Empty Nest (The College Years)

For years I was able to say that I was a stay-at-home mom.  There was a certain dignity to that – implying the sacrifice of my career for the sake of my child.  Somehow the years flew by and it was suddenly time to look for a college.  In my town there is tremendous pressure on the kids to pick the perfect college.  Their entire senior year is dedicated to this cause – college visits, AP classes, ACT prep classes, extracurriculars and mission trips (I drew the line there; not that Son was all that motivated to join his classmates in Guatemala). Somehow they were all convinced that this single decision would determine their entire future happiness.

After all the prep came the applications.  We were advised to select six schools – two reach, two appropriate and two safeties. Son was a little light in the activities area, so we stretched band into an all-consuming life- enhancing activity.  It was all there – teamwork, dedication, technical skill, language.  He failed to mention that he never once practiced and hated marching.  He only stuck with it to have one “thing” on his resume.

Fortunately Son had little interest in traveling far to college. On a family vacation we stopped to take a peek at Stanford.  “I could never go here,” he said.  “It’s way too nice. I would never study.”  It is good to know your limitations.

As a product of the Big Ten system I probably pushed a little hard to go this route.  Other moms were looking for nurturing schools, but I couldn’t see beyond the joy of  reliving my youth.  We dragged Son to his first Purdue football game his sophomore year.  It was a miserable cold, rainy day.  As we walked through the deserted campus he saw a few nerdy kids studying in the buildings and decided this was not the school for him.

After about five more college visits and a return to Purdue he decided that perhaps it wasn’t so bad, and he probably was not going to get in to MIT.  Fortunately, he was accepted.

That last summer at home was a strange combination of dread and anticipation.  I could not imagine how empty the house would be without him.  I could not imagine how clean the house would be.  I fantasized about how I would slowly shovel out all my rooms.

Son is a builder and inventor at heart.  His passions changed over the years.  We went from Lego’s to Nerf guns, to modified Nerf guns (who knew you could strap a pump onto a Nerf gun and send those foam darts screaming 50 yards across the yard), to building computers.  Everything in our house has been disassembled and reassembled and modified for greater speed or improved style.  I always feared he would take my car, swap out the engine, and spray paint it.

As a byproduct of these hobbies, I had boxes of PVC pipe, Allen wrenches, paint, and most of all computer parts and cables all over the house.  These would all be cleared out.

IMG_4705 (1)

Move in day finally arrived.  Son was miserable.  He was the first of his friends to leave and he knew of no one going to his school.  We packed the car with our Bed Bath and Beyond purchases and headed east.

It all fits Loading up

After a few quiet moments of driving on I65 he finally spoke.

Son: What do they serve in the dorm cafeterias?

Me: In my day, carrot and raisin salad, burgers that tasted like sawdust and fried chicken with veins.  In your day, probably lobster.

Son:  Do you know lobsters have no age limit? They can live forever. So, if I eat a lobster it could be 120 years old. That can’t be healthy.  Why aren’t scientists studying them?

Me: (knowing this is the kind of conversation I will miss most) Maybe they are.

Son:  We can buy 4, cook 3 and save one for a pet.

Me: A pet that will live forever? No thanks.

We arrived at West Lafayette and ate at his favorite lunch spot – Paneras.  He picked at his food.  We tried to tell him how much he would love college.  We walked to the bookstore to buy him a sweatshirt and lift his spirits.

The first thing we saw in the bookstore was big boy blubbering in the corner while his mom looked on helplessly. I am pretty sure no one was crying when I went off to college. I don’t remember anyone even being the slightest bit melancholy.  (Old) People claim that our kids have it too easy, or we did not prepare them enough for adulthood.  A friend of mine is now at my old university helping freshman transition. He says they lack the life skills that we had.  They bring about 25 piece of electronics and panic at the sight of the 2 dorm room outlets.  They don’t know how to write a check, do laundry or send a piece of mail.  Their parents are hovering at check in, trying to smooth the way for their entrance into adulthood.

We found Son’s room in the ancient, all-boys dorm.  He looked terrified at his spartan conditions.

Pretty barren dorm room - Tarkington Hall

He had no roommate yet (he would be flying in from Bangladesh in a week).  He sat frozen on the bed.  I started unpacking and hanging up his clothes in the tiny closet.  I tucked some clothes into the three little drawers.

I wandered down the hall to see who else was moving in (thinking that perhaps I could arrange a play date).  Every room I walked past had the same sight.  A boy sitting on a bed and the mom unpacking and organizing.  I overheard one dad say to his distraught child, “You’re not going to jail, you’re going to college.”

We left soon and Son headed off to his orientation.  I was miserable all the way back to Illinois, and for many following weeks. Late night texts about lack of friends were breaking my heart.  He also said he wasn’t eating because he had no one to go to the cafeteria with.  I suggested he join a fraternity.  For once in his life he took my advice and joined a frat.  He finally had friends.  It would be OK.

Back at home there was less cooking, less cleaning.  I didn’t have the heart, however, to clean out his room.  Soon it was Thanksgiving and he was coming home. That first break the all neighborhood kids met up at our house.  The noise was deafening as they all compared stories of their first few weeks away.


As the weekend progressed a new obsession started.  Son wanted a pet.

Son: I want a rat.

Me: Why?

Son: They are cute.

Me: No, they are not.

Son: Have you ever seen a fancy rat?

Somehow he got me into PetSmart to window shop for fancy rodents.


OK, they were a little bit cute.

Me: Remember your beta fish and the great fish massacre?

Son: That wasn’t my fault.  If you don’t like rats, my friend has python he said I can have.

The rat was suddenly sounding better.

Somehow freshman year flew by and summer arrived, along with the mess.  Son now had a new hobby – cooking.  Probably because he starved at school all year.  He made us homemade pizza, carnitas burritos, pasta salad.

Days were filled with sleeping.  Nights with friends and girlfriend and cooking.

Sophomore year move in was a breeze.  He now loved Purdue.  He was moving into his fraternity and sharing a room with a friend.  His new room was called “The Pillow Room.” It all sounded very unsanitary and I barely ventured into the space.  It looked like a combination of Animal House meets Rhoda Morgenstern.

photo(2) photo(3)

That year was fairly uneventful except for the first in a string of strange cell phone mishaps. His iPhone had a button that stopped working, so he got a replacement.  He took the new phone camping.  He used its flashlight to see to add wood to the campfire.  Somehow he threw the phone into the fire along with the logs. iPhones melt quite spectacularly (so does skin when you reach into fire to try to save phones).  Then there was the phone that was stolen and the one he dropped and cracked the screen.  This doesn’t even count the phones he swam with or washed with his laundry in his earlier years.


