Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Looking Toward the Firsts and the Lasts
Amy’s and my summer at the shore is coming to an end.  We are getting ready to head home to Gig Harbor so that I can go back to work at Gig Harbor High School.  This time of year is always filled with mixed emotions for me.  I like my job.  I assist the most amiable eighteen year old student who is forbearing with an aide who is an old lady.  This will be our fourth year together and other than a new schedule, we have our ways of getting things done and have been together long enough to finish each other’s sentences.  We have similar senses of humor.
The past few days the weather has been cool and even a bit rainy which would make my husband, was he here, sad, but it does not me.  Yesterday afternoon as I dozed on the couch before a DVD a sound reached my ears which I’d not heard for a long time.  For more than 20 years I’ve tried to discover that it is on our front porch that creaks in the wind to no avail.  It is a slow creak as I would imagine the ropes of a sailing ship creaking against a wooden mast as the ship rocks upon the water rather in keeping with the fact that our 132 year old house is two blocks from the Port of Ilwaco.  I have come to love the sound, but was surprised to hear it since the sun had been making a gallant effort to make an appearance when I’d set the sprinkler to watering the garden which I needn’t have bothered with.  Now it was raining.
Returning to a job I enjoy is some compensation for leaving the creaking house by the sea that I love as is the turning of the seasons.  I realize that Autumn does not officially begin until September 22nd (my husband’s birthday) this year, but my favorite season is whispering her name and leaves from the birch tree are littering the yard between the house and the barn.  I took the combination of Mother Nature’s behavior as signs that it was the time to shift some things inside from Summer to Autumn mode.  Out are coming my harvest table runners, table clothes and napkins along with my collection of pumpkins and turkeys and my happy Autumn crow.  Once I am back in my routine of work and coming to Ilwaco to help my almost 91 year old mother, I have little time for what I call “playing house” otherwise known as decorating.
One twist on the end of Summer this year is that our financial advisor says that I can make this my last year of working for the school district.  As a matter of fact between my retirement and Social Security, I will get a little raise.  It will mean living frugally because Dave is also leaving his job at Lockheed Martin in Prescott, AZ where he’s been since June of ’12 and returning to Gig Harbor to begin collecting his Social Security, along with his retirement from the FAA.  We will soon be embarking on a new phase of our life as we shift our lives from Gig Harbor to Ilwaco.  There will be the sadness of having the children and grandchildren farther away, but Dave is certain that we can live more cheaply in our house by the sea than in an upscale suburb. 
Mostly I want to be nearer to my elderly mother and spend more time with my Special Needs daughter.  The average life expectancy of an individual with Down’s Syndrome is 50.  Amy is 42.5 years and I bless each day with her.  She can be extra work, infuriatingly stubborn, and loves me more than anyone ever will.  I would not trade one day with her for any other day so regardless of finances or other inconveniences; I am excited about the changes to come.  It will undoubtedly be a time of firsts and lasts.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grammy Camp 2013
What a difference a year makes!  Last year when my granddaughter Linda spent five days with my daughter Amy and me at our house in Ilwaco on the Long Beach Peninsula we had a wonderful time, but she suffered from some anxiety that manifested itself in her wanting to call her parents several times a day—which I finally had to limit—her calling me if I went to the barn and some worrisome headaches.  To a great extent she was enamored of our corded phone which we keep because it is the only sort of phone my special needs daughter understands.  Think how much fun a phone with a dial would have been!  So what I refer to as “Grammy Camp” was different this year from last.  This year she went for days without thinking to call her parents and did not all me once.

What made our time together particularly special this year was Linda’s interaction with her Aunt Amy.  For the most part when it comes to children, or much of anyone else, Amy is like W.C. Fields, “Go away kid, you bother me.”  Surprisingly enough Linda, who celebrated her ninth birthday in June, seems to have hit an age compatible to her aunt’s mental age.  It was the magical intersection of their lives and lovely to watch.  Aunt Amy allowed Linda to watch movies with her in her room—a first.  She’s reluctantly allowed nephew Gabriel into her room in Gig Harbor, but this was different.  They sat hugging on Amy’s bed and watching a Barbie DVD on her personal DVD player.  I’d already managed to get Amy to watch movies with me in the evening instead of disappearing into her bedroom directly after dinner and with Linda in our company they snuggled together on the sofa to watch American Girl and Barbie movies.  They giggled and enjoyed making fart noises with their mouths and hands and did a lot of hugging which, for all of Amy’s humbugging, is one of her favorite activities.

