Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Meetings

David drove down from Kamloops on Monday. The purpose of the trip was to introduce us to his new girlfriend. She was very nice, and the visit went well. But I do have to say, it can be an awkward thing, this "meeting of the boyfriend/girlfriend" for the the first time.

As the parent of five adult children I should be better at this than I am. I certainly have enough experience. The problem for me is never knowing if this is The One. There is the occasional dud. The one you hope doesn't end up in your family Christmas photos. And there is the opposite danger, which is that you might really like them, but your child decides they no longer do.

I met Jay's parents over Christmas break back in 1978. I remember having butterflies in my stomach as I boarded the CP Air flight from Spokane to Vancouver. This was back in the days when you were treated like a human being when you flew. The meal was served on real plates and the cutlery wasn't plastic. Those days are long gone, as is CP Air, but the memory of what it was like to travel back then lingers. Sort of like the smell of the cigarettes people were allowed to smoke on board back then, but in a better way.

Overall, things went well at that First Meeting. I was teased about my American accent. I was a good sport about it, even though I distinctly remember thinking they were the ones who had the accent. There was the Sunday roast dinner incident, which I think I've blogged about before, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

Jay's dad was from strong English stock. I was an American farm girl. When these two extremes sit down for a Sunday dinner there are bound to be a few differences. Jay's dad sat at the head of the table, carving knife in hand. The roast was placed in front of him, and it was oozing blood. He started carving pieces, and as he moved them over to the plates I realized they were so thin they were almost transparent. Then, after he had finished, he took a piece of bread and soaked up the blood, then ate it. I still shudder at the thought.

The next big moment happened when I asked for Ketchup. I just assumed someone had forgot to put it on the table. All I can say is I hope I had managed to hide the horror I felt over that blood/bread thing way better than Jay's dad did over me asking for Ketchup.

My final disgrace was in actually eating the roast. Of course, everyone was eating their roast. When I say I was eating mine, I mean I was digging in and consuming it with gusto. Proper English bites weren't on my radar. At one point Jay's dad commented in surprise, "And she's so little, too."

Contrast this with a typical Sunday roast on the farm. My mom would cut the well done roast in big hunks and set the platter on the table. Everyone would dig in, taking as much as they wanted. The Ketchup was front and centre for anyone who wanted it. In under fifteen minutes my brothers and I would have polished off the platter of beef and be onto dessert.

For now I will refrain from naming the girl or posting any pictures from Monday's visit. If this isn't The One I hate to leave an online record that the actual One could someday run across. Instead, I'll share the recipe for the dessert I served when they were here. It is out of the May 2014 issue of Canadian Living.

Orange Almond Flourless Snacking Cake

6 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch cinnamon
2 cups ground almonds
1 ½ tsp. baking powder (the recipe doesn't call for this, but it needs it)
2 tbsp. orange juice

Grease 9-inch springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer beat together egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon until butter-coloured and thick enough to form long ribbons that hold their shape for two seconds when beaters are lifted, about five minutes. (I ignored this and just mixed it until it looked right.) Fold in almonds and orange juice.

In separate bowl beat egg whites unit stiff peaks form. Stir ¼ of the whites into egg yolk mixture until combined. Fold in remaining egg whites. Scrape into prepared pan.

The recipe in the magazine said to bake at 350 F for 35 minutes. I baked mine at 325 F for about 50 minutes and it was perfect. Run a knife around edge as soon as you remove it from the oven, then let it sit for 10 minutes before removing the outer springform pan. The recipe calls for dusting it with icing sugar. I opted for whipped cream instead. No surprise there.

How about you? Have you had any awkward first meetings?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gardening, Communist Style

There is a community garden here at The Cottages. When I first read about it on the website, and before I had actually come down to look at the place we now call home, I was very excited at the prospect of a community garden. I had visions of my own little plot, and the things I would grow in it. It made it easier to think about parting with my much loved garden in Kamloops.