Throughout the year he half-heartedly looked for a summer internship in his new business major.  He finally conceded that he would have to look into retail, but not at our mall.  He moved home for the summer and found a position at Sunglass Store in a neighboring town.

That was a surprisingly structured summer job.  I worked retail as a teen.  Our training involved instructions to wear a foundation and not steal the merchandise.  Sunglass Store required several interviews and a detailed training course in hard selling techniques and store operations.  He was required to wear black dress clothes.

Son hated that job.  He insisted it was stupid.  He did not like the canned sales techniques he was supposed to use.   He had a hovering manager that critiqued his every timid encounter with a customer.  He learned to say things like “They frame your face nicely.”

That job cost me $400 in new clothes and $200 for the pair of Tory Burch sunglasses I bought (so that he could earn a commission).  Son got a speeding ticket on the way home one night that consumed the rest of his income.  He wrote his first check ever and completed an online driving course.  In spite of the misery and costs, he finally had some employment on his resume.

That summer he added beer making to his hobbies. He took me along to the home brewing store which to me looked like a home pot growing store.

This hobby was messy and expensive.  It created giant piles of spent grain.  At first I thought some large animal had vomited in my backyard.  He explained that he had to dump it outside.  Anyway, the spent grain was “organic and like compost”.  “Well, the dog is eating it,” I said.  “At least dump it on the other side of the fence.”

His cooking improved every year.


He even recruited his friend Kyle to help with this one.  It all went well until Kyle started my potholder on fire.


Junior year Son moved back into the fraternity.  I re-shoveled out the house (but somehow I still have all those boxes of computer parts). We went to a few football games which always seemed to be in the freezing rain. We even traveled to an away game to see his friend, Andrew, march for MSU.

IMG_2100 IMG_0951

He learned a few more life lessons (no thanks to me).  On the way home for spring break he got a flat tire.  It was midnight and he was in the middle of rural Indiana.  He called to ask me what to do.  I said to call Allstate.  He said he did and some lady in India said she couldn’t help.  Husband rolled over in bed and grabbed the phone. “Get the owner’s manual out and read how to change a tire.”  Then he hung up.  I was horrified and of course wide awake when he rolled in at 2:00 am.  He was very proud that he had changed the tire.

The summer before senior year he finally found an internship in his dream industry – beer.  He was a marketing rep. This involved working at beer events all over the city.  That part was fun.

IMG_3211 IMG_3215

It also involved calling on every seedy bar and liquor store in his territory – which was the southwest side of Chicago.  His distributor told him never to go there after dark.

I was a wreck when he made these calls.  I loved it when he had to give sample at our local Whole Foods.


We finally decided he was probably responsible enough to leave him in charge of the house and dog. We went on a business trip.  On our last day I called home to see how things were going.

Son: I don’t know how to run a household!

Me: What’s wrong?

Son: We have some sort of fly infestation.

Me: OK

Son: And the dog pooped in the house

Me: She never does that. I’ll bet she was upset.

Son: She wasn’t happy.  I was late for work and I couldn’t let her out.

So upon returning home it took me five minutes to find the food source of the flies (sticky beer and some of that spent grain) and three weeks to kill all of them. I still occasionally find one stuck somewhere.  This one must have died desperately trying to escape from the messy house.


Before we knew it it was senior year.  One last fall of football games and tailgates.

Corey and Tim

One final Christmas break and the accompanying mysterious messes that materialized while I was sleeping.

Wax seals on bottles?IMG_1820

IMG_1818 cans sawed in half, lottery tickets, string and unknown tool

propane torch??IMG_1817 IMG_1815IMG_1814I don’t have any idea why he would need a hair dryer and mixer?

Spring semester was full of job hunting.  He interviewed on campus and mailed off a few actual paper resumes in snail mail (after calling and asking me how to mail a letter: “where does one buy a stamp?” and “where do you actually put the letter?”.  I had clearly failed to teach him life skills.  Yet, here he was graduating and heading out into adulthood.


He informed us he was moving to Cleveland with or without a job.  This was where girlfriend had accepted a job.  Cleveland??  On to his next adventure.  The nest will stay empty. I guess I am now a stay-at-home housewife.  Perhaps I should just say I am retired.



The Golf ParTee! or More Pinterest Fails

They say that Pinterest is an aspirational site.  Even more than Facebook it shows us a beautiful, organized, tasty, upper class life we would like to live.  All it does it make me feel like a failure.

The latest Pinterest-inspired occasion was my brother’s 50th birthday party. Mom decided it had to be grand.  She reserved the clubhouse at her senior townhome development.  Brother is a golfer, so naturally Mom created a ParTee! board on Pinterest to inspire us.

She started with the easy stuff:

Festive Green Plastic Round Table Cover – Party City


and of course, Arnold Palmers


From there it got more complicated.  She and Auntie decided we needed these party favors:


They spent a day or two making golfball Santas for everyone.  Their results were pretty good:


I received daily updates on their other crafts. The flag pole and the welded golf club centerpiece were magnificent.

Then I received daily requests for pictures of my assignment: the cookies.

Here was my inspiration pin:


They seemed doable.  I knew from a recent cookie making attempt that simple icing made from powdered sugar and milk will harden.  Auntie said that she had a better recipe for me to use.  After weeks of asking she finally emailed me her magic icing recipe:

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • stir together —then continue to add 1 tsp of milk at a time until it reaches drizzle consistency
  • put in different bowls to tint to different colors

After all that I headed to run some errands in a distant suburb.  There was a Jewel in the strip mall, so I popped in to buy my cookie supplies.  This was about the worst looking grocery store I have ever seen.  The carts had to be from the 1970’s and some of the food probably was too.

As an aside I went online to read some Yelp reviews of this location:

“Always busy, the clientele are rude, but the people who work here are okay … NEVER buy a steak from here, I have never had a good one.”

“Opening this places a joke , I went there to buy flowers and a card and it took me 45 min just waiting in line with only 1 cashier when there was at least 22 customers waiting and getting pissed throwing all there merchandise and flowers and candies on the floor …
When I told this cashier why don’t they get another cashier to help she says she’s the only one , she had on glasses and was very rude, she was also eating a soup when she was helping customers .

“However, never fails that the staff there looks like they’re hating their lives while they’re there…. And only there to collect a pay check. (smile for the love of God)….

And today, visited the bathroom, and almost vomited at the stench of urine in the bathroom… With the toilet, floor and probably everything else in the bathroom covered in urine, it wasn’t a surprise that it would smell. I think they should allocate some of those not so happy employees just standing around, to clean those bathrooms. “

“this jewel … does serve some purposes they have the food I feed my cat, we have been in our house in Cicero for a week and I noticed that the cat had not been eating what the Bf got at Petco “

So now I know it’s good for cat food, but I should avoid the bathroom and expect to wait in a long line with rude cashiers eating soup.

