Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jammin’

According to the On This Day app on Facebook, Dave and I signed the lease for our house a year ago today. June 2015 has been much more calm and stress-free than June 2014, thank God.

Even though the house was ours as of July 1, we had so much still to do at the old house that we didn’t move until the last week of July. We drove here a few times during the month, though, bringing things with us each time (to lessen the possibility of not having enough room in the Relocubes for all our stuff). We had to come out to pick up the keys, get the gas turned on, get the cable set up – that kind of stuff. During one of the visits for setting up utilities, we wandered the yard and picked a bunch of berries, then brought them back and froze them.

At the time, I didn’t really pay attention to the difference between mulberries and raspberries; I just knew we had them both, and they were both a dark purple color. When we picked them, I just tossed all the berries in the same bucket. Now I can easily tell the difference – mulberries grow on trees, raspberries on bushes. Mulberries, to me, have kind of a flat, sweet flavor (and no seeds). Raspberries have an acidic, tart note to go along with their sweet berry flavor, and tons of seeds. Plus they look totally different, now that I know what I’m doing.

This year it was fun to walk around and keep tabs on the berries as they ripened. I watched the mulberries as they first formed, saw the raspberry brambles fill with life. The mulberries ripened first, and we entertained ideas of harvesting them (put a sheet under the tree, then shake the tree … which always makes me think of the song The Joker). Then we kind of wimped out and decided it wasn’t worth it – all those little stems, and the fruit is okay but (in my opinion) would need to be mixed with something else, like rhubarb, to brighten the taste.

Raspberries, though – I just love them. Dave isn’t crazy about the seeds, but he likes them too. I’ve been watching the berries turn red for the past week or two, and now the berries are turning purple hand over fist.

Ripening raspberries (not pictured: all the daddy long leg spiders that hang out in these bushes, ugh)

Ripening raspberries (not pictured: all the daddy long leg spiders that hang out in these bushes, ugh)

Before raspberries, though, strawberries came into season here. (They don’t call this area the Fruit Belt for nothing!) We picked up a couple pints from a local farm stand, then a quart from a farmer’s market, and then we went all in with a flat from Shelton’s Farm Market when they went on sale. We froze most of them, made strawberry shortcake, made strawberry rhubarb compote more than once, and then I decided I wanted to make strawberry jam.

Dave is the one that does the canning around here, although I’ve gotten more involved in recent years. This time, though, I wanted to try it myself. I didn’t want to actually can the jam in a water bath though; we should really use a canning element on the electric stove here, and we don’t have one. (If we do any heavy duty canning this year, it will probably be outside on a camp stove.) I found an all-purpose jam recipe that made a smaller quantity, and I figured I’d throw a half pint in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer.

I cooked the heck out of the strawberry puree (the recipe didn’t use pectin) and even though I cooked it far longer than the recipe called for, it never really set up like jam. It was more like a compote or sauce; it was delicious, but it wasn’t jam. (It kicks ass on vanilla ice cream and vanilla yogurt, however.)

I did some searching on strawberry freezer jam, trying to find out what I did wrong. I figured that was what freezer jam was – you cooked it up, and then put it in the freezer instead of canning it. Instead I found an even easier method, better suited for hot summer days because you don’t cook it at all.

So that was experiment #2. I picked up some instant pectin at the store (I love how easy it is to find things like that at the stores around here; I even found rennet tablets the other day so now I can finally try making cheese other than ricotta) and gave it a shot. All you do is mash/puree the fruit, add some sugar (far less than you do if you’re cooking it) and the pectin, pour it into jars and you are DONE.

Can I say again how much I love the fact that I can make jam without heating the house up in the summer, when all the berries are in season? When you don’t have central air, you embrace all the non-hot cooking methods you can.

The flavor is all fruit – it stays bright and fresh-tasting because it isn’t cooked down. (Not that I mind the flavor of traditional jams, mind you!) I like that you can be flexible with flavor combinations; this afternoon I’m making a mixed berry jam using blueberries and raspberries. Cherries are in season next; last year we missed cherry season by about one week, which was heartbreaking.

