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Posts Tagged ‘People’

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My seventh day in Northern Manitoba with my farm family was to be spent with Chris and the children. What a lovely day it was. On this particular day I was pulled into service in the kitchen, a job not unfamiliar to me. That evening there was to be a party in my honor which was such a lovely gesture on their part. Chris, as usual, would be doing the catering.  In her typical efficient way, she had printed menus for her guests. One was handed to me before we began dicing and chopping to provide a glimpse of what we were to be preparing. Breakfast that morning was self serve. Cold and hot cereal with a large bowl of fresh fruit and a plate with a variety of Chris’s homemade breads were set up on the dining room table for anyone to help themselves. Three golden crusted pies were lined up on the sideboard by the open dining room window to cool with strict instructions from the cook not to be touched.

Reading the menu I could see it would be a busy day. The cocktail hour was to begin at 5:00 out by the patio. Icy margaritas, wine and beer would be served for the adults enjoying a cocktail, and lemonade and sweet tea for those too young to imbibe or not inclined towards adult beverages. The appetizers, mostly comprised of ingredients from Chris’s impressive garden, were to include pastry wrapped asparagus with mustard sauce, sausage stuffed mushrooms, and deviled eggs as well as whatever contributions the guests provided. For someone who had spent little time in the city Chris had a very sophisticated palette. I noticed her reading material included magazines such such as Bon Appetit and Food and Wine, magazines I also enjoyed.

Eva and I were dispatched to Chris’s garden to gather some of the necessary ingredients. What an amazing touch the woman had with growing things.  Some of the vegetables in the massive garden area I had never actually seen on the vine before. I was fascinated to peer inside one enormous leaf only to find a cauliflower tucked under the wing of one fold. Up until then I had only seen cauliflowers in the vegetable section at the market. Carrying the baskets provided by our hostess for our harvest, Eva and I filled each to the brim with huge beefsteak tomatoes, green onions, sweet peppers, bouquets of basil, springs of mint, summer squash, cucumbers, and whatever else was on our list.

The main course was to be lamb. I was pleased no lambs were included in the cast of barnyard characters on the farm so it was not to be a family member served to the guests. Chris explained they got their lamb locally which didn’t surprise me. During my stay I had seen several large flocks grazing in the area. Though I had not mentioned it, coincidentally lamb happens to be one of my favorite meats. Growing up it was often the main course at my grandmother’s table alongside a bowl of mint jelly or creamy mint sauce. I assumed, since mint had been included on our shopping list, one or the other might be showing up that night as well. This was not to be lamb as I had ever prepared it before, however. Several whole lambs were going to cooked outdoors on a spit. Sounded wonderful. When I was living in Alabama I attended a huge backyard party where a whole cow was cooked on a spit. Watching that spit revolve all afternoon was too much for my delicate nature bringing out in me the urge to rescue the poor thing and run away with it. Brings to mind a quote from Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,”He took the Who’s feast, he took the Who pudding, he took the roast beast.” I vowed to avoid the spit area later in this day and simply enjoy my dinner.

Back in the kitchen the aromas were beginning to titillate my nostrils. The lamb was to be served alongside a cheesy, creamy zucchini gratin, crispy Greek lemon potatoes, several salad selections including a fully loaded garden salad and Chris’s simply amazing yeast rolls. Oh yummy for my tummy. I was put in charge of the Caprese Salad, creating several eye catching plates of ripe ruby red tomatoes alternated with slices of mozzarella cheese. This was finished off with fresh basil, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If an organ could do a happy dance my stomach would have been in the middle of the macarena.

After a quick lunch, the girls were relieved of their aprons and left to play outside allowing Chris and I to to concentrate of the tasks at hand. There is something immensely satisfying to me in the preparation of food. Perhaps it’s the colors, or the aromas, or just the immense gratification you get when someone puts a bite of a dish you’ve prepared in their mouths and says “yum”.  A meal, to my mind, should be party for our senses. We eat with our eyes, our noses, our mouths and even our ears. There’s nothing as tantalizing as the sound of a good piece of meat when it hits a hot grill. Good food arranged artfully on a pretty plate is just appealing. No matter how mouth watering your food may be, if you just throw it on the plate and hand it to someone to eat, the full enjoyment of eating the meal is somehow diminished. As good as the meat and potatoes on the left might taste, a person might not feel as enthusiastic about taking a bite of it as they might what is displayed on the plate to the right.