The day we arrived in Ilwaco with Linda we hurriedly ate our lunch and then went to Ft. Columbia where we were first in line for seating to see the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists (PAPA) production of “The Wizard of Oz.”  PAPA always does a wonderful job.  Last summer Amy begged to see “Into the Woods” twice so when I ordered tickets for Oz I figured two performances, with one to include Linda, in my plan.  The girls were enchanted.  Hope Bellinger, who played Dorothy, had been enchanting last year as Red Riding Hood, but really came into her own as Dorothy.  Everyone involved with the production was marvelous including the very well behaved dog that played Toto!  

From the time Linda could stand on a stool to reach the kitchen counter she has liked to cook so when I mentioned making some Rose Petal Jam, she was enthusiastic.  She was interested in all of the steps from the purchasing of the jars and sterilizing them, to the picking of the rose petals, to the making of the jam and pouring the wax on top.  Linda lettered the labels and was very proud to set aside two jars to take to her parents and one to take to one of her favorite adults, local author Sydney Stevens. 

First Tuesday was discount day at the Fred Meyer store in Warrenton, Oregon so we went shopping for some back-to-school clothing.  Actually, what we wanted was a jacket and some uniforms as the Tacoma School District, much to my delight, has uniforms and Linda was ready for some larger skirts and pants.  Boy did we get the wrong number.  Not only must Astoria and Warrenton apparently not have uniforms, global warming must have called off Winter.  Besides Fred Meyer we looked at Ross, J.C. Penny’s, Costco and our local shop Dennis Company.  No jackets.  Linda didn’t come home empty handed.  She got underwear with the names of the days of the week on them, a pair of Crocks for herself and a pair for her younger sister Lydia, and a four disk set of American Girl movies which entertained us over the course of two nights.

Although Linda had brought workbooks (when she completes the big one her parents have promised a video game) she hadn’t brought a book to read.  I like to read in bed at night and Linda knew I had some Nancy Drew books which I’d picked up at thrift stores so she selected one and we took turns reading it aloud and she packed it in the car to read on trips to Astoria and back home.  I’d seen a copy of the volume that was first in the Nancy Drew series at an antique store in Klipsan so when our travels took us to the north end of the Peninsula we stopped and picked up an edition of The Secret of the Old Clock that looked very much like the one I’d had.  It pleased me that it pleased Linda so much.   I explained that when Auntie Gail and I would come to my grandparents’ beach house in Seaview there was no DVD player or television and the way we entertained ourselves in the evenings was by reading Nancy Drew books and trading them.  When we’d done that we begged my father for a trip to the bookstore for another couple!

Linda also got an introduction to Bronte and Austen.  We watched Jane Eyre and when I described some of the things that the movie left out she asked if I had a copy.  Linda is headed into 4th grade and I believe that when I was a child we were introduced to Bronte and Austen more along the lines of 6th grade, but I didn’t want to miss bonding moment and as I have a Bronte collection that Dave gave me, I was happy to pass along a 1943 illustrated copy of Jane Eyre I picked up at a garage sale years ago.  She won’t be up to reading it just yet, but she told her mother she wants the movie.

Linda’s favorite destination when she comes to the beach is Oysterville.  Three years ago she accompanied GranDave and me to a house concert at the home of local author Sydney Stevens and became enamored of Sydney instantly.  It doesn’t hurt that Sydney lives in a historic house in the historic village and always Linda says, “Are we going to see Sydney?”  Sydney came to our house around the 4th of July and even wrote a blog about Linda’s lemonade stand that garnered her $50 at twenty-five cents a cup.  This time Mrs. Stevens had issued an invitation to come to tea at her house and Linda brought two dresses to choose from.  Because Mr. Stevens had just celebrated his birthday we arose the morning of the day of the tea and made him brownies to take along with the jar of Rose Petal Jam and a jar candle made from one of the little canning jars, colored popcorn and a fall scented tea light.

Since we were early we “toured” Oysterville.  I showed Linda the community hall which had been one of the one-room schools that educated Oysterville children in the past and is where GranDave and Grammy had their wedding reception.  Across the street from the Espy House where Sydney lives is the Oysterville Church where Linda has been to vespers, but which she didn’t realize is where Grammy and GranDave were married. 

