Monday, September 29, 2008

Returning to my Roots

Do fruit rooms exist outside of Mormon culture? Do other people have an entire room in their home devoted to food storage? Going down to the fruit room to retrieve a bottle or a can of produce used to scare me as a child. I would obediently head down the stairs into the recesses of our home, passing through a semi-dark, underused room, to the outer darkness of the storage room. One of the reasons it was so scary is that I had to step into total darkness and fish my hand around for the dangling string to pull the light on. Even with the light on, I imagined spiders and rats lurking. And when I was very young, I had an irrational fear that the three bears lived under the stairs, the fear never quite left me. Since I grew up during the cold war, I was quite certain that at some point, our entire family would be forced to live in the small narrow room to survive. I imagined that I would play with the elf Christmas ornaments with small styrofoarm heads and colorful costumes for entertainment.

Growing up I took the bottles of fruit the room contained, mostly peaches, pears, and grape jelly, for granted. I do remember my mom bottling and I have a vague memory of helping out, but not too much. My most firm memory of the event that took place was my mom pouring parafin over the small jars of jelly.
So when I got married, I thought bottling was pretty much a given. It was Ruth (pictured above) my mother-in-law who really taught me the how-tos. Our first apartment was in the same town--Tremonton. She was generous with her help and I don't think she even kept any of the fruit--maybe a bottle or two. But before our youngest was even five years old, I'd pretty much given it up. I found the whole task beneath me. We still dried a few batches of fruit, but I quit bottling. Besides someone figured out that like many good things the time expended and the cost per bottle wasn't worth the effort when you could buy an entire case for X number of dollars.

Recently, I was on a hike with some friends, and one of the women was talking about bottling and I suddenly wanted to do it, but feared I was too late. Then I remembered that my good friend Josi Kilpack loves bottling. Josi is almost young enough to be my daughter, and is about five novels ahead of me on her published writing, and has twice as many kids as I had when I gave it all up--and even with all that, she LOVES bottling fruit--especially peaches. So I emailed Josi and asked if peaches were still available. She lives near the fruit loop. If you don't know what the fruit loop is then you don't live in Northern Utah. Anyway, she said, "Probably, but hurry." So I had my husband buy some--he works near the fruit loop and I was set.

First though, I had to find everything that I hadn't used in nearly two decades--canner--found it buried under the box of Halloween costumes, bottles--two boxes were in the garage, packed along in our last three moves, and one box in the new storage room where they ought to be. And I'm pretty sure I tossed some, and recycled a few. Finally the rings--dug them out of my pottery studio where I used them for cutting out clay with school children, and last a trip to the store to buy the lids. Finally I was set and few hours later and a life time of flooding memories you see the result--21 bottles of peaches, 8 pts. of peach jam (which didn't really set), and some left over to eat. And now I'm ready to tackle salsa, tomatoes, elderberry jam and juice, current jam and so forth. It's funny I gave up bottling because I thought I was too modern to be confined to convention and now I found the process so enjoyable, so . . . what's the word--liberating.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A JEWEL of a Book

J. Adams (Jewel) has written a layered young adult fantasy tale called "The Journey." This is an excerpt from chapter ONE: A gentle breeze stirred the lands and forests of Krisandor, the scent of pine and oak circulating through the comfortably warm air and adding a tantalizing sweetness that softly awakened the senses of a newly dawning day. Some would say the trees and the land were as old as time itself. Though Krisandor was established just a little over a thousand years ago, the land had always been there.

The Krisandorians were a beautiful, peaceful people governed, not ruled, by a peaceful king who loved them more than life itself...

And so the story begins. From that fairy tale beginning we already anticipate the peace can not prevail, that good will be interrupted. On one layer this is a timeless story, as old and classic as Snow White where evil will have a chance of destroying everything. This is also a love story, so should appeal to young teens who are just awakening their romantic inclinations. On a deeper level though, the book becomes an allegory. Choices even small ones can alter our course. But with each choice we make, we have the opportunity of turning back and righting the course.

Ciran is a lovely Krisandorian, who finds herself swayed to do something she was taught not to do. She loses her self-respect, only deepening the hold the evil Ubal has over her. What will Ciran do. Visit J. Adams site on this book and her blog.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Attention Herald Journal Readers

On Sunday, the 14th a letter to the editor was published. They didn't clip off the tag-line at the end of the letter sending people to my blog. So if you're here expecting something about Zan's letter, you'll have to do a search for it. Sorry!! But now that you are here. Scroll down and enjoy some great blogs.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Review for "Surprise Packages"

I just had the pleasure of reading the latest book in the series by authors, Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris, called“Surprise Packages.” I’d say it’s a cross between Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, and the television series "Desperate Housewives." I have to admit that I would have been able to keep all of the people in this novel in my head better if there had been an accompanying pedigree chart. There is a large cast of characters in the story. Also part of my confusion was due to the fact that I haven’t read the first two books in the series. But when asked for reviewers, I jumped at the chance, simply because I just knew by the title and the cover that it would be a book I would enjoy. Now I have to go back and read the first two so I can catch up.
This is definitely a series for women. It’s the kind of book that makes me so grateful for the women, the “Almost Sisters” I have in my own life. I was the only girl in my family growing up, so I more than others crave relationships with other women who really understand, who accept us as we are, but who help us stretch our limits too. It’s also the kind of book that makes you want to stay in touch, through phone calls, emails, and get-togethers, whatever it takes to stay connected. Reading this book is like sitting down for tea with a cherished friend and having a great conversation.
I don’t like reviews that give away plot lines, but in this book the plot is definitely character driven. The characters are the story. They are your own neighbors, your own family members, and your own best friends. They are YOU! Juneau, Deenie, and Erin deal with marriages, death, wayward children, drug addictions, abusive situations, custody issues, faith, and just about everything else you can think of. There are no easy solutions to the challenges the women face. There are lots of subtle lessons in this book—but the one that stands out to me is that we accept and love people including our children as they are—that the only one we can change is ourselves. It’s the old mote and beam from the teachings of Jesus. One minor thread of the story that I really appreciated was Erin’s ex-husband. He's gay. The way the authors dealt with this was the way I think our Savior would want us to, with unconditional love, tolerance, and forgiveness. One of my complaints about LDS fiction is that it often paints a rosy picture of life—that if you pay your tithing, and get married in the temple, you’ll have a fairy tale life. Another complaint I have is that sometimes all the good guys are LDS and the not so good aren’t. This book doesn’t suffer from that affliction. There is a touching scene where the gay father comes to the missionary farewell of his son. If this issue is something that you don’t want to deal with, don’t worry; it’s dealt with tastefully and honestly.
The strength of this book is its authenticity. Every woman who reads this book will relate to at least one of the women in the book. And even though this book touches on some gritty issues, it certainly isn’t depressing. It’s lively and even upbeat for the most part. This book is published by Deseret Book, so you can get it anywhere LDS books are sold. You can also visit the authors' site.