The Caprese salad plated and wrapped, I asked where to store it. The kitchen had one large side by side refrigerator and every inch of storage space was already accounted for. Chris directed me to the sunroom. The sunroom was at the back of the house. It was a large shotgun style room with a bank of windows running along both ends and the yard side. During the warmer months Bob P. said the screens kept the air flowing in and the bugs out making it a lovely place to sit and let your bones dry out after a long day of work. On the inside wall there was a side by side refrigerator and though I had not seen it Ray had mentioned a large walk-in freezer in the barn where they stored butchered meats.

Setting the Caprese dishes on a shelf in the refrigerator I remembered Chris asking me to grab several jars of pickled green beans which she said I would find in the cupboard next to the fridge. Having been told the Mason jars were in alphabetical order (of course) I easily located the appropriate jars under the sign marked “G”. Like many farmer’s wives, Chris said she canned and preserved several times a year for off season months. Looking at the amount of jars, it seemed an excessive amount of food for five people but at harvest time it was my understanding there were plenty of mouths to feed, and if not I believe most preserved items enjoy a fairly long shelf life.

Mid afternoon with everything done and tucked away we separated to catch a shower and clean up for the evening ahead. I had not thought to pack a dress for a week on a farm, so Chris, about the same size as myself, offered me a choice of several light summer dresses from her closet.

Always I have gotten butterflies when having to integrate with a large group of strangers. It’s not that I’m an introvert, I actually love interacting with other human beings, but too many of them at once I find a little overpowering. Once dressed I wandered out in the garden to find Bob J. already dressed and seated in the shade in a lawn chair. After surveying me with his gaze as if checking for weapons he commented that I cleaned up very well. In the world of Bob J. I believe this was a compliment, so I took it as such. In turn I thought he “cleaned up well”. Face free of stubble, hair combed, a freshly pressed shirt tucked into a well fitting pair of clean jeans, most attractive. We sat next to each other for a while enjoying the lull before the storm. He shared he was glad I’d come and that his family had been pleased with how I’d rolled up my sleeves and got dirty along with the rest of them. I thanked him knowing it was high praise from someone who did not relieve himself of praise easily. The moment hanging between us was broken by a truck driving through the gate allowing the energy to dissipate. Excusing myself, I went inside to let Chris know our first guest had arrived and to see what I could do to help.

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About forty people ended up filling the chairs out back, some filtering inside after the sun set and the bugs made their nightly appearance. The margaritas were as promised icy cold and tart and if possible each course served was better than the one preceding it. The lamb, well I don’t have words. Ray had cooked it to perfection. It was tender and juicy and, yes, served with mint jelly and sprigs of fresh mint. The tables were set up eight to a table with a smaller table for the children of which there were exactly ten. Twinkling lanterns were strung from tree to tree to provide illumination. Each table was beautifully decorated with long trails of wildflowers. A young man I recognized from church the day before sat on a bale of hay entertaining us with country music and playing his guitar. Desserts were served with a lovely after dinner wine. Chris’s triple berry pie, a recipe I use to this day, was the star sitting alongside a glass bowl of trifle, an assortment of cakes and plate after plate of cookies and bars. About nine, people starting peeling off and heading towards their vehicles as the next day was a work day.

What a wonderful night that was. Everyone pitched in. Once the last guest’s taillights had disappeared down the road we all carried something into the kitchen. Eva and Dawn, running on a sugar high, had to be carried sniffling into bed. Chris and I stayed up late and washed dishes putting leftovers in containers to be stored in the fridge. When finally I walked down the hall towards my room I realized I would really miss this new family of mine. It was a night I shall always keep with me, and of course the blueberry pie recipe.

Chris’s Triple Berry Pie

Double Crust Pie Shell

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4-5 Tbsp. milk

Combine flour and salt in small bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle with vinegar. Gradually add milk tossing with a fork until a ball forms. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Divide pastry in half leaving one ball slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger of the two to fit 9″-10″ pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to rim. Brush bottom of shell with 1 Tbsp. water whisked with 1 egg white. Reserve the rest.

Roll out second shell to fit over top of the first. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Filling

2 1/2 cups blueberries, sorted and any stems removed
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cups blackberries
3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg white
2 tbsp. water

Place berries in large mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Using your hands gently turn until well coated. Pour into prepared shell.

Lay top pastry over berry mix. Press and seal edges with bottom shell. Trim as needed. Cut four slits in center to vent. Brush top with remaining egg white/water mixture.

Bake for 50 mins. or until browned and bubbly.

Cook on wire rack.

