Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh dear, oh dear

This sort of thing is why Father Smith always shot down parish improvement projects based on "sweat equity":
An elderly parishioner has stunned Spanish cultural officials with an alarming and unauthorised attempt to restore a prized Jesus Christ fresco.

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez has held pride of place in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza for more than 100 years.

The woman took her brush to it after years of deterioration due to moisture.

Cultural officials said she had the best intentions and hoped it could be properly restored.

Of course she did, bless her heart.

Unfortunately, this is what her best intentions have wrought:

I hope the picture can be saved, but the article does say that it's not a particularly valuable one. I hope another version of this article which states that the church is thinking of taking legal action against the old girl is not true. What good can it do? Catholic Europe is full of nondescript old religious paintings; if the church valued this one so much, it should have taken better care of it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A second damson crop

This year the damson plum tree produced some fruit again, and more than last year, despite the drought and the usual pests. We got 18 lbs this time! I have to cook the plum jam in batches, because I don't have a big enough canner to do more than about a dozen jars. Anyway, damsons are fiddly and hard to prepare -they're small and little pits usually cling and have to be cut out. I've done 2 batches of about a dozen jars each, and they both involved over 2 hours of standing! First cutting the plums, then half an hour stirring as they cook.

One year I decided to save time and labour by cooking them whole, pits and all, and then passing the cooked plums through a food grinder to remove the pits. It worked, but it also ground up the skins so the jam was a smooth puree. That's NOT the way my Mom made it, and it's not the best way. The best is to cut out the pits so when the jam is cooked the skins are still intact - broken into smaller pieces, of course, but still there. Those tasty, sour skins are the best part!

So now I have about 8 jars-worth left to cook, and I'll probably do them tomorrow.

We still have the usual problems with the tree: the plum cucurlios were back, and diminished the crop by at least 25-30%, so you can see how much more we would have had if only I had the pesticides to kill these bugs. There were some aphids early in the summer, but when it got really hot and dry they disappeared. And of course the canker is there - I'll cut off as much as I can without injuring the tree; there's not much else you CAN do about that problem. I wish I knew what caused it.

UPDATE: Finished the damson plum jam making, and made a total of 42 half-pint jars! That's quite a lot; I think I only made more the first year I discovered a farm that sold damson plums and bought 20 or 25 lbs. not knowing just how much work I was letting myself in for. Now if I prune the tree back hard this year to get rid of the canker, it won't matter if it doesn't produce any fruit next year; we've got enough jam to last a long time, as well as still having jars left over from last year.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me

Well, here it is again, my birthday. Today I'm 53. Dean and Emma gave me a lovely bag of various body washes and soaps - if I can keep them out of James's hands, they'll last for months!

It started out as a low-key day, with the only cloud on the horizon being that I appear to have lost my house keys. They're not keys for the outside door, but 3 interior doors - laundry room, cold cellar (where the main water shutoff valve is) and the spare room which is now being used as an office. Dean has keys to the spare room and the laundry room, but somehow NOBODY seems to have a key to the cold cellar. Dean might have one at the office, but we'll have to wait until Monday to find out.

Anyway, that was a slight ruffle on the surface of the pond, but I went to Canadian Tire at about 9:30 to get the 2 keys we had duplicated, and also pick up some more canning jars. As I can't get into the cold cellar, I don't have access to the empty jam jars in there, and I have to buy some more so I can make some jam and antipasto over the next few days. It's annoying, but not a big deal; I'd eventually have to get more jars anyway, as we are continually giving away preserves.

As I was checking out, the cashier remarked that it's already August 18, and I laughed and said that it's my birthday. She wished me happy birthday and we laughed, and I was still smiling when I suddenly realized something. Yes, it's my birthday, and that means that TODAY is the day my driver's license expires! Also my health card! Oh yes, they'd sent me a notice 2 months ago, but as is typical for me, I figured that I had all the time in the world to take care of it. But I just forgot, and ended up today on the last day, with no time left.

I drove home in a daze. After today, I'd have an expired license...ME! And I'm a professional driver! What was I going to do? It's Saturday, and government offices are closed on the weekend, so I was doomed.

But as a faint hope, I got home and rushed to the computer to look up "Renewal of driver's license" under the Ontario government page, and checked the hours of the MV office where I usually get it done. Miracle of miracles, they were actually open from 10:00 to 1:00 on Saturdays! No doubt for people who can't get there during the week, ergo the place was bound to be packed, but I didn't care. You couldn't see me for the dust as I raced off with all my papers, warning Dean that this would probably take about 2 hours.

To my astonishment, there was almost no line - I barely sat down when my number was called, and the very efficient lady at the desk processed my driver's license, health card AND motor vehicle registration renewal in about 6 minutes. I couldn't believe it; last year when I went (first thing in the morning on a weekday) there was a 30+ minute wait! I'll have to go on Saturday again next year if this is typical.

So my day wasn't exactly the serene birthday I was hoping for, but considering how much worse I thought it was going to be, it actually turned out pretty good. Now if we can just find the key to that last door, we'll be in clover.