Thursday, June 30, 2011

You've Got to Try This

I made four pies at the beach--two blueberry and two cherry.  The cherry pies were the hands down favorite (mine too).  Last summer, I tried freezing cherry pie filling; those cherry pies were made with that filling.  Yesterday, I made some more, so I thought I would share the winning recipe.

Cherry Pie Filling
 8 cups of tart cherries
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 cups of sugar

Wash cherries; drain. Pit cherries.
Combine sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in cherries; let stand until juices begin to flow, about 30 minutes.  Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken.  Ladle pie filling into can-or-freeze jars or plastic freezer boxes, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Cool at room temperature not to exceed 2 hours.  Seal, label, and freeze.
Today, it is back to the Amish farmer's market to buy more cherries.  I think four quarts of this red goodness are not nearly enough for the pies I need to make next year.  Go get yours soon.  Cherry season doesn't last long!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beyond Mere Disappointment

Last night, I finished this triangular prayer shawl, but I am not pleased with it.  

Two weeks ago, a telephone call delivered sadness, news that weighs heavily on my heart.  A longtime, very dear family friend battles cancer. Virulent and malignant, it has spread to multiple places throughout her body.  She has months, or so says her doctor.  I felt she called to say goodbye.  What does one say or do about this?  I told her we would pray for her (which we are), I listened, and I cried (she did to).  The next morning, I wrote her a letter, and I bought yarn.  Eleanor starts chemo very soon, so I thought making her a light, soft, prayer shawl for summer treatments was something tangible I could do while wrestling with her diagnosis and bleak prognosis.  I purchased a light, organic, bamboo yarn, deciding on worsted weight rather than the bulky that was called for in the pattern. Using larger needles, I hoped to create a loose knit and soft drape.  But these were not a good choices, because while knitting in our car on our travels to and from North Carolina, I dropped stitches. The repairs are evident, and I am disappointed. I won't give Eleanor this visibly flawed covering.

My goal was to create something to present to her when we visit her; I wanted to "do" something for her by making something for her.  The real beauty (and power) of prayer shawls is while making them, I am praying (a lot) for the recipient, so  I did "do" something, something that Eleanor will never see.  And maybe that is okay. Perhaps what is more important now is simply being something for her. I guess our prayers, our presence, and our friendship, spanning almost 31 years, need to suffice, even when nothing seems sufficient right now.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Living on Beach Time

We are on vacation--away from our state, our house, our routine, our calendar, and our clocks.  Time is irrelevant at the beach. Our days have been spent riding bikes in the morning to get the newspaper and tool around a bit...

Later on we walk to the beach
and sit...

or stand...

or play...
Then back home to spend time making puzzles...

and reading...
and reading...
 and more reading....

Sometimes we draw...
and other times we eat...
But at all times, we really just love being together.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I can tell when the school year winds down, because my brain turns to mush--too much use I guess.  An over taxed brain at the end of the day results in an under taxing reading appetite. I read all three of the Friday Night Knitting Club books, one right after another during the closing weeks of school.  Who knew Knit Lit comprises its own genre? 

I own a whole shelf of knitting books, collected over years of knitting.  Like the CD's played repeatedly, and the cookbooks containing splattered pages, there are a few knitting books, with post-it notes marking more than one pattern--a small selection of books read page-by-page, taking in the narratives as well as the patterns.  I used two of them these past several weeks.

Mason Dixon Knitting is a charming, as well as, practical book. The delightful thing about it is the number of patterns that call for dishcloth yarn, the cheap cotton yarn easily purchased at Walmart.  I have made bibs, burp cloths, dishcloths, a rag rug, and my latest obsession, this "Heartbreakingly Cute Baby Kimono." It is...heartbreakingly cute.
The other book, the one currently sitting on my knitting sofa, is the newest book added to my collection and the second in a two-book series by Joelle Hoverson--More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.  I really enjoyed and used heavily her first book (Last Minute Knitted Gifts) and didn't hesitate to order the second book when it was published last year. In addition to a variety of patterns (included in sections titled by number of hours calculation for completion), Hoverson writes about the use of color, practical and lovely ideas for wrapping knitted gifts, while also indexing practical basic knitting knowledge.  I have made numerous "Linen Stitch Bookmarks" and one set of "Baby Socks." I am in the process of making the "Easy Baby Cardigan."
Having some oldies but goodies, the simple basics, those things tried and true, or whatever we call the touchstones we return to over and over again, grounds us.  Gives us something we can count on. And that is comforting when life gets too hectic or our brains turn to mush.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Endings and beginnings