We just bought a chest freezer and if I’m not careful, it’s going to be full of nothing but jam and frozen fruit. 😉

Words Are Very Unnecessary

On our way home from Dave’s one-month checkup with his hepatologist in Fort Wayne, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Although we like the food, Dave kind of hates going there because the ordering process confounds him. They ask a lot of questions, and for someone with hearing loss that’s a real drag.

I have an easier time with this kind of thing (as long as it’s in person) because I lipread, so I am usually the one to order. I just consult Dave first to make sure what he wants, or if he starts to order himself then I will relay the questions to him if he misses them.

Since it was just a light lunch, we did our usual and got the same sandwich in the foot-long size, and then split it. This location had a drive-through but we decided to go inside because I really struggle to understand anything through those speakers.

We were the only customers, and as we walked up to the counter the guy started talking. I wasn’t close enough to read his lips and had no clue what he said (he was talking really fast and also had a bit of a southern accent). I did my usual and just assumed what he probably said based on my past visits to Subway.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

I told him the type of sandwich we wanted and the type of bread. He said something else that I missed, but I knew they usually asked about cheese and I thought I’d caught part of his question. “Did you say something about pepperjack cheese?” He nodded, and I confirmed that we wanted it. Then he asked if we wanted it toasted, which caught me off guard. I had to have him repeat the question a couple of times. After I answered him, I added, “I’m deaf and I’m reading your lips, so that’s why I sometimes miss what you say.”

Now, usually I add that I have cochlear implants and I hear with them; that way people know that I do hear sound but they also know that I’m reading their lips as well. But I figured eh, this is just a quick lunch order and why go into all that detail? Here’s what happened when I just let that statement hang in the air without further clarification:

The guy stopped talking.

He had been keeping up a constant patter while we were there, which was making it hard for me to tell if he was asking a question, making a comment about our order, or even perhaps just talking to himself. My statement silenced him, and what a gift it was!

He quietly made the sandwich and just kind of looked up when he got to the veggies, waving his hand vaguely in the direction of the options available. I smiled and said we just wanted tomato, nothing else, and no sauce.

Obviously he thought I couldn’t hear anything and there was no point in really talking to me anymore, so he resorted to his version of sign language – and it was perfectly fine with me (even preferable, if I’m being honest). I thought it was kind of hilarious; it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone react that way when I say I’m deaf. Even before I got my CIs and I really couldn’t hear, when I told someone I was deaf and reading lips, they would still keep talking to me the same way they had been.

(Before I get to my next story, I have to interject and say that Dave had his viral load tested at this appointment, and we got the results yesterday. As of one month into his three month treatment with Harvoni and Ribavirin, he has cleared the Hepatitis C virus! He never cleared it in 2013; he went from over 4 million to 11,000 but that was as low as it went. This time he started at over 3 million and BOOM … now it’s undetected. ! ! ! !)

The other hearing loss-related thing that happened around here was during a power outage. The power really doesn’t go out very often here, and when it does they get it back on within a few hours (at the most). It seems to go out at weird times, though, not during storms. The last time was about a week ago, after we’d had some rain come through. During the storms all was well, but about 3:15 in the morning my eyes just kind of flew open. I could feel that something wasn’t right; I just didn’t know what it was. I realized Dave wasn’t in bed, and then I looked over at the clock and saw that it was off – we had a power outage.  (Dave had realized about five minutes before me and was getting candles.)

It wasn’t hot so we didn’t have fans on (or else the room suddenly getting hot would have woken me up). I realized that when I’m sleeping I’m more sensitive to light (and the lack of it) than I realized. I always assumed I wouldn’t wake up from a strobe light on a smoke detector, and that I’d need something that vibrated the bed to wake me up. (Those systems are, by the way, very expensive.) Now I’m kind of wondering if the strobe light would actually do the trick. I must be more sensitive to that kind of thing when I’m sleeping since I don’t have hearing to rely on. Very interesting!

 

%d bloggers like this: