pleasant (unless I’m almightily miffed), and I do smile. It's worse on the short phone calls, probably because a short phone call almost always has a much higher ratio of pleasantry to substance than a long one. Sometimes I hang up the phone and my face aches slightly from the smiling.


I'm not sure if I need to do something about this or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We're getting our driveway redone, finally. The price still makes me wince, even more so because we came home last night and found they hadn't laid things out the way we wanted. This was only digging out and laying boards, so we were able to talk to them this morning. Eric did most of the talking, because his family inclines towards belligerence and mine tends towards giving in, and when the contractor tapped on the kitchen door to show us what they'd done in the driveway (one beam is sagging, apparently), he asked for "the mister." That annoys me a bit, but I can let it pass. After all, Eric did most of the talking.

With luck, they'll finish everything today, and tomorrow's rain won't spoil anything. Then we wait ten days, and then we can start driving on it. In the meantime I'll see if I can rescue any of the plants that they've buried or clobbered while digging out the old driveway. I really shouldn't have planted anything there. Oh well...plants are on sale now, and there's always next year. Next year with a smooth driveway, even if it's also with a significantly smaller bank account.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I made potato-cheese casserole last night for dinner. Normally this requires potatoes, cheese, broccoli or green onions or neither or both (broccoli in this case), and cream of onion soup. Last night, I started the potatoes boiling and grated the cheese and then realized that I had no cream of onion soup. So I made my own, of sorts--it was more of a gravy or a roux, but it worked quite well, and it was interesting to see the cumulation of twenty years of watching my mother cook, then assisting, then doing it myself staring up at me from the pan. The casserole tasted fine.

My dad e-mailed me a news item about Rowling declaring that Dumbledore was gay and said he was disappointed in her. I contended it might not have been a political statement, maybe that was just her backstory for him; but I'm afraid of what this means about his own views.

I'm feeling very quietly discontented with my life. Not that this is anything new; but I wonder what it'll take to stop it. Moving? I've been here two years now.

I did pumpkin-carving at the local Metropark yesterday, for the Ghosts of Providence program. I'm also going to be leading lantern tours on Friday. I've never seen the program before, so this should be fun. Afterwards I went to Andersons for produce and another wintergreen plant, and found that they have any number of potted citrus trees. I was tempted by the kumquat or the minneola--but not $60 worth.

I also stopped at a farmer's stand that I've been meaning to stop at every time I go out to the Metropark. All their summer produce is gone, of course; I wish I'd visited earlier. But they had very nice pumpkins and squashes, and lots of apples. I bought a buttercup and an ambercup squash (the latter purely because it's pretty) and I'll have to figure out what to do with them...later, though, as I accidentally nicked one of my four homegrown butternut squash later that night, so I'll be making roasted-squash-and-bean soup tonight.

I'm due to make apple butter and apple cider jelly this week as well...also stock, from the bag of vegetable leavings I've been keeping in the freezer. I wonder how much or how little of this do-it-myself business I'll retain once I have kids.

In Jennifer Housewife news, my floors are shockingly dirty. Also the laundry is going slowly because a three-inch spider has taken up residence just beside the washer, and so I'm either making Eric load and unload the washer or moving very slowly with my eyes fixed on the spider the whole time. I suppose I could ask him to get rid of it, come to think of it, and that would speed things up.

The construction company was supposed to come and fix our driveway last week. But they didn't come and didn't call, so I left a nasty (well, nasty for me) voicemail today, and not long after the owner called to say he was very sorry and they would be out tomorrow. We'll see.

So here's my week's list:

-make apple butter
-make apple cider jelly
-make stock (broth really, I guess)
-use butternut squash
-finish B's bear
-finish C's glove
-transplant herbs and strawberries

Why is so much of that food-related? I must also take some walks...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm glad it's Thursday. The weeks have gone by so much slower ever since the wedding, with the result that Friday and even Thursday are more welcome than they used to be as harbingers of the weekend. Not that the week itself is onerous, but it stretches so long.

Yet another conversation with Eric last night about my attention span--both our attention spans--and what sort of career it is I want, and why my life currently isn't satisfying enough. Eric said, "Don't you have a career in what you're doing? Not quoting, but being this scientific liaison-type person? You've had several jobs like that already." I guess you could say that, but I don't know that it's been intentional. Maybe I just feel I need more purpose. We talked about dabbling, and how when you've got a lot of interests do you pick one, and why should you have to? But I feel I do have to. I think. I don’t know. Anyway, more talking and more thinking.

My department went to lunch today (Mexican! It wasn't very good but it wasn't bad, and I haven't had Mexican since, I think, the last time I went to Azteca with Mom and Dad in Seattle). One of my coworkers and I talked about college while the others talked about their kids' grades. It was cold out, so we talked about sweaters and coats and so on during the drive back. I have a cardigan I've been knitting for three years, and I think it's time to abandon it. I can buy sweaters. Or maybe a different pattern, or a different yarn, would inspire me more. Of course I won't be doing much knitting after the new year, but I don't know how long the embargo will be in place, so maybe I could make one for next winter.