Anyway, I wandered around the store for 20 minutes looking for Arnold Palmers because I did not want to waste time mixing my own lemonade and iced tea.  I then picked up two rolls of slice and bake sugar cookies.  I decided to save even more time by buying packaged icing and colored writing icing. I was impressed with my efficiency.

I went home and sliced and baked, and that worked out just fine.  I then spread my white icing onto the cookies.  It was barely enough to cover the center of each cookie.  Then I started making my first putting green.  That tube of green icing must have separated into food coloring and icing.  Only the liquid coloring spurted out.  There was no way that was ever going to harden.  The inside of the tube (where the actual icing was hiding) was rock hard.  The yellow and red were a bit better, but I couldn’t even make a straight flag pole. I almost cried when I saw what I had created.

IMG_4633 (1)

I sent a pic to some friends and they assured me they were cute (I knew they were lying).  Mary did ask me why one said “SO”. I explained it was supposed to read 50.

My only option was to scrape all the icing off and start over. I pulled out my powdered sugar and milk and make some new (mint green) grass

IMG_4634 (1)

They weren’t great, but they were better.

On party day I brought the putting green game, beverages and the cookies.  I setup my Lipton 1/2 iced tea and 1/2 lemonade in a beverage dispenser (I guess they didn’t want to pay Palmer licensing fees).  However, I forgot to make the Arnold Palmer sign – so apparently no one knew what they were drinking.

At least the rest of the decorations looked good and my cookies tasted fine.

In my defense I don’t think the birthday cake will win any decorating contests either.

We set up a beverage cooler with glow sticks buried in the ice.  It was supposed to create a cool glowing effect, but did nothing (skip that pin). Auntie worked hard in the kitchen making various ball-shaped appetizers.  Mom ran the games.  Stepmom brought an Oscar-worthy slideshow.  Everyone had a good time, but I hope we have no more themed partied for awhile.

In describing Pinterest, Good Magazine says

“Pinterest—like Martha Stewart, Etsy, or newspaper articles expounding on the joys of artisanal pickles—allows us to quickly satisfy those typically feminine, domestic expectations that our careers and schoolwork have rendered impossible. Pinterest makes us feel like we’re actually doing something, even though few of us will actually act on any of our idea boards—just as I never left a potted violet by my one window in my New York apartment.”

I think the key to Pinterest happiness is to collect pins but NEVER EVER actually try to make any of these things.

Just today Pinterest sent me an email recommending some new pins.  They would like me to make this upcycled tee shirt dress.  3b5a7d9ae63f8b58f780ac896b95b320

I will not be doing that.


My Readers

One of the most interesting things about writing a blog is discovering who your readers are.  I know my mom reads, but it is amazing that perfect strangers read.  They usually stumble upon this blog through a Google search.

To learn more about my random readers I went through all of my Google searches stats (yes we can see those) to find out what people want to know and what leads them to me.  Overwhelmingly the biggest reason that people come to www.housewifery.org  is to learn more about a deeply distressing medical condition – the keratin horn. I too thought I was inflicted with this problem that manifested as an apparent fingernail or feather growing out of my scalp.  Here was the original blog post.

Hypochondria and Where it Leads

Apparently millions of Americans (and a few Europeans and one Asian) are suffering in silence with this overgrowth of cuticle.  Like me, it may appear to be a fingernail or a feather.  Or it may simply grow into your basic horn.


Here are the various Google searches that led to my most popular post.  They range from questions from those who have no idea what they have to searches for solutions.

Searches questioning what they might have (17 Hits)

can humans grow feathers/can humans grow feathers?

things poking out of scalp

I am not sure what I’m dealing with here (how did this question lead to me??)

pillow feather in scalp

short tough hair that feels like a fingernail

pillow feather stuck in head

horn on scalp

Basic Searches on the Condition (850 hits)

keratin horn/keratin horns

keratin horn hair/keratin horn on scalp/keratin horn scalp/keratin horn in scalp

“keratin horn” scalp/small keratin horn on scalp/keratinhorn

Searches from those Seeking Deeper Knowledge (70 Hits)

keratin horn humans / keratin horn symptoms

keratin horn white hair/keratin hair horn/keratin horn small hair/keratin horn like hair

what is a keratin horn / keratin horn on scalp like fingernail

keratin horn are they bad / keratin horn by my eye / small keratin horn

Searches from those looking for Removal Options (2 Hits)

i pulled a keratin horn out of my sons scalp (I’ll bet he enjoyed that)

pull out keratin horn

Searches from those who know what they have but can’t spell it (8 Hits)

keratic horn / karetin horn / kerratin horn

karatin horn/kerentin horn/keratin hor/kerotin horn/kerotien horn

Searches from those who know what they have but Can’t Name It (1 Hit)

hornhead sucker

Fancier Word Forms searches (1 Hit)

keratinous horn

“There must be a website devoted to this” searches (3 Hits)



In addition to keratin horn queries, people come to housewifery for fashion advice.  Most people are looking for information on stirrup pants.  Now I find this fascinating as the stirrup pant has not been in my wardrobe since about 1988.  Perhaps my prescient readers are telling me they are coming back.  People are also very curious about pantyhose and their role in history and current fashion.

Most of these searches lead them to my post on Fashion Through the Decades

Five Decades of Fashion

Here are the top Google searches for fashion advice:

Stirrup Pants Inquiries (about 200 hits)

Stirrup Pants/stirrup pants vintage / stirrups pants / 1980’s stirrup trousers

the limited 1980’s stirup pants / liz carbone stirrup pants

etsy stirrup pants / stirrups pants 1970’s / stirrup pants style 90s

Fascination with White Stirrup Pant Inquiries (50 hits)
people seem to be fixated on white stirrup pants.  I may have owned a cream colored pair, but never really white.  Here are the searches:

big girls in white stirrup trousers / ladies in white stirrup trousers

white stirrup pants/ winter white stirrup pants/

white gymnastic stirrup pants /white stirrup pants outfits

Looking for specific stirrup pants (30 hits)

fashion stirrups pants / back zip stirrup pants /western stirup pants

vintage stirrup pants / stirrup pants 1970 / disco pants stirrup

stirrup jumpsuit did they really have these?  I checked with Google – apparently they did


What to Wear WIth Stirrup Pants

stirrups pants boots / what tops did girls wear with stirrup pants in the 60’s

stirrup pants and heels / in the boot stirrup pants

Just Odd Stirrup Searches

i wore ladies cord stirrup trousers

christmas photos with stirrup pants in themHappy to say that I was able to provide them with this exact request

After the stirrup pant searches, the pantyhose searches were the most prolific.  I agree with my readers that this is a fashion dilemma.  When I was young you couldn’t wait to grow up and wear them.  They were thick and sagged at your ankles.  Then they were nurse white.  Then they were control top.  I personally hated those the most.  I always bought the cheap comfy ones in the eggs.  Then suddenly the hose were gone and we were baring our legs in freezing cold Chicago winters.

