146. Taking flight

Before a few weeks ago, I had flown once in my life. Well, twice if you don’t count it as a round trip. And that was a LONG time ago…

It’s not that I am was afraid to fly. I just like to drive. Or be with people that I know very well who are driving. Road trips make me happy. It makes me feel like I have really, really travelled to get where I’m going.

I’ve been to lots of airports. But always as the person who is hugging people hello or goodbye, never as the person who is flying there and back again.

And I’ve been on road trips to lots of places — I’ve been to the tip of Nova Scotia to San Diego; from Ashland,Wisconsin to Juarez, Mexico; from Boston to Santa Fe — and because I’ve been in a car, in between I’ve seen Chicago, St. Louis, San Antonio, Big Bend, Boulder, New Orleans, Nashville, Madison… I’d always rather drive, thank you very much.

But then, my daughter moved 2,590 miles away to California.

That’s a long drive.

Google Maps tells me it takes 36 hours to get there by car and that is driving straight through, no stops. 38 hours with traffic.

And maybe in some future life, I’ll be retired with extra time; for now though, we had to fly.

We were leaving Chicago at 8:30 am and flying nonstop to Oakland, landing at 11:15. Supposedly.

At about 7:45 the announcement was made. Flight 1350 to Oakland California was delayed. We wouldn’t be leaving until noon at the earliest. It was a mechanical problem: not anything one could glibly say “Eh, just fix it and let’s get going, shall we?”

So we sat around. And sat around some more. I vaguely wondered if I should be up at the ticket counter with everyone else, jockeying for another flight, another city, another time?

The people at the desk never lost their cool and were ever so pleasant; they gave us each $100 off our next flight.

By the time we finally got on a plane–our original plane from DesMoines never was repaired; they just found us a new one somehow– it was 12:30 pm.

Our pilot apologized and added this caveat: “Our flight time is regularly 4 hours, but we’re going to get you there in two hours. Enjoy your flight.” I think he was trying to confuse us about time zones and real air time — but we did get there around 2:30 with our baggage on the right plane.

I must say the takeoff over Midway Airport in Chicago is disconcerting. People’s houses are right there and very close.

I must say the landing over Oakland Airport is disconcerting. From the little window over the wing, all one sees is water coming up very fast. I was hoping for land to appear soon.

But in between taking off and landing, it was breathtaking.

Looking down at the real topographical map of this country, watching cloud shadows, brown squares and green circles dissected by curving roads and rivers, Rocky Mountains, high desert, green mountain lakes — Mr. H. C. said I was like a kid with my nose pressed against the window the whole time.


Cloud shadows
Brighten an empty
Desolate brown moonscape.
Look far and see
A sea of clouds
Inside out
Top down.
Cloud shadows
Darken the geography of time.

Words scribbled on my phone tried to capture the awe I was feeling; photos taken with my phone were just as unsuccessful as the words.

Passengers mostly seemed unimpressed by the view out their windows. Unaware and unconcerned that we were hurtling through the clouds in a metal cylinder (albeit a brightly painted one), they were busy eating, napping, laughing, reading, laptopping…

Yes I know it was all new to me. And everyone else on the plane probably flies twice a month and finds it all boring. But it wasn’t. It was some of the most amazing landscape scenery I’ve ever seen.

from the air
It’s good to shake up those road trips every now and then.

And so I’m shaking up this road trip that I’ve been on for awhile. I’m taking a break from blogging in November to participate in NaNoWriMo. Don’t know how far I’ll get, but flying is definitely faster than driving…


145. The Harvest Kitchen

It’s been a busy harvest season; yet still I don’t have any canned peaches or pears. We had only about a dozen peaches on our little second-year peach tree and about a dozen pears on the Bosc pear tree. The other pear tree — a Bartlett — is taller and more beautiful and has never had a single pear so far. But the apples are beginning to ripen…

harvest kitchen

And how has my beautiful new kitchen held up under the rigors of harvest season? Well, I can tell you that it hasn’t looked beautiful and pristine lately.

I’ve learned a few tips for all you would-be kitchen designers out there…

kitchen triangle

During harvest season the kitchen triangle is most important — but this triangle is sink, stove, chopping block.  Under my butcher block island are big wide drawers for all manner of utensils. It’s a must to have all those necessary kitchen tools close at hand for chopping, tasting, stirring, filling, straining, and hot jar-lifting.

IMG_6392Also filling a huge need is the deep farmhouse sink. I’ve always loved it, but never more than this canning season. I have asked Mr. H.C. to put his carpenter brain and hands to work to fashion a chopping block that I can put (temporarily) on one side of the sink. That way, I can just  chop tomatoes or peel apples and not worry about the juices dripping on the floor.

IMG_6451 A big, wide windowsill helps too, for ripening green tomatoes, keeping paper towels handy, and putting aside certain fruits or veggies to deal with later.

Clean Kitchen floor!

Clean Kitchen floor!

A comfortable floor to stand on is a necessity — and it has to clean up easily. My VCT (vinyl composition tile) kitchen floor is both of those. It’s cool to stand on in summer bare feet, and mopping up the VCT is fairly easy too. It’s been down now for two years, and I am just now thinking that I should probably strip it and re-wax. After canning season is done. (And I didn’t mention that it is probably the most inexpensive flooring you can buy…)

The soapstone counter that I can put hot pans on with no worries is a must in a canning kitchen. Hot jars, pans of boiling water, a pot of hot tomato sauce — all can go right on the countertop. No, it doesn’t look beautiful and waxed and shiny right now; that’s for after canning season is over.

That lovely little glass “filling cup” came to me from Clara, Mr. H.C.’s mom. It’s been a workhorse this season.

The high faucet and deep sink is fantastic for filling the canner. And I’m not sure if it’s the finish (brushed stainless) or the expensiveness of it, but it never seems to get dirty. For that I’m grateful…

deep sink and high faucet

The biggest drawback I’ve found with the kitchen design is not enough room on the left side of the stove. I’m not sure if that is a permanent state of affairs or not, because that’s the one unfinished area of the kitchen. missing the backsplashThe subway tile back splash will continue around the corner, and there’s a planned shelf above the backsplash where the appliances will sit. Before canning season, I was hedging about this, thinking they were fine right where they were. But now I’m not sure. Storage is limited in this smallish kitchen, so the shelf will be built, but what goes on the shelf is TBD — hopefully before next canning season.

And that brings us to the last necessity for a harvest kitchen — space for one’s jars of Beautiful Canned Goods. I thought the old-and-lovely built-in cupboard would be big enough, but it isn’t.  I’ve purchased five dozen canning jars so far this season; that’s sixty extra jars in a cupboard that was already sort-of full.

Aunt Mary stored her canned goods on the shelves that are four-steps-down from the kitchen in what was probably built as a storage cellar. The shelves are perfectly sized for canning jars, but they are currently filled with the tools of Mr. H.C.’s trade — painting, plumbing, and electrical supplies — and I don’t think they will be cleaned off anytime soon, so here’s the inside of my over-crowded kitchen cupboard:

the fruits of canning season

the fruits of canning season

How I spent August and September… and the apples are just starting. Anyone have an easy recipe for apple butter that doesn’t include burnt pans or exploding pressure cookers?