My kitchen sink gleams--I finally did all the dishes and was so disgusted afterward that I Cometed the whole place. I love Comet. Tonight the Comet will be sullied by lots of parsley, but it's a fair price to pay.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cold is coming.

It's going to be cold tomorrow. Midwest cold. Yesterday it was 90. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 50. "Sounds like Midwest weather to me," said my neighbor as he ripped out tomato plants. Then I confessed to taking some of his Garden Peach tomatoes--only the ones that had grown on my side of the fence, and he said early in the year I could have any I wanted--and went inside, my neighborly duties fulfilled for another day. I like the neighbors, but I have little social grace. I'm working on developing a good professional telephone personality, though.

We're supposed to go to Cedar Point this Saturday. It's pretty much our last chance, so cold won't stop us. (Besides, Shel and I got very warm matching jackets when we went to Costco.) Rain will, so I'm hoping it all comes early. I'll gladly use the umbrella and the coat now for some screams and french fries later.

The housewife thing is getting to me a bit. I'm trying to stick to the not-complaining thing...I had to resort to calling Bev last night, though. Only two months left. I tend not to wish my life away, but I'll be very glad when it's December.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Not the most efficient customer service

I needed to get the routing transit number for by bank account, because Sky was recently bought by Huntington and Huntington gave us all new account numbers and told us we had to switch any automatic payments (deposits are fine). So I called the number the website said to call, and after some rigmarole I got told by the computer there was a 2-4 minute wait and I could get a callback.

It seemed silly, but it didn't sound like the computer was giving me any other options, so I gave my phone number and hung up. I got a call back almost immediately, and the computer said "Please press any key when [I am] on the line." I hit a key, and the computer said, "I'm sorry, all our associates are busy assisting others. Please hold."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm tired. Eric had a bit of an emotional breakdown last night, which taxed both of us. But I think he's feeling a bit better now. I shall still keep an eye out for a psychiatrist referral though--I had called the local hospital to inquire a few days ago, because he's been having problems with sleep and depression and was thinking about seeing someone, and the woman who answered asked first "Why isn't he calling?" I didn't get that response when I called to schedule him a dentist appointment. Then she wanted to know his symptoms; then she told me the attending psychiatrists aren't taking new patients and his only option would be a resident's clinic from 9-10:30 Tuesday mornings.

James is home; they put a stent in his pancreatic duct (?) and didn't find anything specific, but the doctor suspects the general trauma and inflammation there were caused by his motorcycle accident a couple of years ago. I'll have to ask my dad whether I should send James some books or not.

I'm watching Michelle tonight, supposedly helping her spin, but after I agreed the mothers started talking about how they would be able to use the free time so I suspect they just wanted a childless evening. I was also asked to watch her tomorrow. To be honest I'm a little irritated by the mothers' assumption that we're constantly available for free babysitting. (Maybe they'll get Eric his expensive widescreen computer monitor and I'll forgive them.)

We're finally, finally, at last getting the driveway fixed, in two weeks. I have to move plants and reconcile myself to parking on the street. I will be so extremely happy to have a real driveway to park on this winter, though; for that I'd move ten times as many plants (or leave them to die, either way).

I do not think I will be posting here any more frequently than I have been. It may be time to give up a general-topic blog; I don't know. Or maybe it's just that I'm tired. I will be giving up crafts as a major hobby after the holiday work is done; I'll keep a project or two going, but nothing with a real deadline, so that I can concentrate on other things: writing and gardening and career and that sort of thing. Sorting myself out. You'd think there wouldn't be much to sort, and there isn't--maybe that's the problem. But clearing both my schedule and my head of the additional clutter can only help, right?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Don't run and they won't chase you

I dreamed last night that I was in the Cincinnati airport (which I have never been in, except for a single gate when my plane to Baltimore was diverted in 1999) and the central hub was a series of smooth hills and curves like slides, frictionless so that you jumped in and glided to wherever you needed to be, and I thought, this would be a great place to write a chase scene.

(There were also enormous alligators roaming around. They didn't attack as long as you didn't run.)

Saturday, the mothers, Michelle, Eric, and I went up to Ann Arbor. First to Shar to get Michelle a violin (to rent; her accelerated program is doing Suzuki violin with fourth-graders and she wants to practice at home), then to Trader Joe's, where we introduced Edith and Michelle to the beauty that is Trader Joe's. Eric and I were more profligate than usual, buying chocolate-covered bananas (bad) and lemon cookies (good) and orange-peach-mango juice (very good).

At some point, we discussed chocolate-covered raisins (dark or milk) and Eric said something about But Jenny doesn't like raisins, so she won't eat them anyway. Brenda, voice full of laughter at her own wit, said, "Jenny. How can a vegetarian not like raisins?"

I said, "How can an omnivore not like cheese?" There was a pause, while Eric put an arm around each of us and grinned, and she said, "Good point," and we all laughed. Sigh.

My brother called me last night, finally returning my call of several days ago. His surgery is today. He wants to go to culinary arts school, he thinks. He told me that and then about how you can't get a good job as a chef and he wouldn't want to work in the apprentice-level jobs, so I doubt anything will come of it. Still, I'm thinking of sending him a book on opening a restaurant, since that's one possibility for getting to the top without working his way there. Maybe he can read it during his convalescence