Thursday, September 20, 2007

Birthdays Stink

I am of the opinion that birthdays stink. Oh, don’t get me wrong, birthday’s when you are 5 or 6 are terrific; balloons, streamers, presents and friends to share in the momentous occasion. But when you turn 40, the balloons have lost their helium, the streamers have gotten dusty in the attic somewhere, the presents are fewer, and the friends are busy with their own families. My birthday this year has been at best, a downer. The phone has been turned off, my cell phone is dead, my day has been busy with cleaning up kids that can’t make it to the potty, and laundry of the above-mentioned stinky clothes.
I can’t even post this to my blog because the internet has been disconnected.
I was told by Hubby last night, (not in these same words, but the same message), that I was halfway to dead. That is why forty is such a big milestone for some people, because most people live to be 80 or so, so when the milestone, (or headstone rather) is reached, you are “halfway there,” “reached the top of the hill”, there is “no turning back,” “it’s all downhill from here!”
My day has come to this, gleaning the dredges of the bottom of the bread bin at the food bank. The highlight of the excursion was the halfhearted attempt of several tone-deaf food bank volunteers trying to sing the traditional birthday dirge, leaving the “name space” blank with a wave of the hand for me to fill in my own name. I should have said Sheila instead of my real name; it would have been just as personal.
Well, life goes on, (comforting, isn’t it?) We age, and we grow and hopefully mature past the need to have a balloon-infested, streamer-waving grand birthday occasion. Life should be full of simple things, a sweet hug from your 4 year old; a sweet little hand patting on the back when you pick up the baby; the next door neighbor rearranging her schedule in order to take you out for an impromptu birthday lunch. The joys of seeing kids get along, the smile on your husband’s face when he has enjoyed a meal. So I didn’t get a new bottle of perfume for my birthday, big deal; at this point I’d rather pay the phone bill. So I didn’t get an elaborate dinner out with my husband; right now, I’d just like to feed my family nutritious meals. So I can’t take the family out to celebrate at a weekend resort with catered meals and bellhops to jump at your every command, but my kids know the difference between right and wrong, they know when someone is being a bully, they know how to comfort a sibling, they can change a diaper in a pinch, and bathe a child.
So I guess in retrospect, for my birthday, I’d rather have food in my cupboard, warm clothes for my children, and a good roof over my head. I’d rather celebrate with my family around me and blow out some candles with a neighbor, who invited herself over so that I wouldn’t be alone on my birthday, and watch all 15 of our kids playing Twister and Ants in the Pants together instead of a romantic dinner and expensive presents. When it comes right down to it, “happy birthday” is all in your mind, it is a choice, it doesn’t matter that there is no phone service, (actually, it’s kind of nice not having it bug me all the time,) it doesn’t matter that there is no new bottle of perfume on the bathroom counter, (it would only get dusty and create clutter anyway.) I know that I am cared for, pampered on occasion, and loved.
My family loves me, my children love me, my husband loves me, and I even have some pretty nice neighbors who think I’m ok. But most importantly, God loves me and died to give me Eternal life. I was chosen before the foundation of time to be His and that is an overwhelming thought. God loved me before I was even born, enough to send his own son to die and pay the penalty of my sin. That indeed is what matters most, and birthdays don’t actually stink after all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Last of the Canning

Today I finished the last of the canning for 2007, maybe. I said that Saturday too, and then I did some more. My friend Mrs T. gave me a recipe for tomato soup which was her mother's out of an old Kerr Canning book. I've made if for a few years now, the first year I scorched it, (oops) and had a rather barbequed taste to it. LOL, we finally finished eating it, (yuck). So last year I made a few more jars, but didn't eat all of it. I still have about 4 quart jars left from last year, but when Mrs T. made it this year it looked so much easier than I did before. I thought if I put it in pint jars, I could eat it for a healthy lunch. The kids don't care for it much, but I love it.
Last winter, I was at the local thrift store and found, to my delight, a Victorio Strainer with a few missing parts. The tag on the box said $2.99, a steal at that price, but it was half off that! So for $1.49, I got a great strainer--much sturdier thatn the red plastic version I had been using. I modified a "hopper" with my canning funnel, and used a garden hose gasket inside to keep things from dripping. I found a website with parts for it, but all I had to do was dig around in my toolbox for some masking tape and a gasket.
I got 28 pints of soup. That is if they all seal, the verdict is still out on some of them. Here is the recipe: (modifications by me in parenthesis.)
One note before I post this, if you are reading this and you work for some county extension office and have a problem with the ingredients I used or method of canning, please keep your comments to yourself. I realize that some of this is against the "Canning Bible Commandments" and I'll probably be subtecting my family to all kinds of fatal bacteria, but I did copy it directly from the Kerr Canning Book, it hasn't killed anyone from my family or Mrs. T's, so I think we are probably just fine.
Mrs. T's Tomato Soup
14 qts ripe tomatoes (18 qts)
7 medium onions (5)
1 stalk of celery (3 with leaves, minced in blender)
14 sprigs of parsley ( I didn't have any, so omitted this)
3 bay leaves (20 years ago, Bear asked me to "please don't put that in again", so this was omitted too.)
(1 T. Basil - instead of the offending bay leaves)
(2T. Fiesta Party Dip from Tastefully Simple, to add a little kick.) I was looking in my cupboard and started throwing things in, LOL
4 T. salt, ( I have an enormously huge jar of Season-All that someone gave me, I am trying to use it up, so I substituted this instead of salt.)
8 T. Sugar
2 tsp. pepper, (I sprinkled a large puddle on top of the soup and called it 2 tsp.)
(1 T. garlic powder, not salt, just powder, did that once, yuck!)
14 T. flour, (1 cup)
Mary adds about a tsp or so of cream of tartar to the flour to keep it from curdling in the next step. (I did too, mixed it right into the flour before I added it to the butter.)
14 T. butter (again 1 cup, I had more tomatoes)
Wash the tomatoes, run through the victorio strainer, mix the soup in a large stockpot and start the burner on a low simmer. (I used to cook it all first and then run the hot liquid-slop through the strainer. Mrs. T. did them cold this year and I thought it looked so easy, I'd give it another try.) Chop onions celery parsley, bay leaves, add to tomato juice. I ran it all through a few pulses in the blender with some of the tomato juice. I thought if the kids did eat it, there was no way they were going to eat the onions so I might as well blend it up anyway. Heat to a simmer. In a medium saucepan, melt better add flour and wisk together. Add a ladle-full of the soup slowly to the white sauce and wish quickly, (I reread this and laughed, because as you are wisking, you'll be wishing that is doesn't curdle, so I'm leaving the typo!) being careful not to get it too hot while you are mixing, (turn burner on low) Add about 3 or 4 ladles total then gradually add the mixture back into the large stock pot. Heat to a simmer. DO NOT BOIL, or it may curdle.

Fill quarts to 1/2" from top, (I did pints, like I said earlier) Put on lids and caps and screw finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes.

I just removed the last batch, I have one so far that didn't seal, I'm tired of the "canning failures" so I'll probably redo it, my fridge is filling with casualties. I had one chili from each batch that didn't seal, beef and chicken, so we have to eat that, then there's the peaches and pears and a stray jar of jam. (Time to clean out the fridge!!)


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