Sunday, August 21, 2011

jam-mania

Howdy B&B readers!  Some of you may have heard that if you get a tattoo that you'll catch the 'bug' and want to get many more.  Well we're here to tell you that the same is true for making jam - once you start, you may not want to stop {pop culture reference: or like Pringles, once you pop you can't stop}.

     sidenote: Carrie would like to note that she doesn't have any tattoos.

While Kristina was visiting Boston last week, she reminded Carrie that she knew of a particular backyard of a house that is for sale and doesn't have occupants in it that had some blackberries which needed to fulfill their destiny of becoming jam.  Once she added the "free laundry at my house" enticement, Carrie decided to come up for a visit even though it would mean that we had about a 50 hour break from one another which sometimes pushes the bff-ness a bit.  Example:  K says to C "you should really drink more water, that's why you get headaches all the time."  C replies: "I don't get headaches all the time, just when I'm around you".  [B-Zanga!!]
Carrie arrived on Friday evening and heard about Kristina's grand plans of finishing mowing the lawn, having friends over for dinner, finishing her porch windows, painting the rest of the porch and making jam - all between that evening and Monday morning.  Carrie made a great pitch to start with jam so Saturday morning after breakfast we checked out fruit opportunities at the local farmer's market (as there were no farms in the area that had what we were looking for and the result at the market was nil fyi unless we wanted the beautiful tomato fruit).  We then headed toward the free organic wild blackberries.  Here's our haul:

We picked roughly 12 pints of berries.  Feeling energized, we picked up a few more jars, lined them up and started to plan out what we were going to make.  I should have been concerned when Carrie pulled this out for consultation:










We decided to take stock of the jars we had to help us figure out what to make.  Here's what we had to fill:



Our first two batches were blackberrry jam.  We then branched out and using some leftover berries from last year made peach, blackberry, raspberry jam.  After that we decided to ease off on the blackberries and made peach pear ginger jam.  Finally, we thought we'd tackle the box of crabapples (which technically may or may not be considered wild.  If you saw the tree in my backyard you'd probably say "wild" or simply, "messed up").  Here's what we had to work with:


We thought that we'd need a whole bunch of crabapples but it turns out that we needed around five or six to make a crabapple blackberry jam / compote.  We're going to try and whip up a crabapple compote tomorrow before Carrie goes back to Boston but after two days / 12 hours of solid jam making, I think we aren't going to be making major batches (oh, there's also 2 cups of blackberries left too).  As of right now we have 74 jars of jam (a mix of 8 and 4 oz jars) and close to four dozen more jars to fill.  Here's a closing foto to see some of the end product - the crabapple blackberry is the one without the label.




FYI if someone tells you that your eyeglasses are dirty about five times and finally says "do you want me to clean those for you," it might be a good idea to clean them.  I'm thinking about how pear sage honey jam would taste (I have a lot of sage in my garden) and I think Carrie is just ready to get some sleep.  Yes, the kitchen is clean and ready to go and we're planning on having eggs, bacon [believe it or not pals, I'm actually eating and cooking this stuff once in a while even though the cooking smells turns my tum-tum a bit] and cheese biscuits to give us the energy to keep jamming tomorrow. 

ta-ta, toodle-oo, poopied-poo, jammiedy-jam-jam-in-your-jams to you! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lookin' for Gnomes in all the Wrong Places....

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Searching for Hillary Clinton's Gnomes

Today the Banjos and Brastraps team took a trip to Lincoln, MA to take advantage of FREE summer weekdays at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.  Even though it was raining we walked the grounds outside to capture some of the art for the 2 of you who follow this blog.  Here's the link to the museum site if you feel like checking it out http://www.decordova.org/  One of the rules at the museum is as follows:



After learning this, we decided to make our first B&B videos for the blog -- here they are!

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Here's our second attempt at providing you with some culture:

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After we visited the museum we then literally went and checked out some new brastraps to add to our collections.  With the help of Marie the "bra fitting expert" the girls will be high and dry.

We then had a quick bite to eat at the PF Chang's bistro where KBW is certain that Max the waiter has never eaten anything spicy because his concern over the spiciness of her ginger beer and chang's chicken was unwarrented - let's just say she was adding lots of chili oil and paste to her dish while saying "this isn't spicy at all!".  Nice try Max!  We are going to try to recreate the ginger beer -- check back for that recipe.

Then for the highlight of the night we zoomed to Doyle's in JP for Tuesday Night Trivia.  With insightful answers like "Bull Run", "Bobby Fischer" and some comments from the team like "How many superbowls have we had?" and "Is Bangladesh a country or a city?" and a little bit of reenacting of a midnight oil video, the 9 person team of "Ineligible to win" came in 3rd place and beat our archrivals "trivia newton john".  With this win we now have two of the following trophies in our possession - sans beer:


We're off to be good citizens by donating some books, KBW is heading back to Maine today, CLC will be joining her soon for another Maine adventure -- until then:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

aug blog

The mighty Dr. Cokely and I have been randomly discussing various things we wish to post on the blog and then we get off the phone, she does mysterious things, I get distracted by something shiny and it remains nothing but an ever-changing memory [insert shout out to postmodernists here and random reference to an episode of Six Feet Under for a Ms. Megan Fearless Ferland].