Apparently many women are struggling with this issue.  Here are their burning questions:

General Panythose Searches (150 hits)

middle skirt pantyhose / athletic pantyhose

corporate pantyhose / 8th grade pantyhose

teenager pantyhose / pantyhose to work

More specific pantyhose

dr scholl pantyhose  (Does he make them? Apparently he does.  Compression hose to promote circulation)

artificial leg pantyhosefascinating

pantyhose christmas / 1970’s pantyhose

christmas party pantyhose pictures

my sister short skirt and black pantyhose/ i remember wearing pantyhose and go go boot

pantyhose of the 1980’s / 1960s girls wearing pantyhose to school / natural pantyhose

wasting time pantyhose (wasting time wearing them?  looking at pictures of them?) / disco pantyhose photo amateurs (as opposed to professional disco pantyhose photos)  / sister pantyhose school

moms pantyhose / white pantyhose / shorts and pantyhouse / raised skirt pantyhose

pantyhose gymnastic / leggs queen size pantyhose / pantyhose wallpaper (huh?)

1980’s womens suits pantyhose / shorts and pantyhose / sister pantyhose school

snuggie pantyhosethis is another intriguing search.  Did the person wonder if Snuggie made pantyhose?  That could be very comfy.  Or did they wonder if you should wear pantyhose under your snuggie?

Then there were those searches seeking celebrity photos:

marcia brady pantyhose

ann curry pantyhose

I knew if I Googled Marcia exactly what pic I would find.  I was shocked to find that I was wrong.  I found a picture of a naked (fake) Marcia and Greg and then a picture of me in the first row of Google images:


A more generic Marcia search revealed the photo I had in my head:


Speaking of Marcia, there is still a lot of interest in this girl as evidenced by these searches:

marcia brady pants

marcia brady knee socks

Also lots of searches for knee socks.

Many people are interested in cat sweaters.  I am proud to own perhaps the most fabulous cat sweater ever made (handknit by me)


Cat Sweater Searches (35 hits)

giant cat sweater

super ugly cat sweater (Hey, it’s not super ugly)

sweaters with cats on them


Finally just some general and very Disturbing searches: I had to replicate these and see what popped up

my husband will be petticoat in his new dress today for our outing


blonde girls in terry cloth tube top and shorts


roving romper porn (I thought this was odd, but soon learned it is an anagram of overprogramming)

OMG Do Not Google this

can you wear spanx under bathing suit


ladies in swirling skirts/petticoats dancing the french cancan



how do you know if the craigslist killer is coming over to ur house (Umm, don’t advertise on craigslist?)



husbands in pantyhose

Really disturbing images. Do not Google this and do not let your husband put on your pantyhose!!

boy skirt white kneesocks


presenter ann curry silky long legs


and finally the search that is most important to me:

what corporate wives wear


Traveling with the Ladies – Oregon Wine Country

After wonderful stays in Astoria and Cannon Beach it was time to travel to the rolling hills of Oregon wine country.  We pulled out of the Tillamook cheese factory and headed to our first stop – Elk Cove Winery.  The grounds were beautiful (but would be impossible to find without your GPS). IMG_6881 IMG_6878 IMG_6877 IMG_6883

We entered the tasting room for our first wine tasting.   Now, the three of us know only slightly more about wine than your average Mormon, so this was bound to be embarrassing. Fortunately the man pouring was very patient with us.  We were the only customers with the exception of a single, leathery barfly knocking back samples.  She was carrying on a rambling conversation about the varietals, spouting on and on about her favorite pinots.  The pourer was half listening and half walking away, but she didn’t seem to mind.  She just kept talking.  I felt like I was interrupting when I asked my stupid questions.

I started to pick up on a little of the lingo.  Wines could be sweet, but cloyingly sweet was bad.  We sampled a Riesling that was delightful and not at all cloying.

We are also lightweights.  After my third sample everything started tasting alike.  I could not distinguish oakiness from plumminess. As I don’t love red wine, it was also making me a little nauseous (after all we only had free Tillamook cheese cubes in our stomach). Mom must have been experiencing the same things.

Mom: Where’s the cheese and crackers to cleanse my pallet and soak up the alcohol?

Me: Hmm, they don’t even have oyster crackers.

Mom: You’d think they would have some snacks for us.

I did buy two bottles of Pinot Gris, wondering how I would get them home.  Aunt, who abstained, drove us to our B&B.  Now, this was the first time Mom or I had stayed in a B&B and will probably be the last.

This inn was hidden away on a mountain road.  After several hairpin turns and a steep ascent we saw a large house near the top of the hill.  As we pulled into the driveway we glimpsed a sign that said something alone the lines of “This is not your B&B stupid, get back on the main road and go another 500 feet.”  So at least we were not the first to make this mistake.

500 feet ahead was our inn.  It was a beautiful house set into the side of the hill.  There were six parking spaces and only one car.  Aunt pulled in and then decided that she was too close to the line.  After six adjustments she finally set the parking brake.  I was now really nauseous. However, I must say that I never feared for my life with Aunt at the wheel – she drives as cautiously as a driver’s ed student.  Hands always at ten and two.  Always setting that parking brake, even on the flatlands (it took me awhile to figure out why I couldn’t get the car to go when I drove).

We wheeled our bags to the door of the inn.  A young woman let us in and introduced herself as Karen.  She told us to leave everything in the hall and she would show us around.  First she showed us our rooms. My room was the best – windows all around, private balcony and kingsize bed.  Mom had the handicapped room main floor room with a nice view.  Aunt had a tiny attic room with a skylight.  She asked if someone could help with her bag and was met with a laugh.

Karen showed us the common room and explained that breakfast was at 8:00 or 9:00 (we chose 9:00 of course).  Coffee would be served through the end of breakfast.

Mom: No coffee in the afternoon?

Karen: No

Mom (mumbling) Really, would it be that hard to let me make a cup of coffee?

Karen (turning to me): Your code for the keypad is 5462.

Me: Hey that will be easy to remember it’s my phone number.

Karen (dropping her jaw): Really?  Shocking.

As she passed out codes it was clear that they were all our phone numbers and that this woman was very sarcastic.

She rattled off a few more rules.  She showed us an empty cookie jar and explained that they would have homemade cookies.

Mom: When?

Karen: When I make them.