 

 

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Having trouble sleeping lately. Can’t imagine why. It’s not like anything weird or unsettling is going on around me that would contribute to my being being awake. Last night I was up on the hour. The cat, who sleeps on her pillow at the end of the bed, ate a whole bowl of food at 3 a.m. while I consumed my bowl of oatmeal. I’m going to have to get two sticks from the yard for us to roll each other around the house if I don’t stop getting my exercise by opening and closing the refrigerator door.

A dream finally got my feet planted on the carpet. Not a happy dream. I was wandering in the desert with no phone or idea where I was. When I woke up my bangs were stuck to my forehead. Must have been the high heat of the day where I was hiking. Always I have had vivid dreams, many of which I can recall in lurid detail. The more memorable will stick with me for a day or two as if for me to analyze and process them before letting them go. There are several recurring themes in my dreams of late. Bears once again have made a return to my rem world along with being lost and unable to find my way home. Hopefully neither is premonitory in nature. Bears continue to be a constant in my life. When I moved into my little house last May my landlady, who lives directly across the street, mentioned I should leave my trash cans behind the fence in the back yard. It seems bears have been known to forage in the area searching for something to snack on. Fortunately I have never had the pleasure of seeing one up close and personal. Her husband went on to add I should consider leaving the cat inside while living here. He said he had recently watched a coyote heading down the street with one of the neighbor’s cats dangling from its mouth. Thanks for sharing. We’re not in the wildnerness mind you, rather the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. However, we have invaded these animals territory not visa versa so I guess we need to learn to live and let live. Boo would not choose to go outside on the best of days so no worries there. A house cat she is and a house cat she will be, spoiled rotten til the end.

The neighborhood seems to have more animals than I realized before being isolated. Dogs pass by the window every few minutes probably getting more walks now that their owners are in forced residence. I have to say I have seen my neighbors in general much more during this pandemic. Not only are they riding by on bikes, or out walking but I actually see them in their back yards with their families playing games or doing yard work. It’s kind of nice for a change. Usually we are all so wrapped up in scurrying about we don’t stop to smell the roses both figuratively and literally.

It’s nice to have the sound of children laughing outside or people sharing a conversation. Since Rick has passed I find I need some noise in the house. The TV can drive you nuts after a while and certainly more so now with the news focusing solely on the virus and the devastation caused by it. I prefer something a little more uplifting like music. How you think definitely effects a person not only emotionally but physically so I prefer to keep my thinking a little loftier if just as a matter of health and well being.

I talked to my mom on Facetime yesterday. It is difficult not to be able to see her. I am so thankful she is not in an assisted living facility any more but rather a small board and care.  The opportunity there to pick up a hitchhiking germ is much smaller. With the dementia, having a conversation without a visual is far more difficult. She celebrated a birthday since the isolating started, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, along with several other family members so we are waiting until we are allowed out again to put together an appropriate rite of passage for these occasions.

One thing I have to say is not being able to access a store, even with Amazon and the big chains at my fingertips, my spending has gone down significantly.  My gas budget, one of my larger outlays during normal times, is nearly non existent which is really making a difference. I feel for the small business owners who are standing in empty stores or restaurants every day with no employees evident and no money coming in. Perhaps the worst of it is not knowing when they can open their doors again. Must be very disheartening.

I am also spending more time browsing the Internet. While wandering around on Facebook this morning I came across the picture below of the most gorgeous attic room. Immediately I was transported back to the house I grew up in in Nova Scotia. Houses built in colder climates often have basements as well as attics. Ours was no exception. Our basement as well as being a general catch all for winter sports equipment, was home to the the washer and dryer, an old ironing press, and an assortment of gardening necessities. The back wall of the basement served as a small shop devoted to my grandfather’s love of tinkering. On one side was a rustic wooden tool bench with a large peg board above it that displayed his tools dangling neatly from hooks alongside other ubiquitous wood shop items such as tightly rolled extension cords and a variety of paint brushes. As a child I never liked to go down the back stairs to the basement by myself. My mind, always entertaining an overactive imagination, could envision spiders repelling from the ceiling to slither down my back, rodents skittering across the cement floors, or even menacing bats swooping down out of dark corners. For several years I insisted alligators populated the space beneath my bed and should I have woken in the middle of the night with a hand draped over the side of my bed I always counted my fingers to make sure none of them had gone missing while I slept.

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The attic in the house was far more inviting. A key dangled out of the old keyhole though the door was never locked to my recollection. A huge angled window allowed light to flow in making the room both warm and friendly and made it easy to get around in. A large full length mirror in the corner was perfect for modeling the hats and clothing stored in the old chests in the corner. Long abandoned toys from my mother’s childhood and her siblings were stored in crates which I had permission to explore. I spent many an hour entertaining myself in that room making up stories to go with the mink stole I had draped around my neck or the hat with the netting pulled down over my face. Sometimes my grandmother would come up and bring me milk and cookies to enjoy with my dolls or sit with me for a while and tell me a story of her childhood growing up on a farm in Ontario. Those memories of the rooms in that house formed the strong foundation which I built my life on.