So here's the random stuff that I've been doing (again Cokely is doing mysterious things so I cannot write for her except to drop another passing reference which will be: "Trivia Newton John" to see if it will bring her back to the blog - [You've been served! - ahem]).

1. A few last fotos of Oahu.  On my last day I drove along the Windward Coast as I had some time between leaving the condo and starting the long trek home.  All I'll say about the flight back is that it took three hours from arriving at the curb of the airport to get to my gate.  I first went to the Valley of the Temples to see the Byodo-In Temple.  It was wonderful.


I rang a peace bell before entering the temple and then just sat in front of this amazing Buddha statue.  It was very peaceful and the place was certainly (no joke here) one with its natural environment.  People were just hanging out, there was a little jazz concert for peace and it was just what I needed - calm, no expectations, beautiful, people hanging out with nature, swans, carp, all kinds of great things - sorta like living in Maine.  I couldn't resist - although I did wait for someone else to do this because I didn't want to break any rules - I took a picture of the Buddha.  I have no idea how big it is and it really was the only religious statue I've been in front of that was completely  calming and welcoming.  Here he is:



After that I drove the island,I actually ended up back in Haleiwa, had lunch and headed back toward Honolulu.  I saw really great things, a beautiful windmill 'farm', Coconut Island (I called my Mom from a park looking at the island - she's been there too - it was cool to look at this place and know that she and my Dad had been there before), and a bunch of other interesting sites including a shrimp truck that was pictured in the guidebook I had and the ranch where Lost was filmed.  

On my way back toward Honolulu and the airport I saw a sign for the Laie Temple [no offense to my pals who hold this place as sacred, although I recognize I'm testing our friendship a bit here].  I remembered reading about it but could not remember why it was important.  When I turned into the drive, everything changed - the landscape went from a very natural and at times a bit beat-up and rugged site to a very manicured and homogeneous landscape.  It was like going from rural Maine into a suburban subdivision.  As I drove in, I saw this very white, bleached looking, squared off building that made me think of old US government or military buildings from around WWII.  It was very impressive, controlled, and clean.  I pulled into the parking lot to check things out.  

I walked into a pretty building, although it was also a bit stuffy and stiff.  There's was a very nice man (in black pants, white shirt and black tie) and a pleasant woman in a blue, floral mumo who greeted me.  As I looked around I realized where I was - I was with the Mormons -  all the women were dressed in these very proper matching mumos and men in the same pant/shirt combo - it was as if the Stepford Wives and Brady's Go to Hawaii merged together.  As I was talking to the woman who greeted me, I looked over and saw this panoramic scene with a giant, alabaster, floating Jesus above a replica of a traditional Hawaiian village and all I could think of was colonization.  I stayed and talked with a very nice young woman who was fulfilling her mission year and also what she wanted to do with her life.  The fascinating part was differences between the Eastern and Western ideologies and most striking was the very stark physical contrasts in both actual human-made objects and the atmosphere / feel of the place.  My trip back to the mainland was uneventful and ended as I began but in reverse; I woke up looking at the Pacific and saw the day ending over the Atlantic.


2.  I arrived home with two of the eight trees the electric company said they were going to cut down in front of my house were indeed cut down.  Eventually the rest went too and as of right now, there are a few logs left in the yard.  My 'husband' Neil came to visit and we planted two little gardens in the yard - one adjacent to my house in the back between the basement door and back steps and then put enough plants around the roses to make it look like a flower garden.  The garden is doing quite well, in fact it really is doing what it wants even though I pretend to have some control. The foto above is about four weeks old (hey, that's a month!) - right now the squash and tomatoes are competing for complete domination.  I think the squash has more staying power.  I picked my first mini-gross of hot peppers today.  It may not look like it but there are three kinds here: jalapenos, anaheim and chili peppers.


3.  During the end of June / beginning of July, I did exciting things like mow the yard, weed the garden, as noted previously - plant things with Neil, cut things down, work on my refinishing my porch windows, go to fun social events, revise an article for publication (due in Sept or Oct if you need something to fall asleep to I'll send it to you once it's out), apply for jobs, sleep a bit, go kayaking, swimming and buy a ticket to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in upstate NY.


4.  What's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival?  Well, it is this amazing event that officially last for three days (Fri-Sun) but unofficially runs for four and one-half days in Hillsdale NY.  My pal Ruth Hill went last year and simply described it as "rejuvenating".  Officially, the festival is in a ridge (Duh!) - there are four stages where people perform / hold workshops: the dance stage, family, workshop and main stage.  Music starts on Friday from 12 noon to 12 midnight but some days it starts at 10:30 (not main stage).  Starting at 7am, you can go to the amphitheater and lay down a blanket / tarp and chairs [seating is no chair / low-chair, high chair, and no rules - aka shelters and little tents] to mark your place.  If you aren't using your spot, someone else can.  Since I apparently don't sleep like most people, I ended up waking up around 7 (or before) on Fri and Sat and so found a couple of AWESOME places to set-up in front of the main stage.  It is very relaxed and non-confrontational.  You simply set-up camp and do whatever the hell you want.