She had a basket of menus from local restaurants in little baskets by the front door.  I grabbed the baskets and we sat outside thumbing through them.  The cookies had materialized.  Mom grabbed one.

Karen came out and hovered over us.

Karen: Want a recommendation?

Us: Sure

Karen: Well what do you want?

Us: We don’t know.  Something casual but good.

Karen: You have to give me a little more than that.

We jointly decided on a local brewery.  Karen pointed accusingly at a paper napkin on the table.

Karen: Done with that?

Aunt (indignantly as she was also clearly not liking this woman): That is not ours.

Karen grabbed the trash and the menu baskets and tucked them back into their cubbies.  Mom then confessed that it was her napkin.

We drove into town and ate at the brewery.  It was tasty with good beer and the Bears game was on.

The next day was set aside for wine tasting. We waited for our 9 am seating.  We were the only people dining at that time.  Karen carried in the first course – some homegrown plums and homemade yogurt and homemade granola.  That was a lot of homemade effort and it was good, but probably no better than regular plums, Fage and Kashi.  There were also zuchini muffins and an assortment of homemade jams. The main course was pumpkin pancakes and bacon.  It was a very delicious breakfast. We quickly drank as much coffee as we could before she turned it off for the day.

Karen leaned against the wall and watched us eat.

Karen: What are you doing today?

Us: Visiting wineries.  We were thinking of shopping.  Is this a nice town? Do they have a shopping area?

Karen: Yes there is a town.

Mom: We want to avoid the rain that is forecasted.  Do you know what time it’s supposed to rain?

Karen: I’m sorry.  God didn’t give me that information.

I just wanted her to leave, but she stayed and tried to help us pick a winery.

Mom was determined to see the quaint little downtown and do a a little shopping first. We drove to a parking lot on the edge of a very sketchy looking town. We seemed to be the only shoppers.  A few drifters wandered the streets.  We popped into a few stores.  There was actually a very beautiful art gallery.  Sadly the Herbert Hoover boyhood house was closed.

We selected Rex Hill as our first winery.

IMG_3354 IMG_3348 - Version 2 IMG_3350

This time we were a little more prepared.  I nibbled on a Kind bar so I wouldn’t feel so sick drinking all this wine.  The pourer from Rex Hill was very nice.  He had about 30 glasses set up with various things to smell that we were supposed to be able to taste in the wines – coconut, vanilla, blueberries, dirt.  I couldn’t taste or smell any of these things.  I did sample a nice Chardonnay that I bought.

The man helped us pick out our next stop.  We told him we really just wanted a “pretty” winery.  He sent us up the mountain to Archery Summit. We were not disappointed.


Just as we arrived, a stretch limo pulled up and a crowd of rowdy thirty somethings spilled out.  They filled up the small tasting room.  At this point we could not drink much more wine, so we split a tasting – Mom took the reds and I drank the whites.  The sounds inside were becoming deafening. We sat outside in the peaceful drizzle.


A nice couple from San Francisco joined us outside.  The pourer then joined us.  No one wanted to be in the tasting room with that group.

The San Francisco couple wanted to know what they should do if they came to Chicago on vacation.  We ran through the usual ideas. Mom and Aunt got into a heated argument over whether or not you needed reservations at the Art Institute Restaurant.

We ate dinner that night at Tina’s in Dundee.  I couldn’t face any more wine so I had a large iced tea.  We all ordered the special goat cheese souffle.  It was delicious, but I was feeling very uncomfortably full.  By bridge time I was really feeling sick so I just crawled under my covers and watched some Netflix and enjoyed the nighttime view.  Just out of curiosity I looked up reviews of our B&B.  Overall she had a high rating – but about 5% of the responses were very negative and discussed Karen’s rude behavior and apparent distaste for guests in her home (not a great trait for an innkeeper).  The reviewers mentioned that she got upset when people did not eat her food.

Now I was nervous.  There was no way I was going to eat breakfast in the morning.  I had to fly home and was feeling sick.  The reviews mentioned having to eat salmon mousse for breakfast when they hated fish.  Now Aunt had already told Karen that she would only be having a glass of orange juice and eating a breakfast bar in the morning.  Karen had merely glared at her in response.  I decided to email Karen from my room.  I told her that as delicious as her food was, I was not well and was only going to have whatever bread she was serving.  I got no response.

I decided to check in for our flight.  I texted Mom and Aunt and told them that we did indeed have seat assignments – we each had a middle seat near the rear of the plane.  Mom had the middle seat right in front of the bathroom.  Instead of being pleased at this convenience, she requested an upgrade.  We each kicked in $70 to buy some legroom and aisle seats in Economy Plus. The only remaining aisle seats did not recline, but after the incident with the Knee Defender guy, none of us dared recline anymore.

By morning I was feeling a little better and nervously went down to breakfast.  The mountain was covered in fog and the news filled with stories of crashes on all the roads to Portland.  I hoped that we could get off the mountain in one piece.  We were called to breakfast and the three of us sat quietly around the table.  Aunt nibbled on her bar and had OJ.  Karen brought in some fruit for me and Mom.  I feared she did not get my message.  I also smelled fish cooking.  For the next course, she carried in a single plate and dropped it in front of Mom (so she did get my email).  It was a salmon quiche.  Mom took one for the team and ate almost every bite of her breakfast and declared it delicious.

We couldn’t check out fast enough.  As we got in the car Mom said, “I don’t like B&B’s.  I don’t like tiptoeing around someone’s house.  And there were no services.  No wine and cheese.  Can’t she make a pot of coffee at night? There weren’t even any glasses in the rooms.”

The fog lifted before we got to the expressway.  We had an uneventful ride back to the airport and had plenty of time to kill.  I checked in my bag that weighed in at 50.00 pounds.  Aunt fretted about hers (38 pounds).  We bought a deck of cards and played a few last hands of bridge.  The game quickly degraded into an argument over bidding a weak two or something.  We knew it was time to go home.

So that was the end of our Oregon adventure.  We are thinking river cruise next …  in a few years.

Traveling with The Ladies – Cannon Beach

After a wonderful three days in Astoria, Oregon we (Mom, Aunt and I) headed south along the coast to Cannon Beach.  Our first stop was at Ecola Park. There was a viewing platform where we got our first look at Haystack Rock. IMG_6798 IMG_6805In the distance is a lighthouse IMG_6808

Next stop was The Ocean Lodge at Cannon Beach.  This was another beautiful hotel.  We had splurged and booked oceanside rooms.  The only problem was that they had no rooms with two beds.  Mom declared that she would rather sleep on Aunt’s sofa bed for a few nights than get a room without a view (apparently sharing a bed was off the table). I got the solo room.

