I feel like the train derailed on this blogging thing, and now I don’t know how to hitch it back up. Oh well, maybe I will just start with this past week, in which we had our thirteenth anniversary. We believe that the best thing we can do for our children is to have a vibrantly happy marriage. So we went trotting off without any children. Do you want to know how it felt?
It felt really, really strange. And it was so much fun. You could even say relaxing. Five children seems a bit much to drop on one person, so we left the girls with my parents and took the boys up north to be with Gabriel’s parents, which was close to our destination at Watkin’s Glen. We have never camped without the children, so this time we decided to go all minimalist. One kettle to boil water for hot drinks, some cheese sticks and power bars. Apples. Ramen noodles, just in case we got too hungry before we hit a restaurant. I am not kidding. And high quality chocolate, of course. A duffle bag for each of us and bedding to sleep in the conversion van we borrowed from my folks. That was it.
We hiked the Glen and biked all the trails at the campground, then needing a little something, we shared a grape pie sundae. A few hours later we went out for Chinese. This is something you don’t know before your tots come along… Very quickly they will take up your hands wherever you go, or else you will be clutching at them to hang onto them in parking lots and stores. Taking your children to a buffet style restaurant is so… involved. The luxury of just having each other for a few days is just that, a luxury, only one hand to hold, and it isn’t trying to run away!
We slept as long as we wanted, which means that when Gabe asked me if I was ever going to wake up and it was 10:30, I actually wanted to get up. Did I mention that we relaxed? I missed the children like everything. It was so odd to read and read by the campfire and nobody complained about being hungry. Campfire cooking is really fun, but it is also kind of exhausting, keeping ice in a cooler and washing greasy pans in lukewarm water, so this was a nice contrast. On the second day we traveled north along the Seneca Lake to the vineyards, stopping enroute for dessert and coffee at a funny little cafe, just because.
We picked 10 boxes of grapes to bring along home in just under 2 hours, then found the home of our friends, Nelson and Amy, who graciously served us a lovely supper and gave us a gorgeous guest room for the night.
The next morning it was time to collect the children in a 6 hour process that involved picking up the boys, stopping at an orchard and picking 3 bushels of apples, then coming on home for the girls. Life felt so do-able again, crazy schedules, complex responsibilities, needy people and all. It was good to get away, but it was even better to come back.
Remember the bit about the grapes and apples? There was no option but to don the apron and get to work. Half the grapes were for friends, but even so we steamed 58 quarts of juice. That should last a while. 🙂 While the steaming process was going on, I peeled a half bushel of apples for pie filling and to dry. It was a fun project, not one that I really had to do. By the end of the day, I was a little tired.
Early the next morning I lay in bed trying to decide if I had the stamina to make applesauce that day. It was a toss-up between wrapping up the canning all in one fell swoop or leaving it for another day when I wouldn’t feel like doing it either. I decided on the fell swoop, whatever that is. Alex got a day off school and we applesauced away. When the last batch was simmering on a cooker on the deck, I asked him to check on them while I ladled the sauce into jars. He thought they looked “almost ready”. By the time I checked on them, they were scorched into a brown mass on the bottom of the kettle.
It was the last rite of canning season… a hopelessly scorched kettle to scrub and soak and scrub and soak. I started in on it and quickly realized that this was the worst, horriblest scorched kettle ever. Google brought up a solution that turned on light bulbs in my head. I share this with you because I surely am not the only person who wants to throw kettles into the trash and slink away.
Just in case you ever have apples permanently stuck to your sauce pan, here is what you do: Pour peroxide into the kettle to about ½ inch depth. Sprinkle in a few teaspoons of baking soda and simmer it on low with the lid on for about 20 minutes. Touch the scorched spot with a wooden scraper and watch in delight as it lifts off the stainless steel bottom and floats gently upward.
Then you thank Jesus and pass the word along. Because nobody should spend hours scouring pans when they are dog tired from canning. Amen?
It is cold outside and the hot drinks are waiting. They are calling me to come play Settler’s. Cheerio!