Yesterday evening our fine cat Jake let us know his time was up and after lots of snuggles he made his last trip to the vet.
It wasn’t unexpected. In January the vet discovered a large, fast-growing tumour in his abdomen. As an FIV+ cat he was not a candidate for either surgery or chemo so we took him home to spoil him in his last weeks — and oh yes, he was spoiled, spoiled with chopped chicken and tuna and even milk, and endless cans of $3-a-can special prescription yummy food, and was allowed to sleep on my head and had fresh water run for him every five minutes and all kinds of other spoiledness.
He came to us in 2007 with his pal Elwood, sick enough that his FIV+ status was quickly discovered. His original name was Ricky Bobby but we thought that was too goofy even for him so he quickly became the other Blues Brother.
After his initial illness, despite his lack of an immune system his health was pretty good except for his teeth. Over two separate surgeries several years apart he had them all removed and was a much happier guy afterwards. (Cats don’t actually use their teeth for chewing, so it didn’t stop him eating pretty much whatever he liked. It meant he could stick his tongue WAY up his face though.) After his first surgery he got a hilarious special gold-star certificate (which I should have kept) from the vet for excellent behaviour.
Here’s the first picture we took of him when we got him — lying on the stairs, demonstrating his habit of being totally immovable and also his other habit of lying down in inconvenient spots where he blended in well and could be easily stepped on.
Of course, laundry was a different matter. He always had to sit on contrasting laundry for maximum shedding effectiveness.
He liked laundry a lot. Particularly dirty laundry — underpants or other unmentionables — the kind an enterprising cat could dig out of the hamper, drag down the stairs with much triumphant yowling and then hump to death in the middle of a dinner party to great effect. Jake killed all of our socks repeatedly and sometimes even larger items, whole pairs of pants or dressing gowns, fell to his mighty hunting skills.
In a more practical vein, he was an excellent hunter of millipedes. It used to be Elwood who found them and played with them a bit before turning them over to Jake to kill and eat, so for four happy years I didn’t have to deal with a single millipede myself*. After Elwood died I had to take over the finding (ick) but could still sic Jake on them for killing and disposal.
After his teeth were out his tongue often stuck out when he was sleeping since there was nothing to keep it in:
Not that we got to see it much since he often slept with a paw shielding his face:
He was particularly fond of sitting on my head if I was lying down with a migraine. You wouldn’t think a purring cat on your head would be at all good for migraines, but somehow it did help. Perhaps he learned it from Elwood.
He was a huge burrower. When I washed the duvet cover I’d try to pile the duvet in an entertainingly burrowish way for him.
In his last weeks he wasn’t much good at grooming himself so he’d park himself in front of Carson and let Carson groom him, at least his front half.
They were good pals, although not above taking a random swat at each other just for fun when passing each other in the hall.
He affected a dignified obliviousness to being dressed in cunning outfits.
He was never full of mischief — he wasn’t a climber (although he did like M’s loft bed), nor did he push small objects off shelves. He limited himself to scratching the furniture, jumping on the kitchen counter, and doing absolutely anything in pursuit of fresh water.
Soup! A foundation of winter food in our house for sure.
I’m a huge proponent of making one’s own soup stock. It costs pretty much nothing and if you start with your own yummy stock it’s very hard to make a soup that’s not also yummy (as well as being free of excess salt and preservatives and who knows what else). It’s also really easy, since it’s more a general technique than a recipe and it doesn’t need any special equipment. It does take a number of hours but the active time is very minimal.
First, save up some chicken (…duck, turkey) bones. Chuck them in a ziploc and toss them in the freezer. A friend once added the brilliant notion of also tossing parmesan rinds in there — definitely do that if you have any.
Once you have some bones and a longish afternoon, it’s time to make stock.
Put all the bones in a big pot and cover them with water.
While the pot comes to a boil, poke through your veggie bin and pull out any or all of these according to your taste and whatever’s in the bin: carrots, celery, celeriac, onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms. How much? Not a lot. Some. Doesn’t matter much. A carrot or two, an onion or two, a few cloves of garlic. Whatever strikes your fancy. They don’t have to be lively fresh veggies — elderly limp-ish ones will do.
