Better Late

I’d expected a card first thing in the morning, as we got ready for church. I’d waited  through the service and through our late, diner breakfast.

I was impatient, but decided not to spoil the fun. I’d over-eagerly done that, before. Most notably, by ruining Jeff’s engagement plan and proposal.

I figured there would be a surprise when we got home. Only, there wasn’t one.

Halfway through Sunday, July 23rd, 2006, I finally said it. “It’s my birthday, you know.”

“I know,” he replied casually. “I didn’t have time to get you a present.”

“You didn’t have time?” I asked.

“Besides,” he tacked on, “I could never surprise you, anyway, ‘cause you see all the bills.”

“That’s true,” I laughed. “Did you get me a card?” I was still hopeful.

Jeff’s flat answer was, “No.” Then, a half-hearted, “I never made it out.”

“Well, why didn’t you make me a card?” I wanted to know. “You used to always make me cards.”

Jeff sighed, “I was gonna bake a cake later.”

“Oh, ok.” I understood. Going out and getting around was getting more difficult, so that made sense to me. “You could have wished me a happy birthday, though.” I stressed.

“Yep.” he acknowledged, with a nod. “I probably should have.”

Just about dinner time, Jeff got up, and said he was going to go make my cake. I told him he didn’t have to, and that I’d be just as happy ordering Chinese food.

So, that’s what we did, complete with my favorite almond cookies and ritual fortune cookies. As usual, Jeff wanted to know what my fortune said. I read it to him, to which he responded the same way he had every time since we’d first met. “Mine,” he’d wiggle his substantial eyebrows and the tiny little paper slip, “Says – ‘Lucky Number –  69!’”

Three days later, I came home to a colorful Happy Birthday sign in our home-office window. Strategically hung facing the driveway, so I’d immediately see it when I pulled in.

Waiting for me inside, was a stellar dinner. Jeff made a special meatloaf concoction of ground beef, sausage and salsa baked under a cloak of ketchup and garlic. Accoutrements: hand-smashed, garlic red-potatoes with butter, Brussels sprouts drenched in butter and dinner croissants… with butter.

The butter-use was a nod to the occasion. Our frugal budget and our smidgen of health-consciousness meant margarine, in tubs. When planning special dinners, or upon getting good celebratory news, Jeff would roar, “This calls for Butter!”

After dinner, Jeff told me to close my eyes.  I opened them to a cake and a card. The double-chocolate cake was covered in neon yellow frosting and featured a black-piped beak plus google eyes to which he’d added eye-lashes using more black piping.

The card was a comic one. Amusing and strange, with an extra bit of Jeff’s handwritten humor. “Better late, than never.”

We went to bed full of cake topped with canned cherries and vanilla ice cream, holding hands, and giggling. I loved that chicken cake, and my husband, completely.

Jeff had managed to surprise me on a day I wasn’t expecting anything. I like to compare this birthday to the way I consistently and erroneously surprised him the day before his birthday; every year.

That card, though.

It was the last one.

Jeff had, unwittingly, been philosophically correct. I would gladly take always late, instead of never again.

Quote for the Week: 2019 03 05 late is always better than never again jakorte

2019 03 05 better late than never card jakorte

Snow Food

It hasn’t really snowed yet. At least not according to my adaptive measuring Michigan-ness. That would have to be at least 5 inches. We’ve had a few flaky days; an early artistic dusting of trees. Trust me, I’m fine with this. Never cared for snow.

Jeff loved it. “Oh, good!” He’d exclaim. “Cook and cuddle!”

Jeff did the cooking. I was occasionally asked to participate in pre-preparation. I did the most cuddling. Either with a cat or a dog, but always with a book.

Winter Food. Recipes that only warranted their worth in work in weather cold enough. A not-really-needed excuse to fill the house with warm scents and the extra added nostalgic heated residue of a warm open oven.

