October is Over

Sometime around Halloween, I usually start to despair. My life is such that I’m always busy. But between September and November I’m not just busy, I’m epically busy – and it’s been even truer than usual this year. Contributing factors include four birthdays in six weeks, apple picking and preserving, Halloween and the last good weather of the year (see also: raking time!).

This year I added to that normal busy mix a cat who requires tube feeding, soccer-which-requires-practices, a new role at work that has me travelling fortnightly and the World Series (I didn’t miss a game this year, at the cost of sleep, relationships and using my spare time for anything that wasn’t baseball). Somehow I felt just a touch busy, even with the strong effort by my husband (and mother-in-law for the past week).

So this is a catch-up post, where I get back on the horse and update on you a few activities.

Grey striking, surrounded by two of his good friends.

Stoneham has a great town Soccer club. We haven’t done it in the past because it’s on Sunday mornings. But this year, it really seemed like something we needed to do. (It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all their friends are in the league.) We showed up to church in cleats a lot, and only missed a handful of Sundays. It was pretty great. Grey was on team Greece, who pretty much rocked it. They lost two games (I think) and won several quite decisively. By the end they were doing things like “passing” and “having a strategy” and “knowing what they were supposed to be doing”. There were a few actually thrilling moments of soccer! It did involve practices, but Grey’s coach understands that I’m coming from work, and so it was relaxing instead of stressful. Greece will hit the fields again in Spring, and I’m excited for it. Thane did soccer too, but his version seemed to involve a lot of falling down.

My best preserve, I think, is the autumn pear.

This year I made: 2 strawberry jam, 3 pesto (frozen), 4 plum jam (shiro, red, Santa Rosa & mixed spiced), 1 plum compote, 2 autumn pear, 1 ginger lime pear (remind me never to accept a bushel of pears again), 1 crabapple jelly (from wild crabapples on the soccer field), & 1 apple butter. I think that’s it. I missed making a second batch of apple butter (I usually make two) and pepperonata (the red peppers didn’t do as well this year). Next year I hope to have damson plums from my tree.

Thane listens to Grey read a very sick Tiberius a story about cats. You can see Grey petting Tiberius.

One of our new cats (what was I THINKING getting new cats at the beginning of heavy season?) developed fatty liver disease, and required a feeding tube. It was put in three weeks ago (I think?). For the first week, he was being fed four times a day and throwing up five. He was within two days of me deciding that this was no kind of life, and ceasing his pain. The second week we started getting some traction. It’s been up and down since then (it was a great day when I got down to three feedings a day, eliminating the middle of the night feeding). Today, for the first time, he started eating food. You’ve never seen someone as excited as I was about a cat eating cat food. He’s going to make it!

Best friends in line for a roller coaster

Grey’s birthday
Grey turned eight, and I took he and two of his best friends to Canobie Lake Park. I had a blast as we rode very mild roller coasters, hung out in the arcade and made fart jokes. Well, some of us did. Then we had sushi, followed by a Minecraft cake. It felt… older. It was the first time I’ve taken Grey and his friends out to do kid stuff and be kids. I loved it – they were old enough to have so much fun with, but young enough that all of them would hold my hand. Pictures here

Scary birthday goers!

Thane’s birthday
I will confess that I just threw an invite out there at the last minute for Thane’s fifth birthday, figuring I’d figure it out as I went along. Two days before the event, I panicked as I realized that it was EXACTLY THE SAME TIME as the Main Street trick-or-treating! I was going to miss it, and all these five year olds were going to miss it too. So I sent out a last minute change asking that the kids come in costume. We spent the first hour trick or treating together. We had a blast, and I felt brilliant. Let the record show that it took 5 years for a kid with a 28th birthday to have a Halloween/Birthday party. I held out that long.

(Does it say anything that I’m going through my pictures trying to remember what the heck I’ve been doing that’s made me so busy?)

Well, that’s about it. I think you’re caught up. Don’t get too comfortable with it though, because Mocksgiving is in (EEEEK!) a week and a half, so yeah…

Anyway, pictures of my super-busy October can be found here!

Makes preserves, and redeems us

I’m sitting in the kitchen, waiting for my apple butter to cook. It’s mid-October, so unless I get 70 apples on Monday (it’s happened before…) I’m probably done with my seasonal canning for the year. I have a farm share – a double fruit share and a theoretically small but is actually vast vegetable share. I try, as much as possible, to do my preserving from this local, fresh, organic produce. So with my source of prepaid goodies ending soon, I’ll hang up my magnetic lid grabber, at least for now.

I feel like this was an off year for jam. I blame it entirely on plums. Previous years, I’ve gotten loads of plums — significant amounts of 3 or 4 varietals. There were Shiro Plums and black plums and Italian prune plums and “I don’t know, they’re just plums” plums. (There have never been Damson plums, to my tremendous disappointment. This might be the lamest bucket list item ever, but I really want to make damson plum jam.) This year, we got Italian prune plums once! Not nearly enough to turn into jam, either! So I made at least three fewer batches of plum jam than in previous years. I even repeatedly went to farmer’s markets looking for plums and found NADDA. Apparently plums aren’t hip. But man, they make delicious jam. I may yet break down and buy (shudder) supermarket plums and turn them into jam. We’ll see how big the rebellion in the troops is before we take such a drastic step.

Also on my weirdo bucket list: crabapple jelly. I can’t find a source of crabapples, and of course nobody but nobody sells crabapples. So if you have a crabapple tree (or know of an unloved one) and live in the greater Boston area, let me know. I pay in jam.

Also also: one of these days I’m going to make rosehip jelly. Slightly easier to find than crabapples, but require the chutzpah to go to some random shrub and start harvesting.

What did I make this year? I made:
2x Strawberry jam (a perennial favorite)
1x Strawberry rhubarb (which tastes identical to the strawberry)
1x Concord Grape jelly (check that one off my bucket list!)
1x Blueberry jelly (no on in my family likes it, but the farmshare gives me blueberries by the bucket and it makes a nice gift)
1x Peach butter (a labor of love!)
1x Apple butter (makes a huge amount)

I’d been thinking about making hot pepper jelly, but my neighbor made some and I figured that was enough hot pepper jelly for one street for this year.

I was thinking about making some of the more unusual recipes from my beloved “Ball Book of Home Preserving”. There’s a curried apple chutney that would help if I only get 45 apples next week, which sounds fascinating and exotic. Oh, and I think I’ll preserve some Pomegranate molasses, because I need it for my favorite cranberry sauce, and it’s a pain to make during Mocksgiving, and I only need a bit of it… so it would be a good candidate for canning.

Then again, if I never peel and core another apple it might be too soon.

Oh, also, for those following the drama… I did get to remove my brace yesterday. Yay!

So tell me… which one of my jams sounds best? Why are there no plums to be had this year? What should I find a way to make happen