Unfortunately, what I had imagined in my head and what actually existed in reality were two very different things. I was quite confused when I saw the community garden space for the first time. There were no individual plots. It was just one huge mass of neglected vegetables. The lettuce had gone to seed, the rhubarb had seen better days, the cucumbers were a tangled mess. However, there was a sign on the deer fence that surrounded the plot, saying new garden committee members were always welcome. I filed that information away until this spring, and last week I went to the first meeting of the year.

Now I understand. It's a communist garden. Individual plots don't exist. The planting is done as a group. Weeding and basic maintenance are done on an "as needs" basis, and committee members can harvest the vegetables during the growing season whenever they want. Then in September whatever is left gets picked and the committee has a group dinner. In my head I'm now calling it the Karl Marx Meal.

This morning we met to do our first planting. The garden is tucked away in a corner of the property by the pond. It's just behind that half-dead tree in the centre of the picture.

It was actually a lot of fun getting together and working up the soil and planting the early crops like spinach, lettuce and onions. The best discovery of the morning was seeing the asparagus bed. It's now in its third year and it looks like it is going to be a bumper crop. There's a still a part of my brain that can't wrap itself around this communist gardening thing though. How does it work with the asparagus? If I take as much as I want there won't be a single spear left for anyone else on the committee. But what if, out of a sense of group fairness, we all hold back and the asparagus doesn't get picked? It would be a crime to see it go to waste. Here's a close-up shot of the communist plot (pun intended).

There has been some capitalist gardening as well. This past week I went to the garden store and came home with these goodies.

I miss all the lavender I had in Kamloops, so decided I needed some here at our cottage. This variety is called Phenomenal, and I was told it lives up to its name.

This is the thing I am most excited about. I have wanted raspberries forever. When I talked to Brian Minter at the Minter Country Garden Store he suggested I get something called Raspberry Shortcake. It's an everbearing thornless raspberry that is a bush rather than a cane. I have planted three and can't wait to see if they actually produce berries this summer.

There's more big gardening news, but I'm saving it for another post. This gardening season is going to be an interesting experiment. The garden committee members are all really nice, but honesty forces me to admit that I'm sure glad I don't have to share my raspberries with them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Good Book, Bad Book

It's 3:00 in the morning and I've had an epiphany. Eating three double chocolate fudge brownies a half hour before going to bed is really not such a great idea.

Usually if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep I will pick up a book and after a paragraph or two my eyes won't stay open. For some reason this didn't work tonight, and I'm not sure if it is due to the strength of the brownies or the awfulness of the book I'm reading. And by awful, I don't mean scary awful or sad awful. I mean plain, old-fashioned, not an entertaining read awful. I find myself reluctant to name the book or the author, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because now that I've written a book of my own I realize how much time and effort goes into getting published. Or maybe it's because this person is a knitter, and I feel some sort of displaced loyalty.

I've finished 83% of the book (I love that Kindle feature). Normally I would have given up on a book long before this. Life is too short to read a bad book, and there are too many good ones in my queue still waiting to be read. But I have really enjoyed previous books by this person, and I just kept thinking the next chapter would be better. Over and over again, until I now have just 17% of the book left and 0% hope of the book redeeming itself. All I know is it's a sad state of affairs when a book is so bad it won't even put you to sleep.

The last time I was this disappointed by a book was when JK Rowling came out with The Casual Vacancy. It was her first post-Harry Potter book, and remains solidly in the #1 position on my "Worst Books Ever Read" list. The only reason I finished it was the same reason I have now read 83% of my current book. I was sure it would redeem itself before the end. It didn't.

Given how much I disliked A Casual Vacancy, I felt like a sucker when I used my Audible credit to get JK's newest work, The Cuckoo's Calling. I think what intrigued me more than her book was the fact she had written it under the pen name of Robert Galbraith, hoping to hide her true identity.

In my opinion, this time she has written a winner. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The story was interesting, the characters were well-written, and it left me wondering what had happened right up until the very end. In fact, the story was so good I'm hoping this is the beginning of a series featuring PI Cormorant Strike. (One word of caution. This story is riddled with bad language. It's easy to skip over offensive language in a book, but impossible when listening to an audio version.)