Anyone who has been in company with Sydney Stevens, who is also a retired elementary teacher, can understand how enchanted a youngster could be.  Mrs. Stevens captivated Linda with stories about the history of the Peninsula as well as discussing books and school and life in general.  The tea she provided was definitely kid-friendly with jelly beans and gum drops as well as tea sandwiches.  Before arriving at the Espy House we had paid a visit at the Oysterville Store where we purchased a copy of P is for the Papa Train for Linda and Local Legendary Characters for a friend of mine which we had Sydney sign.  When we returned to our house Linda mentioned seeing some shops that are for sale.  She now has plans to purchase one and make Rose Petal Jam for a living.  What a lovely idea!

Linda has many of the American Girl books.  I like them for although they have a story line they are infused with history and societal issues.  Linda first learned about the Great Depression from Kit which led to a conversation with her great-grandmother about what life was like during that era and to us listening to some of my large collection of radio program recordings.  Watching the DVDs meant we could include Aunt Amy.  When we got done watching Samantha Linda mentioned how disturbing it was to learn that children had worked in factories in the early part of the 20th century where they could be injured and the factory owners didn’t care.  She was grateful to learn that laws now protect not only children, but workers in general.  Felicity took us all the way back to the year before the American Revolution and how complicated it was for a community to deal with issues of the loyalists vs. the patriots along with what was expected of a proper young lady.  In Molly, Molly’s growth in understanding herself and the larger world during WWII are good life lessons and the fact that people lacked email and cell phones in those days when daddies were gone for months and years with only letters, weeks old, to sustain little girls.  Linda had learned that her father would not be home for a day when she returned and that also led to a discussion of the months that my father was gone to the South Pacific testing the atomic bomb and how much I missed him with only letters to sustain me.  “You can call, Daddy,” I told her.  “I could do nothing but wait for the mailman.”

Our final full day of Grammy Camp was a trip to the Flavel House in Astoria.  It fit in well with watching the Samantha DVD since Captain Flavel’s home is of an era in keeping with the houses we’d seen in the movie.  We had planned to go last year, but Linda developed a headache (home-sickness?) and had a lay-down instead so we were making up for lost time.  We watched the little movie that is shown in the carriage house where visitors purchase “calling cards” (more history discussion and explanations) to enter the house.  I think the bathrooms (“What strange toilets!”) amazed Linda most.  After we came back outside Linda declared that Flavel House is her dream house.  Since it is unlikely to come on the market, I showed her another, not-quite-as-grand house on the hill in eastern Astoria that might do well and actually was on the market a few years ago.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

Friday was back to reality, but not without a stop in the ‘50s at Slater’s Diner in Raymond.  Slater’s has become a favorite stop for us and it was fun to see Linda bouncing to rock ‘n roll that was popular when I was her age.  Linda’s week with me was also her introduction to chocolate malts which she embraces with enthusiasm.  I fully expect Linda to spend other summer vacations with us and I know there will be adventures and fun aplenty (there are plenty of things we didn’t have time for this year), but this was truly a magical week—at least for me!



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rose Petal Jam

It has been years since I made rose petal jam.  Last summer, with Dave’s absence, I was struggling to keep the flower beds weeded and watered and the lawn mowed.  This year I’ve done what Dave encouraged me to do last year and hired garden help.  It has freed me to accomplish other projects such as painting the porch furniture.  As I sat in my beautifully painted lavender chair I surveyed the garden and the roses, which are plentiful this year.  And I remembered rose petal jam and how the making fills the house with the scent of roses.  It is like capturing a little of summer in a jar and I decided that it would make good Christmas gifts so I was off to the store for jars, paraffin, sugar and Certo.
1 ½ C. cleaned rose petals—preferably red or dark pink petals.  Yellow or pale pink petals do not make an attractive product.  Don’t use those that are rusted or wilted.

2 C. water

3 ½ C. sugar

2 T. lemon juice

½ bottle or one envelope of Certo*

*If you don’t wish or don’t have Certo you can use 6 ¾ C. or 3 pounds of sugar

~From The Key to Greek Cooking, published by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption Guild, Seattle, WA, 1960.

Wash petals gently in a large bowl and drain.  Put petals in a large saucepan with the water and bring to boil until transparent.  Remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes.  Place on high heat, add sugar and lemon juice and boil hard for one minute.  Remove from heat and add Certo, stirring constantly.  Fill sterile jars and seal.  This recipe makes about ten 4oz jars, leaving room for paraffin on top.  I chose small jars so that the jam can be Christmas gifts.  There was a little left over that I put in a custard cup for use right away.  I also included a T. of culinary lavender which is optional.