After over a week of saying goodbye to my students, my classroom, and my colleagues, I woke this morning to welcome my first official day as a retiree. However, even as this third act commences, it begins by looking back with tender reflection:

...on the most beautiful retirement party anyone ever could have.  I am blessed to have worked with the loveliest of ladies who spun magic in my life by providing encouragement, strength, wisdom, good humor and love.

 ...on the love, devotion and blessing of an anam chara,  friend of the soul.  Carol's love for me and her work to mark this transition with elegance, meaning, and more than touching tribute has been beyond imagination or belief. It has rendered me speechless on more than one occasion.  To be known and to be loved so fully is one of life's greatest gifts.

 ....on my last days with "my kids," since really it has always been about them.  Over these past 22 years, I roughly calculate 2,200 names in those 22 gradebooks. These past several weeks, I have sorted through files (both paper and digital) of lessons, quizzes, student projects, emails, notes--a collage of so many faces and so many stories etched into my heart's memory.  I carry these always.

..and on all my talented, dedicated, and caring colleagues--members of the reading staff, the English department, the high school faculty and staff and the school district administration.  Their words and gifts to me this week have humbled me as they have honored me.  I am grateful beyond measure. Teaching (and education) creates unbounded wealth. And I know in every fiber of my being that I am indeed one rich woman.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The last day of school

At last, the day is here, the day when after I turn in my grades, my keys, and my computer, I exit an emptied classroom for the final time.  In true Herman (and Hamlet) fashion, I have pondered (and over pondered) this day since school began in August.
 My teaching career commenced at Lake Lehman High School in August 1988.  Those five years in Lehman were halcyon days of hard, hard work (five preparations!) coupled to the thrill of learning how to teach and the delight of what it means to have pupils. In so many ways, Lehman students and one  master teacher (Maureen Purcell) instilled in me the soul of teaching that has propelled me through my entire career.  It was a sacred time...
 In 1994, I returned to my hometown and to my Alma Mater, State College Area High School. My tenure here refined who I am as a teacher and unquestionably defined who I am as a colleague and a member of a faculty.  My students continued as the lights and loves of my days and the reasons I returned each August.

In the 20+ years my Septembers through June have been spent in a classroom, much in the field of education has changed; however the fundamental truth of what it means to be a teacher remains the same.  It is indeed hard work. But it is primarily a thrilling, delightful, meaningful, fulfilling and touching calling.  I have always been proud to say I am teacher.

For quite a while now, people have been asking me how I feel about retiring, this stepping away from my career in a classroom.  It has been difficult to wrap language around what I need to say about this knot tying up my stomach.  I know those words and those stories will come. But not today...
(These images of my classroom come from the eye and camera of Denise Schwab; thank you, Denise)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Strawberry Saturday

“Strawberries are the angels of the earth, 
innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward.” 
~Terri Guillemets

The Amish fruit and vegetable stand is back in business and today they had rows and rows of beautiful strawberries, my grandson's and my favorite fruit.  I bought a flat....
and froze some...
 and made some frozen strawberry yogurt with this recipe:  

1 pound fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 tsp. lemon juice

Slice strawberries into small pieces. Toss in bowl with sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand for a little while.  Puree strawberries and liquid with the yogurt and lemon juice. Refrigerate for an hour and then freeze in your ice cream maker.  

My ice cream maker is new--an attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and this was really easy to make and really good to eat!
And finally after dinner, I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam, another favorite of mine...

using this recipe:
2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 package powdered pectin
1/2 cup lemon juice
51/2 cups sugar
Combine strawberries, rhubarb, powdered pectin and lemon juice in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Skim foam.  Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. 

All sweetness!