It's now 4:00 in the morning and I think the brownies are slowly losing their grip on me. There might be some hope of catching a couple hours of sleep before it's time to get back up again. I think my strategy should be to eat the remaining brownies for breakfast so there's no danger of them interfering with another night's sleep.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

No Longer Hapless

Thank you to everyone for your comments on Rebekah's guest post. I thought I should clear up something before I go on to the subject of this post though. Kate expressed it better in her comment than I ever could. She said "there is no 'perfect adoption' just as there is no 'perfect family'. There are just families, with stories."

Now, on to being hapless. Soon after Kate Davies' Colours of Shetland book came out last year I cast on for the Northmavine Hap. I am not a lace knitter. I am afraid of knitting lace. But I fell in love with the beautiful colours in this hap, and decided to gather up my courage and cast on. Except for one mistake early on, when I was knitting late in the evening and didn't notice I hadn't switched colours where I should have, I was making good progress. Then we put our house up for sale.

I put the hap aside for awhile, thinking that I would pull it back out once we got settled into our new home. But it's always a deadly thing to stop working on a project. All momentum is lost, and other new projects look so much more appealing than the stale one gathering moths in the closet. Then I thought for sure I would pick it up again after returning from Shetland, but then I got onto that Fair Isle kick.

Finally, after a year's time out, last month I pulled the hap out of hibernation. It took me almost as long to figure out where I was in the pattern, and what I was doing, as it did to actually finish it.

A hap is meant to be practical - something worn to protect against the cold and wind. It is long enough it can be wrapped around and tied at the back, keeping it out of the way while one works. This seems like a good feature, even if I don't plan to be out cutting peat for the fire any time soon.

It is the polar opposite of the fine knitted shawls one usually associates with Shetland. In fact, when we were in Shetland last September Jean and I were corrected when we called a hap a shawl. I'm still not sure what to think of the information that lady gave us though, as I have since seen haps called shawls. If anyone wants to weigh in on this I would love to hear if the lady was correct. Can you call a hap a shawl?

I had my doubts about just how warm this hap would be, given it is riddled with holes (intentionally put there, not the kind left by moths). It turns out it is perfect for cool spring days, and I think I will be wearing this a lot.

Ravelry details

I actually kind of liked knitting this, and would like to try it in a different colour scheme. I'm open to suggestions for colours. Except for yellow. I look like I have a tropical disease if I wear yellow.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On Adoption

My daughter Rebekah posted this on her Tumblr page, and has kindly given me permission to repost it on my blog. It is an adoptee's perspective on adoption, written in response to this article.