Here is the view from my room:


Here are my fellow travelers (view from my balcony):


We decided not to go into town for dinner, but instead walk to a local pub.  The pub was pretty empty.  Aunt wanted to split a sandwich with someone, but Mom said she was far too hungry to share (this became a recurring theme on the trip).  Aunt and I ordered a chicken sandwich to share and then a plate of nachos for the table.  Mom ordered smoked prawns.  I sampled the local beer.

The waitress and another server finally arrived with our plates.  I noticed that they had nicely cut our sandwich in half and put each half on its own plate with a small order of our side of pea salad.  As soon as she set the plates down, Aunt protested, “This isn’t right.  We were to share a sandwich and we wanted nachos.”

The waitress was not pleased.  “Your nachos are right here,” she growled.  “I only have two hands.”  The other server placed the oozing plate of melted cheese on the table.

Aunt said meekly, “Oh, I thought you brought us two sandwiches.”

Mom’s prawns were large and tasty.  The chicken sandwich was OK, and the nachos were spectacular (how can you mess those up).

We left a big tip and walked home, stopping at a little store to pick up snacks.

In front of the hotel we noticed a beautiful vintage Bentley convertible.  A dapper old man was pulling a cover over it.  I thought he looked about Mom’s age and might be of romantic interest.  Maybe they would fall in love and tour the entire Pacific Coast Highway in that Bentley.

The next morning I got myself an early breakfast.  We were settling into a pattern.  I rose and ate about 7 am.  Aunt ate a cardboard protein bar in her room (because if she actually saw the sweet rolls she would have to eat them all), and Mom slept in and had her toast and cup of milk followed by coffee at 9 am.

After my breakfast I set out to get a closer look at Haystack Rock


Apparently this is the most photographed natural formation in the state.  It was close to low tide so I could get pretty close.  I was promised tidal pools full of star fish, anemone and slugs.  I only saw anemone. Allegedly, puffins rest on the rocks.  All I saw were sea gulls.  It was still beautiful and a rare sunny day in the area.

Here is a view of the hotel from the beach:


After everyone was up and dressed we took another walk on the beach.  Mom was limping as her hip hurt from sleeping on the sofa bed (that apparently did not have the upgraded mattress that she always installed on her own pullouts).  We searched again for the puffins.  The only puffins we ever saw were plush ones in the gift shop.

We then set off to shop in the town of Cannon Beach. Mom and Aunt argued over where to park.  Mom’s theory of parking is you drive right up the place you want to go and maybe through some miracle there will be a parking spot.  If not, you just turn around and backtrack.  My theory is if you see a spot within a half mile of your destination that is easy to get in and out of, you take it and walk.  In this town (as in most of our stops) there was no easy parking, so we circled in a lot waiting for tourists to leave.

The stores were cute, but we had already bought more things than would fit in our luggage.  We browsed and had the requisite ice cream.


Our hotel did not have the free happy hour that we so enjoyed in Astoria, but they did have a bottomless cookie jar and a charming lobby:


We had dinner reservations in a little, ten table restaurant, called Newman’s.  It was in a tiny yellow house.


Our dinner was delicious.   We spent another evening playing three handed bridge in my room while other guests built bonfires all down the beach.


The next day we went to investigate Hug Point Beach.  In contrast to Cannon Beach, Hug Point was more rugged with lots of rock formations and hidden caves. The guidebook warned us not to get caught in the caves when the tide came in.   The guidebook also mentioned a waterfall, which we found.


It was not very tall


We walked along the edge of the rocks, getting wet when the waves rolled in.  All of a sudden Mom disappeared around a blind corner and giant rock.  I had no idea how high the water was on the other side (and she does not swim).  I jogged around the rock and was soaked up to my knees. There was mom spelunking.


As she could not get her phone flashlight to work she did not venture farther.



Aunt stayed back and stayed dry. The rocks were beautiful close up.IMG_6845

We were too lazy to drive back into town, so we opted to have another dinner at our local pub.  I prayed that we would get a different waitress, but of course we did not.  Mom ordered a bay shrimp cocktail, Aunt and I asked to split a burger (well done) and we again ordered the family plate of nachos.

The waitress brought our food.  The burgers was again nicely cut in half.  As soon as she set the plates down she glared at us and announced “Your nachos are coming.”

Mom took one look at her shrimp cocktail and was disappointed.  It was a parfait dish full of mini shrimp. She did not realize that bay shrimp were tiny.  I took one look at our “well done” burger – which was flaming red in the middle.  There was no way I could complain to our waitress, but I knew Aunt feared mad cow and other meat based illnesses.

Me: Do we send it back?

Aunt: I can’t eat it.

We decided to nibble around the edge and we all ate nachos.  As the waitress cleared the plates she glared at the uneaten burgers.  Who knows what she was thinking.

On our last morning we all ate breakfast together.  I saw a table full of older men in the corner including the dapper Bentley owner.  He stood up and walked to the buffet table. He wore a little cap and had a sweater tucked into royal blue denim pants. Just as he passed our table (and Mom’s face) he let loose with a loud explosion of intestinal gas.  “Oops,” he said and scuttled over to the coffee cake.  I tried not to spit out my food, and figured there would be no Oregon romance.

We checked out and left for our final destination – Oregon Wine Country.  We decided to take the scenic route and see more of the coast before we headed inland.  I have driven along the California Pacific Coast Highway and it is some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  The section of Oregon between Cannon Beach and Tillamook was a little disappointing.  We stopped at each recommended viewpoint.  We had a fancy lunch of leftovers in the car at one stopping point.


Here are the highlights of the drive.


Our final stop was the Tillamook cheese factory.  This was quite an operation.  Tourists poured in like cattle (appropriately).


Mom made us pose in the cutout


People flowed through the sampling line trying all varieties of the cheese.  I wish Husband could see this place as he loves How It’s Made.


We were now ready for a little more culture and headed east toward Wine Country …

Traveling with The Ladies – Astoria, Oregon

As the ladies (me, Mom and Aunt) decided to take a trip we had the usual conversation about vacation options:

Me: Where should we go?

Mom/Aunt: Oh, anywhere!  We are flexible.

Me: We could go to New York City.

Aunt: I hate cities.  Let’s go to Ireland and see if we can find some relatives.

Mom: Why would I want to do that?  I have no interest in Ireland or our dead ancestors.  My friend went there and it rained the whole time.

Me: What about a river cruise in Europe?  Like the ones they show at the start of Downton Abbey?

Aunt: I did a river cruise once and it was so boring.  “Castle on the left … castle on the right”

Me: What about an ocean cruise?

Mom: With my vertigo?

This went on for hours.  There apparently was no town or mode of transportation that they could agree on.  Then someone suggested Oregon.  It turned out that none of us had been, there so we had no potential complaints.