Funny how certain rooms appear to ask you in, while others encourage you to remain outside. Maybe it is the energy remaining there from years of visitors or residents passing through its portals leaving a bit of themselves behind. Even in this small dwelling I lean towards sitting in the living room or my cozy bedroom 80% of the time. Some entire houses wear an air of uncomfortability. Perhaps they might feel dark, or stifling, or possibly just have an aura of sadness about them.

I remember such a house when I was small. When I was about six my grandparents enlisted a family friend to teach me the piano. To say I am not gifted musically would be being kind at best. If I opened my mouth to sing I could empty an auditorium in less than five minutes, possibly less. Shirley Hoyt, the piano teacher they employed, was what my grandmother referred to as a “maiden lady”. She lived with an aunt who bore the same title which indicated in both cases the ladies had never married. Shirley was a generously cut woman who wore her spectacles perched at the tip of a nose which rose prominently above an upper lip adorned by a hint of a moustache. Her salt and pepper hair was always held in check in a tight bun at the nape of her neck with bobby pins trying to escape here and there. The most distinctive thing about Miss Hoyt, as a I remember at least, was the ever prevalent aroma of moth balls floating around her which always made me feel the need to pinch my nose. The house always smelled as though the windows had never been opened causing the air to assume a musty and stale kind of odor. Tapestries covered the furniture in the parlor where the piano was as well as the bench we sat on when I took my lessons. Sometimes when I sat down a cloud of dust would rise in the air as though the room hadn’t been attended to in years. After six months of patient instruction I retained one song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” which I can still play to this day. Though I don’t remember much else about the lessons other than my teacher, I do remember the bungalow. Even as a child I thought of it as a place that felt lacking in luster and life perhaps reflecting it’s occupants. Shirley was a lovely lady I am sure. I always wondered what her story was, why she had never found her prince or at least a mate. Perhaps we aren’t all destined to pair off, though it seems by all appearances we animals tend to break off in two’s naturally. Too late by many years to know the true story of her life, I guess I will be left to my active imagination to fill in the blank spaces.

So today I shall enjoy my space as I hope you enjoy yours. A brisk breeze is blowing beyond my window and the flowers in my garden are leaning to one side and then the other as it comes and goes. Hopefully soon we can reenter our lives but I guess for now we should enjoy a little break in the routine allowing us to recapture our serenity.

 

 

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The time has come to begin searching for a part-time job. God knows I’ve avoided it successfully as long as I can. Money needs to start coming in as well as going out or this boat is going to spring a few leaks down the road. Not that I’m allergic to work, I’ve worked most of my life, I just don’t hate not having to. Ah well, we do what we need to do to sustain ourselves, yes?

An email showed up in my in box yesterday from a social media website I’m a member of. They were alerting me to the fact there is an opening for a social media director for one of the NFL teams I might be a good candidate for. Really, in what universe would that be? If I’m qualified for that job why not try something new like, say, brain surgeon or perhaps I could apply to NASA for a neuroscientist position? I do enjoy watching those rockets plummeting into space. How hard can it be a little rocket fuel and a match? Let’s see, with all the candidates running for president at the moment would anyone even notice another hat tossed in the ring? Why not go for the gold? As far as I can tell I’m probably as qualified as most of the people in Washington at the moment so why not?

Updating my resume it occurred to me my graphic arts background isn’t really going to hold a lot of weight if I’m stocking shelves at the Dollar Store or wrapping up purchases at Penny’s. Probably their HR departments won’t be overly impressed by the fact that not only can I bag the items for the customer, but I can draw them a rendition of the bag if needed.

Utilizing my graphics or writing skills while earning a paycheck would be the ideal situation. Unfortunately, these types of jobs are often full time positions with plenty of overtime, which I’m not looking for, or the hiring bodies are targeting younger candidates who can remain in place longer than a baby boomer such as myself.