Chicken Noodle Soup without the noodles, but with finely diced onion, carrot and celery. Jeff was absolutely tickled when he discovered there was a name for that. Mirepoix became a staple shout in our house.

“I’mma making zee mere pawx,” he’d call-out, purposefully mispronouncing in a horribly ridiculous, entirely undefinable accent. He made his own egg noodles, once or twice. Decided it wasn’t worth it. Dumplings and kniffles worked just as well.

Meatloaf and mashed. That’s where I learned that adding cream cheese or sour cream and/or whole cream to the mash made them silky smooth, creamy. There were no lumps in Jeff’s potatoes, unless he wanted them to be there. If he wanted them to be there, it was because he’d decided to make smashed potatoes. “Not the same thing.”

Adding a healthy handful or two of ground sausage to the ground beef made meatloaf heavenly. Oh, there was goulash and paprikash. Chili and scratch biscuits, too.

Jeff made bread by hand. When I say ‘by-hand’ I mean by hand – hand kneaded, no bread maker. Glass Corning Ware mixing bowls of proofing dough were common on Friday night. The very first he tried was rye bread, chosen for my tastes. It was deliciously denser than any I’d ever had; heavy and filling. Thickly-sliced slabs, steaming warm from the oven, slathered in butter – mmmm.

Maybe, snow’s not so bad after all.

Quote for the Week: 2018 12 11 Recurrently inherited cooking basics often arrive jakorte

A Colder October

I don’t remember a colder October.

Nature’s real lessons – love and loss and longing – echoing yearly. Simple trees and simple leaves. Temporary slumbers; predictable, patterned, withdraw with a promise of likelihood. Coming back, coming back stronger, maybe reaching a little higher.

Occasionally, that’s not the case. Of course, majestics don’t worry about that. Perhaps affording optimism in squirrels and birds and other creatures. Although seeing fit to plan, return rote expecting rejuvenation. Coming from another season’s slumber, they lumber; sometimes dumbfounded when the memory is bare or barely there.

Much like those times you thought you were growing straight, turned twisted in time, searching for the sun. Vital pieces fall away, hacked, splintered, struck by lightning. How it happens; endless possibilities, all still no less of a shock.  

So, I welcome the colors, and I welcome the lack. It’s part of the process.

Lightly suffering through another falling season. It only seems ok because I’ve been here before. Somehow now it’s easier to see. There are no perfect trees.

I don’t remember a colder October, or colors that faded so fast.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 16 there are no perfect trees a colder october jakorte

 

Life’s Like That: Rice

Making rice isn’t for the faint of heart. That’s because of the whole don’t lift the lid thing.

Watching my pot not boil, I have time to think. I’ve been studying my life, lately. Trying to determine self-worth against a fear of no-worth. Trying to remember to trust God.

I snicker, and Blu answers questioningly. If I’m standing here because I can’t trust the outcome of my rice, how can I trust Him on things bigger than potential burnt grain? I snicker again, and Blu huffs a sigh, curling back into cat-nap position.

Right. They’re two different things, aren’t they? Umm, are they?

This is what happens when I can’t lift the lid. I compulsively stay nearby for rescue and the sake of safety. Puttering around rearranging cabinets, wiping out drawers, my Fitbit faithfully paces steps in my galley kitchen.

A boil over would singe my last nerve tonight. After a 7-hour seasonal cleaning marathon, I’ve realized I’m not done, but my body is. Treadmill time doesn’t create kneel-stand-stretch-pull-bend endurance.

I gauge the roil. I re-read the instructions and unsurely determine its time to turn down the heat. The timer is active, but I am not.

I’m still standing there thru the simmer, and its not looking good. There seems to be too much water. At least that’s how it looks thru the lid. I’m determined not to burn. So, I wiggle the pot in lifted circles; ‘stirring’ within the rules, not lifting the lid. It’s not any clearer what’s going on in the there.