Every adoptee has his/her own story and personal experience. 
All adoptive parents have their own reason for adopting and experiences of being an adoptive parent. 
My personal experience as an adoptee has, for the most part, been seamless and positive. As a child, my “biggest” qualms with being adopted were probably being a visible minority in a small, rural, caucasian community. I don’t remember any racist remarks or even childhood bullying or chiding (other than the short girl who said she could see my nose hairs. I cursed my flat, large-nostriled Asian nose that day). Negative feels were more due to societal norms of beauty (reinforced by the community’s population demographics) and lack of exposure to Asian role models (a whole other issue). We all have our childhood moments of angst, however, right?
Two of my other siblings and I are international adoptees (three different countries). Speaking for the three of us, I can’t recall any malicious comments directed at us because we were adopted. As a child, I took all adoption comments in stride, probably more excited to be the subject of interest than anything else—the middle child of five takes what she can get. As a child, I had no interest in learning about Korean culture or deep emotional talks about the psychological implications of being adopted. Why? Because that differentiated my from my two older brothers (birth children of my parents). Sure, I loved answering questions about how I came to be in the family, but to me, it was no different than telling you how my older brother once stuck his heads between the staircase railings and freaked my mom out—it was just a good family story. That said, my parents never showcased my siblings and I as their adopted children, which I feel sometimes happens with other adoptees.
Yes, there were the eye-roll comments, “When did you know you were adopted?” We were asked about our birth parents and their motive for putting us up for adoption. Probably the most offensive and more inexcusable. Other comments did “laud” our parents for adopting, especially my brother who is triple amputee. In my mind, however, these can be taken as offensive, or you can accept them as awkward compliments. I don’t think my siblings and I, or my parents were given these remarks in condescending or pitying tones. Adoption is a BIG commitment, afterall. As a married woman of childbearing age who hopes to have children of my own, I’m increasingly incredulous of my parents’ decision. I just took a moment to imagine adopting a child and I seriously felt scared, anxious and reluctant. “How would I know if I could really love her/him as my own?” “What happens after the 6 month/1 year honeymoon stage is over?” When one conceives a child, they have time to transition and form an immediate physical and emotional connection. With adoptions, you’re childless one day and the next you’re welcoming another person into your family. Sure there’s emotional buildup with paperwork and waiting, but psychologically, it’s not the same. I have these anxieties and am an adopted child. This is why I think we should be more patient of “Kind parents” comments. I do feel differently about “Kind parents” comments that hint at the parents’ sacrificial-charity. Adoptees shouldn’t feel they are indebted to their adoptive parents. 
A few times in my life I’ve had questions and imagined alternate life stories. I’ve felt sad and anxious, but more often they are born out of curiosity, or a selfish thirst for personal drama during a dull period of life. Most, if not all of these instances have happened in adulthood. They never last longer than a good nights’ sleep. 
I argue adoptions need not be areas of contention. Being adopted doesn’t mean every identity crisis thereafter must be scrutinized and pinned on adoption. I recognize adoptees that experience mixed feelings about their identities and those who believe  they are victims of a bureaucratic/political system.
Are some adoptions shady? Yes. Are there adoptees who shouldn’t have been put up for adoption? Yes. Do adoptee issues need a louder voice in social discussions? Yes.
Do I think we should move to a no-adoption model? No. Do I think all adoptees would be psychologically/emotionally better off with their birth families? No. Must all adoptees experience an identity crises due to being adopted? No. 
Over the years, I’ve felt more anxiety and guilt over not being emotional about my birth parents than I have wondering why I was put up for adoption. I have asked myself,”Am I bad birth child/adoptee for not having this crisis? Is something wrong with me?”
Am I a successful adoption? No, because being a successful adoption, means there are failed adoptions and I don’t think adoption is a pass or fail thing. Adoption means to accept one as their own. A parent can’t become ‘unparented’ from their birth child, regardless of either party’s emotional beliefs or identity. So, I feel, it should also be for adopted children. As an adoptee, no, I didn’t choose to be adopted, but nor did my older brothers choose to be born into the family they’re a part of. Speaking for myself, I’m ok with these cards Life dealt me and have not felt the need to soul search beyond curiosity. Of course, I am one amongst thousands of other adoptees.
I’m not against adoptees who speak out against adoption. I’m not against adoptees who wish to be reunited with their birth parents. Like me, they have their own personal experiences and want to give voice to their issues. As adoptees, I think it’s good to recognize each other and share our stories.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Childhood Myths

I cracked open an egg the other day and it reminded me of my mom. That might sound a bit weird, so let me explain. You see, the egg had a tiny bit of red in it. When I was growing up if my mom cracked open an egg and found a bit of red in it she would freak out. The egg would instantly go into the garbage, and if she had been unfortunate enough to have cracked it directly into what she was making, the contents of the bowl went along with it. It wasn't until I was an adult and an owner of laying hens that I discovered that what my mom had taught me to be a truth was, in fact, a myth. Here, in no particular order, are some other myths from my childhood.

Myth #1

Margarine is a healthy choice. Butter is not. I held firmly to this one until about twenty years ago. My kitchen has been a margarine free zone for over two decades, but my mom still believes in the health benefits of margarine. She has made a small concession and buys butter for me before I come down to visit.

Myth #2

Eating a potato sprout is deadly poisonous. My mom was so paranoid about eyes in potatoes that by the time she got done cutting around one there was almost nothing left of the potato. Yes, potato sprouts do contain a toxin, but you would have to eat a lot of them to cause any harm.