Over the years I have assumed many identities in the working world. I began as a secretary, clerk really, for a moving company. An eighteen year old girl green as a gourd working with a bunch of rough around the edges movers in a large combination warehouse and office. I earned my stripes there. The men were respectful for the most part, as I remember. However, the dispatcher working directly across the aisle from me had a mouth like a sailor. When things weren’t going his way the air was alive with words my grandmother would have washed my mouth out for repeating. I remember once the warehouse manager came to me to tell me the ladies, of which there were four of us, needed to be alerted there were crabs in the women’s washroom. Until the situation was resolved, we were instructed to use the men’s room. Fascinated there were live crabs on the premises, I asked if perhaps I could see them. Stepping a bit further into the humiliation pit I went on to explain though I enjoyed crabs, I actually preferred lobster having grown up in Nova Scotia. Yup, fully immersed in the pit of humiliation at that point. After staring at me in disbelief for a minute he broke out in hysterical laughter. For the next two years I had to hear the crabs story repeated more times than I care to remember. Back then if asked about an STD I might have answered “isn’t that motor oil”? Yes, yes I know it’s STP.

My second job was for a huge engineering company working as a secretary to one of the junior VP’s. My desk was one of a bank of desks and executive offices referred to by the staff as “mahogany row”. Things were much different in those days. Women wore dresses, heels, and nylons to work. Pants were not allowed on the ladies. Men were encouraged to wear them thankfully, there are laws against that. Pants suits made an appearance not long afterwards, though I wouldn’t have missed them if they hadn’t. Polyester nightmares with matching jacket and pants usually suffering from static cling or just basic bad taste. There were no casual Friday’s. Women were to be dressed accordingly five days a week even if their toes were sacrificed to tight pointy toed shoes or their bodies circulation diminished by suffocating pantyhose. Mini skirts were also on the scene at the time. Accessing a filing cabinet wearing that minimal piece of fabric required real finesse necessitating squatting down rather than bending over the file drawers lest you provide a distraction for the engineers on the floor. The campus I worked on consisted of five multi-story buildings, mainly staffed by male engineers, draftsmen, and support staff. Women engineers were tossed in among the mix but certainly were a small minority. Often the ladies with the engineering degrees were difficult to sort out from the gentlemen. They tended to dress in a very understated way bordering on dowdy to maintain a businesslike persona. I was told by one female engineer they dressed down in order to be accepted by their male colleagues. I could write volumes about how I feel about that, but I digress.

Part of my job description was generating travel paperwork for engineers and staff reporting to our overseas operations as well as the Alaskan pipeline and South America. Shots were required when entering certain foreign countries as well as the typical government documents such as visas and passports. If needed quickly, I would hop a plane from LA to San Francisco to visit the embassy’s involved to get paperwork moved through as expediently as possible. For me, this was the whipped cream topping of my job. Entering the exotic offices staffed by people from lands I had never visited was fascinating to me. There were times when I wished they were placing official stamps on my documents so I could board the plane as well.

Certainly my dream as a child was not to be typing engineering reports or transfer papers. Sometimes life doesn’t look the way you thought it would. As a kid my mind was filled with Egypt, oddly leading me to end up with Rick an Egyptian by birth. Daydreams of dusty digs in steamy desert settings uncovering long buried tombs with ancient artifacts filled my days. As I approached puberty, my career goals shifted to include nurse, like my grandmother, and circus clown and in high school I decided I wanted to fly the friendly skies as a flight attendant. In the end, I got married at eighteen, had two children by twenty-one and found myself seated in front of an electric typewriter pounding keys for a living. I don’t regret this for an instant because was I to create a paradox in my world and change things my two beautiful children wouldn’t share my life nor their offspring so I wouldn’t change a thing.

I view each experience as a building block to the next. Had I not taken typing in high school simply to fill an elective spot, I might have been pushing biggie fries at McDonald’s. Not that that’s a bad job. I think anyone who works hard in whatever position they hold should be commended. However hindsight being 20-20 I do wish at times I had enjoyed the full college experience when I had the opportunity to but as I always quote, “don’t look in the rear view mirror, that is not the direction you are going”.

So I look at working once again and still find myself pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Working with food might be interesting. Standing behind the deli counter at the market slicing meats and cheeses seems like it would be right up my alley. My girlfriend always tells me I would have make a good waitress. I like the idea of serving people meals, as being in the kitchen or around food is my happy place. That being said, having owned a restaurant with Rick I do know first hand how difficult waiting tables is. Long hours, poor tippers, complaining patrons, and sore feet. Hmmmm. Maybe a mermaid? I’ve never been one but always felt I had the predisposition for it, and how I do love the water.

For now I will scan the on-line sites advertising local jobs and see what catches my eye. Fortunately I’ve kept my computer skills up so I have something to offer in that area.

Another new chapter to explore in my crazy interesting life. I do look forward to finding out what the next year will bring with it.

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