At 12 minutes, it suddenly is. Clearer. Now a slurry of milky roiling water and slightly swollen rice nubs, this feels like the dangerous part. The critical point where I really want to stir the pot. I swirl the pan again, and lament that nothing’s significantly moving. Then, it hits me: not much water – that’s a good thing, right?

At 9 minutes, I recant. Maybe its not going as planned, according to the assurances of preparation materials so blithely plastered on paper. 3 easy steps. Except for the don’t lift the lid part.

Guess that’s life though. Standing over a watched pot, hoping everything will become clearer once the process is complete.

6 min. Yeah. Life’s like that. Your focus has to be just right to see thru the condensation. Rivulets riot with your view.  Concentration required comes with a headache from peering over the heated coil, red-face full of radiant heat.

3 minutes. I can still see simmering just below the surface of swollen bits. Ugh. There’s still liquid; disappointment.

2 minutes. Dear God. I hope this doesn’t burn. Technically, it’s not part of my Keto plan. I do reasonably plan to only eat small ¼ cup portions at 5 carbs each. 35 minutes of my life has now been poured into the procedure.

1 minute. A burn now would be a waste of a full 40 minutes, and waste even more time dealing with the mess.

I’m nervously watching the timer. 30 seconds.

It’s time to lift the lid away. Everything is fine, if ‘fine’ means slightly sticky rice.

Life’s like that. All about timing. Whether you’re waiting on rice or God.

The relief is nice, but short-lived. Success over shadowed by nausea, I quickly evaluate my situation, pull the pot from the heat, find a seat and dangle my head below my knees. All the extra effort, sweltering over the course of experience, worry and watching did not change the outcome.

Will I do it again? Probably.  The same way? Probably, maybe. My treacherous mind still believes in the future possibility of failure. Which, directly connects to my Matthew 6:25-34 struggle. Not worrying seems irresponsible to me. But, that’s another blog.

Quote for the Week:

2018 09 09 Life_s All About Timing rice or god jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Rice: Cook Covered

Rice: Cook Uncovered

Rice: Cook Sticky (On Purpose)

 

Stairing

It’s true.

I am often compelled to take an awkward photo – one that I’m not even sure why I’m taking. One I obsess a little over – to delete or not. So, it ends up safely staying on my phone, saved to my cloud, downloaded to my computer; lingering with no real use or draw.

Until one day, when I find myself without words. Unable to form sentences of condolences, I scroll through unreasonably hoarded memories searching for inspiration, a photo prompt, anything that will spark the conversations I have to begin.

I found it filed under spring’s May adventure. I went for another reason; saw what I wanted to see. It wasn’t as impressive as I’d imagined. Truthfully, disappointed, I moved on to try and find a more engaging reason to make the trip worthwhile. Leisurely exploring gifted me three themes: architecture, modern art and whimsy.

I took the same route down as I had going up; on foot, on stairs – noting to myself perhaps there’d be a picture in it, later. Hours later, travelled down, I turned to evaluate that thought.

I found that ‘later’ came with more impressive light and a focal exclamation point. I likely took a dozen and a few views. Hard to tell, because I whittled them down to the three I was having trouble letting go. This time, I looked a little closer. Somehow, a connection sparked between the three photos and the three recent events that needed those words I was looking for.

I still don’t have the words. I do, however, have the hope of heaven and a picture that  paints a thousand words.

2018 07 17 holding onto photos jakorte

with love for BD 06-23-18, JS 06-28-18 & JK  07-11-18 their families and their friends.

 

 

Gingerbread (Hot House)

I can’t place the timing, which always irks me. I wouldn’t even be questioning the timing, if there hadn’t been that recent ‘50 years ago’ today newspaper story. That startled me into a memory, too.

I know what happened, but I’m not always sure how or why what happened, happened. So, on that note, I confess: I’m not at all sure how I got to the beginning point of the story I’m about to tell you. Obviously, some things had to have happened first.