My friend Ruth and I left on a Wed. with the belief that we would be able to buy a few supplies, drive the six hours to FRFF and set-up camp before dark.  Despite our best efforts we were unable to do so partially because the major camping stores we visited did not have the stuff I was looking for [just trust me here - too annoying to recap].  Plus it was during the muggy hot heat [redundant, I know] wave so we ended up staying in Great Barrington NY, near the MA and VT border at a humid Comfort Inn which, for free, provided us with a lovely smell of newly sealed tar and around 10ish at night I managed to set-off the car alarm.  You're welcome, FYI, to all those who stayed near us.

However, being the lucky gals we are we had an 'awesome' Thursday.  First, on our quest for breakfast, we stopped at K-mart where I got the chair, umbrella, tarp and a few other things I was looking for [take that fancy schmancy camping stores] and then we had a nice local breakfast at Martin's.  I realized while we were there that my standard Kristina uniform of black and navy tee-shirts might be uncomfortable in 100+ degrees or so, humid weather so I decided to splurge and purchase a tee-shirt. 


Picture this: there I was on Saturday, another hot day, trying to be practical - wearing a white shirt (which I think this is actually the second white tee-shirt I own), listening to the indescribably wonderful Mary Gauthier (who I think had a perfect or near perfect set), sing about dark things [my favorite] in this GD happy tee-shirt.


I wished for my Carolina Roller Girls skull shirt but alas, all I could do was try to downplay the ridiculously cute dorky shirt I now own.  As a jammie shirt it's pretty GD awesome I must say but not really what I wanted to wear seeing MG.  It's hard to describe FRFF.  It was the first I'd been camping since the mid-80s - I's like to note that the last time was camping in February (or maybe March) in Minnesota.  All I can say is: chilly.  I had a great time - really - even the porta potties were ok.  We set up camp on Thursday - arguably the most difficult day weather wise - two tents, a communal shelter and a joint shower.  This is the view from out site - the teeny white on the right side is where the main stage is.


Plus Ruth (who is most generous - no comment about me, ahem) helped our neighbor with her camp site.  I think we had one of the best places -  it was higher up on the ridge - we could hear all the music from the main stage really well and it was removed from the usual hubbub.  Most people just camp and go see music but there are quite a few that after the official music has ended at midnight, they go to a number of larger campsites (below us in other camping areas) where people perform in a lot of ways - primarily in song-circles or in mini-performances.  The music will last until 4 or 5 am.  On Thursday night there was a good size stage set-up in a camping area with musicians performing - some were part of FRFF, some had performed in previous years and others were new.  Ruth and I went to that - it was pretty interesting - I went back to the camp after it was done and she roamed around and performed in the other "informal" areas.  That's basically what we did for the whole time - listen to music, walk around, talk to people, listen to music, eat, pee+, listen to music (or jam if you're Ruth), sleep a bit, repeat as needed.  I saw some great established bands, newer / "unestablished" musicians and some who I was not impressed with both "known" and "unknown" but it was all well worth it.  A new band from VT - Split Tongue Crow - hung out with us and jammed with Ruth.  We also had neighbors from VT who hung out with us a bit.  We also found out from a FRFF regular that our camp was where Gillian Welch and her band stayed a few years ago which just added to the magic.  I  highly recommend it and hope I can return.


5.  During FRFF I noticed that I had a little bit of a reaction to poison ivy, which very easily and most like came from my very own yard.  Of course, I had thought about bringing medication and forgot.  The end result is that it spread to my arms and legs and after going through multiple tubes of ointment, I started on steroids (the dreaded predinose) last Monday.  The result?  Well the usual crying over ridiculous things (if you buy me a beer I'll tell you the parking space story), is not happening.  Instead, I feel hopped up so the end result is little sleep and lots of production.  I could provide the genealogy to the events but here's the major end result: porch windows are still waiting, dining / music room has been stripped of wallpaper, primed [the main house color is two coats of primer], painted w/a legit color, cleaned and previous and newer art/pics have been hung-up.  Also, the wall by the stairs has gone through a similar process, the stairs have been painted and the ugly, stained wallpaper above the stairs has been taken down.  There are pics on facebook but here are a few more:
 
Here's what the stairs used to look like (without the runner) and the new paint job (sorry can't quite get the two pics right next to one another):





Then with all my extra steroid driven energy, I also stripped the wallpaper, with multiple borders from the dining / music room.  Here's one picture of the final result:




Last but not least, as with any home reno project, once one begins there's a chance that more projects will get started then ended.  So that said, thanks to my friend John's initiative, here's what the top of the stairs now looks like.  The good thing is that the loose, in some places water stained, wallpaper is gone.  Even though its the traditional yuccky green color that the previous owners enjoyed, it is way better than what was up there a few days ago.


I think that is all.  Many other small, fun things have happened but the blog is long, I am tired and it is late so I shall end here.  Thanks for reading.  I'm sure there will be another post in August, which I guess could be good or bad depending on who you are and if you subscribe to a purely dualistic way of thinking about and seeing the world. : )  Until the next entry.....