we’re jammin’

 

friendly, non-intimidating kitchen

One of my goals is to gain more confidence in the kitchen.

If you’re new to my blog, one of the first things you should know about me is that I’m not a perfectionist.

I just happen to like it when things go perfectly.

I’m not an alarmist either. So when I made tomato jam the other day, I didn’t think about botulism or accidentally poisoning my friends. My jam-filled jars weren’t going to shatter in a pot of boiling water, exploding magnificently in my face. And I never once thought about investing in a welder’s helmet. Or a beekeeper’s outfit (for deep frying: onion rings, chicken, Snickers bars, etc.).

I had to stop procrastinating. I had some beautiful tomatoes I bought at the farmers’ market and I had to do right by them.

tomatoes

So I began at the beginning. I read the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving”. Set out the equipment and ingredients. Started chopping.

chopping tomatoes

A few hours later, the tomatoes were cooking nicely on the stove. But wait – my jam looked more like soup! Oh, the horror!! I glanced at the recipe again and it didn’t mention covering the pot with a lid. Which I did. And I shouldn’t have. Doh!!

Another four and a half hours later, the tomatoes finally cooked down and I tried the hot water bath technique for the first time. The jars didn’t shatter. I still have my face and am not going to need plastic surgery (at least not for this reason)!!

Three and a half pounds of tomatoes and eights hours later:

the "fruits" of my labor. sorry. it's my grandpa humor. I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I'm not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive  me crazy.

The “fruits” of my labor. Sorry. It’s my grandpa humor. (I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I’m not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive me crazy.)

All that work resulted in three, almost four, half-pint jars, two of which I’m planning to give away. Tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself. Kind of sweet, savory, tomatoey, jammy, and other yummy, nonsensical words.

I really hope I don’t poison my friends. If I do, I’ll try to write from prison. They allow free-writing time in there, don’t they? Maybe I can start a canning group! We’re jammin’, jammin’, and I hope they’ll like jammin’, too…

 

Art, Thy Name is Phil

art.

I find the word kind of frightening. It’s only three little letters, but I might as well be spelling p-m-s or w-a-r. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic.  About war.

I used to make stained glass and mosaics using glass. I say “used to” because after I moved out of my house, I didn’t have the space (or the will) for it. When I packed all of my glass and equipment, I ended up with over a dozen banker’s boxes, and this was after I had donated about two boxes of glass to a local stained glass store.

Scoring, cutting, and soldering needs a certain kind of space, not to mention using a glass grinder and grouting. But I vowed to get back into it. Someday. At some point. In the future.

The journaling course, “Journal Your Life” run by Susannah Conway reactivated the creative side of my brain and I started to dabble in a bit of watercolor, drawing, poetry, and collage. Mentally, I find that painting and drawing are the most difficult to do – my hands and the paper act as two magnets: attracted, yet repelled. However, this year I’ve been trying to muffle the “YOU SUCK!” voice and have been experimenting with a neutral, objective frame of mind.

One step leads to another. It can lead to discovery – about yourself and the process. It’s very exciting. Cool. Neat. What are the kids saying these days? Are they still saying “da bomb”? How about “fo’ shizzle”? Um, I don’t think I’m using that correctly.

Here is how my one step led to the next:

This is Phil. I wasn't that pleased with how he turned out, but I was just experimenting. I set him aside; I figured he could useful for something later on.

This is Phil. I wasn’t that pleased with how he turned out, but I was simply experimenting. Oh well. I set him aside; I figured he could be useful for something later on.

Here's Phil after some scissoring. He's looking more handsome to me now...

Here’s Phil after some scissoring. He’s looking more handsome to me now…

The new Phil.

The new Phil.