Like the conversation, Jeff and I had. That’s easy enough to recall, because… Wait, wait. It could have been something that came up in a BNI meeting, but it would have had to occur at the end of September 2006. I can’t help thinking that would have been pretty far in advance. I suppose, though, as area business were looking ahead to the holiday season, it might not have been unreasonable announce plans for an open-house and contest.

It’s something Jeff and I talked about, were excited about and planned to do: enter a gingerbread house contest at a local, main street yarn store. I’m sure they carried more than yarn, but the first time I entered the shop wasn’t to shop. I was there to drop off our creation. Near tears, I didn’t linger.

Physically, it was only my creation, assembled in the weeks following Jeff’s death. I didn’t have much time, and I’d never made a gingerbread house, before. The ideas and enthusiasm were just as much shared as everything in our lives was.

Jeff started it, so I expected Jeff would be making it, too. But, there I was, a few weeks into widowhood, thinking about how much fun it would have been to do it together. Perhaps, well probably, I was still in a sort of shock. Functioning and trying to keep moving along. I decided to keep the plan, and set out into the internet world of gingerbread and patterns and royal icing.

My edges weren’t straight, my technique was terrible. My royal icing either didn’t harden fast enough or hardened too fast to use. Eventually, I baked and sugar-solder assembled on a plain cardboard base something that happily looked like a lot house. I stared at the pile of decorations I’d amassed and the naked shell for a while wondering, “Now, what?”

I decided to let the structural bones set-up overnight and dragged out the top of our Tupperware cake carrier to protect it.

Quote for the Week: 

2018 01 02 A good overnight set could either make a lot jakorte

Bonus Photo & Story:

Tecumseh Herald Gingerbread House Jeff and Eric 1967

 

 

Talk Turkey to Me

The first time Jeff used the turkey fryer, it was awesome. He followed directions,  precisely. No matter he was outside in the snow behind the townhouse and not too far from a neighboring house. It was quick and juicy and we vowed we’d never succumb to long-cooking turkeys again.

The second time, there was a little clean-up disaster as Jeff tried to return the used oil to the plastic jug. Unfortunately, the roiled oil was still too hot, melted the jug and ruined his boots. We were both very glad he was wearing full coverage foot wear and not his usual winter sandals.

The third time involved 2 Jeffs and a plan to cook chicken wings out of the way of the freezing wind, in a garage. For some reason, it took an awfully long time to heat. So, they waited and waited and finally decided to check out the problem by lifting the lid. The result was a flume of combustion that blackened the garage ceiling and singed eyebrows. The temperature gauge had not been in contact with the oil, so it was plenty hot and smokin’. The result was a heavily burned, super hot pot that ended up coming to rest in a big pile of cul-de-sac snow.

The fourth time, breaking in a recently purchased new pot, the turkey didn’t cook all the way through in some spots. Could have been the pot needed to be seasoned first; could have been we bought the lower grade peanut oil at a discount store, rather than the good stuff at Cabela’s.

The fifth time, nearly a year later, we took it along with us to a family gathering. To fry the main course turkey, of course. Apparently, the new pot must have not enjoyed the infield at MIS and/or disliked living in the shed. Because, as oil went in, oil came out, creating another slick situation.

So, off we turkey trotted off to Meijer, returning with a new pot, more oil and an ugly pair of fish slippers Jeff planned on bring to his family’s Christmas exchange. I’m not quite sure which brotherly direction it went, but one of them had either chased Jeff or been chased by Jeff with an actual fish head.

After attempt #5 and negative incident #4, the fryer was unceremoniously and unsadly retired.

Optimistically, we opted for a smoker….

Quote for the Week:

2017 11 14 when frying a turkey for the first time jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Turkey Fryer Fire Song: by William Shatner (video)

Turkey Fryer Safety:  by State Farm (list)

Turkey Fryer Reviews: 2017 Top Picks

Bonus Picture: First Time!

Jeff Turkey Fryer (2)