My dad and brother had both been in recent years, so we simply copied their itinerary.  That was easy.  We booked the same hotels, got their restaurant recommendations, and I booked the plane (carefully selecting aisle seats for each of us).

The most difficult part of the planning process was finding the perfect jacket.  It had to  lightweight enough to pack, have a hood and be waterproof for rain. It required a lining for a little bit of warmth.  Actual packing day required about 20 texts to determine how many pairs of dress pants and shoes to bring.  I tend to bring excessive amounts of shoes.

I arrived at O’Hare to learn (via text) that the ladies had already checked in and had somehow managed to check me in in absentia.  I was to find someone named Tim at Kiosk 1.  As I wandered looking for this kiosk I got another text telling me that Tim was at an outside kiosk.

I found Tim, maneuvered through security, bought some caramel corn and found them sipping Starbucks at the gate.

Me: Really?  Curbside check in?  What are you, executives on a tight schedule?  You got here three hours early.

We boarded, settled into our aisle seats and bought our Direct TV for the flight.  I watched teen cancer flick The Fault in Our Stars (my 12 year old niece had seen this 3 times, so I figured it was good, but would not end well.)  I then switched to the lighter “The Other Woman” and then we were in Portland.

Husband had nicely booked our rental car for us.  Of, course, I soon learned why.  I had no idea that Costco was also now a travel agent.  He found us a “deal” at Alamo that involved a very long walk and then a shuttle ride.  After driving about 15 minutes I asked the Alamo lady exactly how far away this place was.

“Well, usually only about 5 minutes, but with the construction you can’t get there.”

When I finally got to the actual rental counter the woman grilled me.  She wanted me to buy insurance, gas, an upgrade and some sort of umbrella policy.  When I declined she demanded to know my deductible.

Me: I have no idea.

Agent: Well we will require that information if you file a claim.

She then gave me a ten minute lecture on the $500 fine if I were to be caught driving and talking on my cell phone.

She walked us outside and pointed to an Altima – “there is your free upgrade”.  So she was going to bill me for this upgrade?

Aunt was not comfortable with using the GPS and Mom gets car sick and has to sit in front.  Aunt decided to drive and Mom to navigate.  After 20 minutes of this arrangement we were still circling the airport.  Mom turned on her phone GPS and we listened carefully to the GPS lady and found our way onto the expressway.

A few hours later we arrived in Astoria and the Cannery Pier Hotel.  The interesting thing about not planning your own trip is that you have no idea what you are in for.  Aunt had ordered the AAA books and picked out the activities.  I don’t know what I thought Astoria would be, but not this.  It was a very interesting industrial town at the mouth of the Columbia River with constant traffic of barges and container ships and freighters.


IMG_6773This was a wonderful little hotel with all the things we love – free breakfast on the water, free wine and cheese hour, and fresh cookies at night.  Our rooms had waterfront views and little balconies.


The hotel recommended some local breweries for dinner.  We picked Buoy – great beer and brats.


Mom enjoyed the sea lions resting underneath


We then had to find our way back to the hotel. This is not a big town and had only one main road, but the hotel was tucked behind some fast food restaurants.  We directed Aunt to turn right at what we thought was the entrance.  It was an entrance all right – to the world’s longest continuous truss bridge; The Lewis and Clark bridge.  We were going to Washington!  Aunt was not happy.


Aunt: This is not good.

Mom: Wait – there is a sign that says you can take a U turn.  Just turn around.


Aunt: That is not a U turn sign, it’s a hairpin turn warning!  Are you trying to get us killed?

So we traversed the four mile bridge and exited into Washington.  Aunt was sure that we would not be able to get off the expressway for 30 miles, but after only a few miles we came across a little turnaround called Dismal Nitch. It seemed an ominous name.  We later learned this is where Lewis and Clark holed up for 6 apparently dismal days before they could cross the river.

From the NPS website:

“A fierce winter storm forced the Corps off the river Nov. 10 and pinned the group to a north shore cove consisting of little more than jagged rocks and steep hillside. Captain William Clark named the dreary spot “that dismal little nitch.” For six stormy days, the group was trapped by fierce wind and high waves at the rocky shoreline. For only the second time in the expedition, Clark said he was concerned for the safety of the Corps. “A feeling person would be distressed by our situation,” he wrote in wet misery, as the expedition became in danger of foundering just within a few miles of its destination — The Pacific Ocean. Finally, the storm broke and allowed the group to move on. It missed the trading ship, but eventually achieved its exploration goals.”

Lewis and Clark with their “rotting clothes” were stuck there for 6 days.  We only wasted 30 minutes.  We turned around and found our hotel.

The weather was unseasonably warm for September,  As I tried to sleep that first night I realized I could not really breathe.  I went to adjust the thermostat and saw that it was set at 50 and that there was no switch to choose between cool and heat.  This place had no air!  There was one window but I could feel no breeze.  The door did not have a screen so I feared a room full of seagulls if I opened it.

At breakfast I could hear everyone talking about this problem of the cooling.  One man tied his door open with a rope.  As I walked down the hall I saw an open supply closet full of box fans.  I requested a few of those and then we were perfect.

Astoria is an interesting little town.  It was, of course, the winter home of Lewis and Clark.  In 1810 John Jacob Aster started a fur trading post. The British took over the fur trading until the Oregon Trail pioneers arrived.  Astoria is a port city sitting at the entrance to the Columbia River. It had a thriving fishing and canning industry. It also has a large timber industry.  It is also home to the Goonies house.

Apparently Astoria is tied as the most humid city in the US (which explains the daily complaining about frizzy hair)

Our sightseeing in Astoria included the Lewis and Clark Park.  We saw a reproduction of the fort where they spent that miserable winter.  It was pretty sturdy lodgings for just a few months.  We then walked a few feet on the Fort to Sea Trail. This entire Lewis and Clark expedition sounded quite awful. In addition to Dismal Nitch they named Cape Disappointment.

IMG_3311 IMG_0082This Sacagawea was very short.  I wonder if she was as miserable as Lewis and Clark.  She did everything they did with a baby strapped to her back.

In downtown Astoria we went to the Maritime Museum and the Flavel House. We also went shopping.  They had a few nice stores and I promptly bought a new sweater (handmade in Nepal; not exactly a local craft, but unusual).  I decided to run the bags back to the car.  As I was ready to cross the street a car pulled up to the stop sign.  A young woman driver was talking on her cell phone and I was afraid she would plow me over.  I gave her the “mom look” about being on the phone.  As I crossed in front of her she rolled her window down:

Lady: Hey, what’s your problem?

Me: You can’t talk on your phone.  You’re going to get a $500 ticket.