I completed the newly reimagined Phil at 2am this morning. I couldn’t bear to stop and leave him unfinished. I was so happy when I was done; I’m surprised I was able to fall asleep. I’m supposed to go running today, but all I want to do is gaze at Phil. Maybe I’ll make him a sibling…

Phil, experimentation…whatever you want to call it – is so good for the soul. Be it baking/cooking, teaching, writing, exercising, and basically anything you put your heart into, you are expressing your inner self. It’s so satisfying, enlightening, interesting, da bomb. And another fantastic part about it – if you allow it – is that it seats you in the center of the moment, yet you’re moving at the same time. There’s so much beauty right there, right now.

Now that’s what I call ART.

Different but the Same Match #2: The Motorcycle Chef

I know. I was beginning to exit through the dating door and leave The Chef behind because I didn’t think he was attracted to me. I swear to you, he had given me no signs whatsoever on our first date. No obvious body language, no touching me anywhere (I actually wanted him to touch my elbow), no walking me to my car. The last time I heard from him was through a late-night text apologizing for not calling. All I thought was, oh, he didn’t have to do that – he could have simply faded quietly away into the woodwork. Four days after the text, I got a phone call and we set up Date #2. I can’t believe I made #2! (this poo poo joke is dedicated to my more sophisticated reader. I love you bunches, you one person reading this post.) Two days after that, I got another call to change the time of our date. We ended up talking for over an hour. But I’m hesitant to take this as a sign. I think we just get along, you know, buddybuddy-like. It’s not my place to understand the minds of men, so I’m not even going to try. I say that, but since I’m a woman, the urge to know what they’re thinking is incredibly seductive.

“How about a hike?” He asks after telling me he can’t get together for dinner.

“Hiking makes me grumpy.” Every hike I’ve been on has been hot, dusty, and strenuous.

“How about a walk in the woods?”

I take this as a completely different suggestion and happily say yes. He laughs. Wait – did he just trick me?

“Or we could go for a ride.” He offers.

“Ride?”

“On my motorcycle.”

“M-motorcycle?” My voice cracks. YesNoYesNoYesNo! Good Japanese girls don’t get on the backs of motorcycles! 

But I’m not a girl anymore and good is a relative term, isn’t it?

“Ever been on one?”

Now I have.  

I didn’t become Asian roadkill like I thought I would. Images of me tumbling off the back of his bike flashed through my mind during the first few 45 minutes of the ride, and I wondered if I would be able to tumble onto concrete skillfully enough to survive. He told me I could hold on to the rack behind me or hold on to him. Uh, yeah, like I’m going to sit away from you and reach back to hold on to two skinny little handles while we’re going 50 mph? I prefer to hold on to your handles, thank you very much. As soon as we sped up the hill from his place, I was like a suckerfish. A suckerfish using a Thighmaster. I haven’t been that scared since…well, I can’t remember. I don’t verbally freak out when I get frightened. I get quiet. And I was very quiet.

After a while, I realized that it seemed wrong goodjapanesegirl to be clinging to him like a baby chimp. My thighs and crotchal-area had become way too neighborly with this new man’s behind. I didn’t even know his last name. But what a thrilling, beautiful ride. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe with a spectacular view, and we lingered there for a few hours before we had to head back. I was much better on the ride back. Less chimp-like, but my legs refused to stop clamping on to his no matter how much I told them to relax. I proudly call this “survival flirting”. Did I see any signs from him? No, unless I’m incredibly dense. I clung to him like brown on rice and he didn’t touch me once, although I suppose I did enough touching for the both of us. No flirting from him, no innuendo, nada. I thought I felt him looking at me when I was glancing at the menu, but he could have been looking at my chin hairs or thinking about Chihuahuas. How am I to know? And how can I compete with an adorable Chihuahua??!!

When we got back to his place, we stood on the sidewalk talking. I told him that I had to go to the local farmers’ market for work the next day and he said he would drop by. We made more small talk, and I started to get the distinct feeling that we were eyeing each other like two gun slingers – who was going to move first? How were we going to end this date? I finally went in for a hug, he kissed my cheek, and then HE over hugged ME.

Finally. A sign I can sink my teeth into. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Postscript: I texted him from the farmers’ market. He wasn’t coming. He didn’t want to fight the cold, windy weather to get there.

I’m beginning to hate signs.