Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Morning Company

He is 5 going on six and looking forward to first grade because he loves school.
Every other Saturday morning while his mother cleans where I no longer can, he and I keep company.

We read Dr Seuss Early Readers and he is a natural there, making all the right connections instinctively. At the end of the morning he borrows the book to read it again at home.

Today I got out a box of blocks and little cars and he has been building for 1 ½ hour, talking in English to himself and to me, "Look what I did!" and "That's real high!"

Till now. "I am ready to read the new book," he just announced.

Bright, attentive, motivated, not to mention funny and adorable, he is the face of America's future!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Better Life for Mustafa Abed

I posted some information on Mustafa Abed a while back (May 19,2008) and you will find more on him and other children like him on the No More Victims home page right here
. . . and updated information on Mustafa on this page

Regardless of your position on the war in Iraq, I believe that no reader of my blog would remain unmoved by the terrible consequences for so many children caught in harm's way.

While waiting for Mustafa and his father to receive permission to travel to the US, volunteers in Portland, OR have lined up doctors, hospitals, housing, translators, drivers, a whole support system to make the trip as carefree and as successful as possible.

The visas finally came and they will arrive later this month. Until Mustafa has undergone a series of preliminary examinations, it will be difficult to say what surgeries will follow or how long he and his father will need to stay with us in Portland. What we do know is that even with the generous donation of expertise on the part of the medical community, it will be expensive. If you can spare even a small amount, it would be put to good use. If not, perhaps you would send good wishes for Mustafa's future.

If you think it appropriate, feel free to pass the word!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Jam Days

I love that small piece of traditional domesticity: jam making.
I love the fresh summer fruits ripened in their natural season.
And I love the taste of summer on my winter morning toast.

This summer I went on my third annual trip to a berry farm which offers apick-it-yourself option, and smiling families were doing just that. I opted for the short cut and bought plump luscious raspberries and boysenberries harvested that morning, at a fraction of the going prices.

Jam making was a happy annual summer feature of my childhood. Children helped pick and prepare the fruit then were hushed out of the way when the pans of bubbling jam were moved off the stove and the "Hot! Hot!" fruit was ladled into "Hot! Hot!" jam pots sterilized with boiling water.

We hung around the kitchen door waiting to be allowed back in for the treat we anticipated: slices of buttered bread spread with the warm skimmed jam foam, washed down with a glass of milk. I especially relished apricots and "les quatre fruits", a combo of strawberries, raspberries, dark plums and cherries. Just divine!

We ate outside while the last dangerous step was completed: melting wax. Year after year, the hardened wax covers were levered up from jam pot with the vegetable knife then washed, dried, and stored till the following summer. Highly flammable, the wax had to be watched every instant lest it self ignite, set fire to the kitchen, "and burn us all to death". Once it reached the critical melting point, a long handled sauce ladle scooped up just the right amount of wax to cover the hissing jam.

After the wax had somewhat cooled, using the point of the same vegetable knife, my mother carved in the name of the fruit and the date. The cooled jam was shelved in a dark heavily carved Flemish cabinet alongside tall jars of preserved green and yellow beans, ratatouille, halved peaches or apricots with a stick of cinnamon, and cherries in sugar and alcohol slowly turning into cherry brandy.

I carried on the tradition with my own young family for many years when our garden produced large amounts of fruit and vegetables. Today, I make jam purely for pleasure, for the memories evoked by the aroma of the fruit, the sticky counters, and my mother's ladle.