Lady: Well you don’t have to act like a bitch!

I weighed my options.  She didn’t look dangerous.  I was tempted to let her have it.  Just then a police car hit his siren and crossed in front of her.

Me: Look, I just saved you $500.

I was not sure she was grateful, so i feared she would key my car and I would have to pay that deductible.

We did more shopping and I kept an eye out for the crazy driver.  Then it was time for lunch.  Aunt wanted to go to the best fish and chip place in the world (according to AAA) – Bowpicker.  We found the address and pulled up to find what looked like the SS Minnow run aground:


Mom wanted nothing to do with buying fish off an old boat and eating on a dirty picnic table, so we went elsewhere.

Our final dinner was at The Bridgewater Bistro – a lovely restaurant about 50 yards from our hotel, so we couldn’t get lost.

Overall, we all felt that Astoria was a great place to visit and the Cannery Pier Hotel was fabulous.  They even had bikes you could borrow (not that we did).



After three nights we checked out.  We hated to leave our wonderful hotel. Our next stop was Cannon Beach.

In order to see more of the Oregon coast we stopped along the way at Del Ray Beach.  We told Aunt she could drive on the beach, but she was not convinced.  She parked as far as she could from the water.


Aunt told us we were stopping in Seaside to walk on their wonderful Promenade.


Mom was focused on procuring our lunch place.  With Mom, food quality is secondary.  It is all about the atmosphere.  It can’t be a chain.  It can’t be “inland”.  She pointed to a very rundown looking enormous hotel restaurant on the water.  She sensed our lack of enthusiasm.

Mom: What?  Just order a grilled cheese and a Coke and you’ll be fine.

So we had a very mediocre lunch and headed back down the coast.  Aunt driving, Mom riding shotgun and me yelling GPS directions from the back seat. Next stop … Cannon Beach.

We’re Jammin’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am not much of a cook.  Somehow, despite that fact, I found myself roped into not just cooking, but also canning something (putting something up, I believe it’s called). Mary is an experienced jam maker and I have enjoyed her jams for years.  Apparently tired of my freeloading, she suggested that I buy some tart cherries and make my own.  Sally and Noelle were very excited at the idea.  I was not, but as I have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) I agreed.

I also agreed to buy the cherries, as I was in Michigan for the weekend.  Son and I took a detour and stopped at Frank Farms in Berrien Springs.  For $1.50/pound you can pick them or you can buy them.  I chose the latter.  He weighed two buckets of strange looking cherries.  I realized that I had never actually never seen a tart cherry.

Me: Are they pitted?

Frank: No, drive over to that structure over there and he’ll set you up.

I had no idea that buying cherries was so much work.  I had to wash them in two metal tubs of freezing water and then pick out the bad ones.  Then I brought them to the pitter (a giant machine that rolls around and somehow pops the pits out.  The only thing I brought to collect the cherries were some plastic grocery bags.  I held a bag under the pitter and tons of juicy wet cherries came sliding out.  I had no idea these things were that messy.  My bag was leaking juice all down my arms.  Fortunately son had a beer cooler in the car and we put the red, dripping bags in that instead of on the floor of my car.

The next night Mary agreed to show a few of us how this was done.  She recommended wearing an apron and a sweatband (I haven’t seen mine since the 1982 Let’s Get Physical Tour).

Sally offered her kitchen.

“Here we go” says Mary.


Noelle bought cans.  Apparently our local True Value has a large canning section.  Who knew?


I bought 23 pounds of cherries.  Perhaps with the pits removed it was 18 pounds.  First, we washed the cherries.


Then we chopped the cherries.  Mary supplied the food processor as Sally cooks even less than I do. She also brought her canning kit that included enough supplies and instruments to deliver a large baby.


We added loads of sugar, lemon juice and pectin and brought to a rolling boil (don’t ask me any details, just Google a recipe if you want to do this).

At the same time we sterilized the jars and lids.





Sally checks to see if the lids are done


We filled the jars and wiped the edges (apparently there are many food poisoning possibilities in this canning business).  A blob of jam on your rim can lead to death by botulism or something.


After filling the jars we put them into the giant pot with a canning rack on the bottom and boiled for ten minutes.  We used these special jam forceps to remove the jars.  Voila – jam!


As the jars started sealing and popping we congratulated ourselves.  We were so impressed with our success that we made big plans.  We would pass these out as gifts.   We would then can more fruits and then enter them in the State Fair (Sally suggested starting with the County Fair).  I would be as domestic as Almanzo’s mom in Farmer Boy (I really want to make her twisted donuts that turn themselves).

We would create a new club – a group of jam experts and we would change our names.  Mary would henceforth be know as Cherri (with an i), Noelle was Peach, Sally was Punkin, and I was elected to be Razzberry,  I am not particularly happy with my jam name and really wanted to be Punkin.

The next day we discovered that our jam was not very jammy – more syrupy. However, it tastes great even if it slides off the toast.


I accepted my next assignment and agreed to get blueberries for round two.  This time Noelle/Peach hosted. Our new group  was now outfitted in custom aprons with our fruit nome de plumes. Mary/Cherri wants to know why hers is a mini apron.


We were now experts.  I found a Kraft recipe that looked simple (Hey, they make a lot of jelly). Noelle, who excels at buying supplies for any new hobby, had a brand spankin new canning ensemble.  We could now work twice as fast.  Sally/Punkin bought a canning magazine. We rinsed, chopped and added sugar and pectin.


George watches as Noelle stirs the first batch.


Sally works on the other batch.


We canned.


As we filled the jars we noted that Team Noelle was able to can 17 jars, while Team Sally only yielded 13 jars.  Apparently they made some mighty thick jam.


Ten minutes in the boiling pot and we had blueberry jam.  We sampled a jar and it was so delicious – like eating fresh blueberry pie.  Sally asked where the fresh buttermilk biscuits were.  Noelle suggested she try Bob Evans.  We suddenly were all craving biscuits.


I still am not sure about my jam name.


I brought my seven jars of jam home.  I was concerned that Husband would feel sad and neglected sitting home alone while I did all this jamming.  After he tasted the jam he said, “Why don’t you do more of this and less knitting?” That’s the closest thing I’ve had to a compliment for anything I have cooked.

Son is a home brewer who drives me crazy with the mess and constant desire to try a new beer recipe (and then drinks but a bottle or two).  He noted my growing jam inventory on the kitchen table and laughed. “It’s just like my beer.  You can’t possibly eat all that jam, but it’s not really about that, is it?”  He smiled at me evilly and then tied my apron on the dog.


Apparently, we are putting up peaches at my house next.  This involves actually de-skinnning a fruit and sounds very messy.  I’m thinking of proposing pumpkin butter from canned pumpkin instead.