Myth #3

If you eat undercooked pork you will get trichinosis. It turns out that trichinosis is actually extremely rare in North America. This is a recent discovery for me, and a welcome one. I no longer feel like I have to BBQ the pork chops until they resemble shoe leather.

Myth #4

Jello is a food. I grew up with Jello being served with great regularity. My Grandma Vera always served a Jello salad at family dinners. It was the kind that had cottage cheese added. I don't know if you are familiar with this culinary travesty. Trust me if you aren't - it's not a pretty sight.

However, not all the myths I was taught as a child revolved around food.

Myth #5

Putting your arm out as you jam on the brakes will prevent the child sitting next to you from being injured. I'm not sure how my mom thought her arm was going to keep me from going through the windshield if we got in an accident, but that didn't stop her from doing it. It became such a reflex action any time she had to brake quickly that she continued to do this long after we were grown up. Of course, this predates child car seats, so it wasn't like there was a better option. Well, except for keeping both hands on the steering wheel. That might have been helpful.

Myth #6

It is okay to dispense drugs without a licence. I grew up watching my mom hand out various prescription drugs to the neighbours. Our farming community was a long way from medical help, but still, my mom studied education at university, not pharmacy. She's lucky she didn't do any permanent damage (the lady she gave the tranquilizers to whose husband couldn't wake her up made a full recovery).

What is shocking is that even though my mom doesn't live on the farm any more people still seek her out for drugs. There has been an outbreak of Norwalk at her senior's apartment complex and she told me at least six different residents have called her asking if she had something she could give them. My mom must exude some kind of "medicine woman" aura.

Myth #7

Crawling under your desk at school will help protect you from a nuclear attack by the Soviets. While never put to a direct test, I think it's safe to say that this has been debunked. All that crawling under your desk is going to do is make you aware of how many previous students chewed gum during class.

There are many more, but I think I better stop there for now. What myths did you grow up believing?

And just so this isn't a pictureless post, here's another "hint of spring" picture, taken about twenty minutes from where we live. Today is a dark and brooding sort of day, but the daffodil field just coming into bloom certainly brightens things up!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Almost An Oops

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the comment section on my last post. If you like a good mystery series I encourage you to read through the comments. There are tons of ideas for shows to watch. I would also say, judging from the comments, there is one show you probably don't want to view. I had never heard of the film Seven before, and I definitely won't be adding it to my list.

I fully intended to have this post be about spring. There are so many signs of it everywhere, and I never get tired of spotting them. I discovered this in our neighbourhood this past weekend while walking Fergus. I think it's brilliant. It makes me want to start looking in the thrift shops to see if I can find an old rocking chair.

The cottage with the rocking chair also had this banner hanging off their back deck. I'm not usually a fan of banners, but this one made me smile.

A patch of sun on the floor is doggy bliss.

Even the latest teapot spotted on my hike looks a bit like spring.

And that is where today's post was going to end. Then I had my Almost Oops moment. My routine is to get up early, make a cup of tea, look at the news headlines, then read through the list of blogs I follow. When I got to Granny's World I couldn't believe Sue had finished yet another baby sweater. She is an incredibly fast knitter. And that thought almost got me into a lot of trouble.

You see, I am really quite a terrible typist. This feature is enhanced if I am in a hurry, which I was this morning. I quickly typed out a comment on Sue's blog, including the phrase that she is " the fastest knitter I know." Except, and this would be a big except, I had mistyped the word fastest. Just as my finger hovered over the "publish" button I did a quick check of what I had written. Or, in this case, what the auto-correct feature had rewritten. My comment now said that Sue was "the fattest knitter I know."

So I would like to issue an apology. If I have called you names, insulted your latest craft project, or said things that made you consider calling the police, I'm sorry. And if you have any auto-correct horror stories of your own I would love to hear about them. It would make me feel better to know I'm not the only one who has had an Oops or Almost Oops experience.