Wash them, cut them up roughly (no need to peel) and toss them in the pot too.
Add some seasonings. I usually put maybe a dozen peppercorns, some savory (a teaspoonish pinch in my very large pot), some thyme (another teaspoonish pinch) and a small pinch of rosemary. Sage is nice too. But again, whatever strikes your fancy and/or whatever’s handy in the cupboard.
Once the pot boils, put the lid on and turn it waaaaay down. You want to keep it boiling gently but not at the point where it might boil over or otherwise cause you to pay attention to it. You want a nice quiet simmer so you can stir it once an hour or so and go about your business the rest of the time.
So yeah, stir it once an hour or so. At this point your house will smell strongly of yum and your stomach will rumble so make a sandwich or something.
At some point you have to declare it done. In our house this happens in one of two ways: either I notice the chicken vertebrae have totally disarticulated and I’m sure no further goodness will boil out of the bones, or I get really bored and declare it done just because.
Now comes the only boring part: getting all the icky bones and drowned veggies out of the actual soup. I usually get a strainer and a second large pot and pour or ladle the soup and bones through the strainer and into the second pot.
When the strainer fills up, dump it in the green bin & repeat. Take the garbage out right away because it’ll stink really quickly, but make sure it’s safe from raccoons because they LOVE this stuff. Don’t even think about eating the veggies; they’ve given their all at this point.
Now you’ve got a pot full of soup stock, hurray! Except it’ll have a layer of fat on top.
You can either cool it off a bit put it away right away, in which case the fat will rise to the top in whatever containers you’re using, or you can leave it overnight in the fridge and skim the fat off before putting it into containers.
Either way it’ll keep for a short while in the fridge and approximately forever in the freezer.
Then whenever you get sick all you need to do is pull out a container of stock, some salt (I never salt my stock so whatever soup I’m making will need salt) and some noodles and there you are, chicken noodle soup. Or for a quick dinner: container of stock, finely chopped random fridge vegetables and/or meat, bit of cream, cook it, done.
Oh! I should mention that homemade stock will gel when cooled. It may also still have a little fat in it or seasonings that settle to the bottom. This grosses some people out (my husband for one) but it’s totally normal. Actually the gelling is very convenient because nice thick soup is less likely to leak out of its container if you take some to work to heat up for lunch.
Around April last year I thought it might be interesting to join one of the more interest-based forums out there since it’s a mode that’s really taking off. The cooking ones are scary and the craft ones are even more scary-intimidating so I picked Goodreads. Books, I can do.
If you’d asked me how many books I thought I read in a year I would’ve said I dunno, maybe thirty or forty. No. From late April through December 2012 alone I apparently read 104 books, and I know there are a few I didn’t enter for off-the-charts fluffiness or whatever other reason*. The number is neither here nor there but it’s interesting that my self-perception was so flawed. It’s inflated, I suppose, by the kids books and fluffy novels which take 2 hours max to read.
You can see from the list it’s a mix of kids/YA (so I can talk to my kid), fluffy fiction, non-fluffy fiction and nonfiction. More nonfiction than I would’ve guessed too, but then I had a lot of vacation in the summer in which to kick back and use brainpower for reading instead of actual functioning. Busy/stressful correlates directly with fluffiness of reading, IME.
I joined Goodreads because I was at a bit of a loss picking out new books and I thought Goodreads’ recommendation feature would help. Well, not so much. Even now that I’ve entered a few hundred books I find its recommendations banal at best even for the kids’ and YA books I read in hope of passing them on to the miss. Oh well.
On the other hand, the social aspect really is useful. Not so much being able to read strangers’ reviews, although that’s fun, but seeing friends’ list additions, ratings and reviews and being able to add mentioned books to one’s own to-read list with one click. That’s been very handy. I quickly got a sense of whose tastes approximated mine and whose differed wildly. Both are useful — the first to find things I’m nearly guaranteed to enjoy and the second for variety.
Looking at my ratings, the books I read in 2012 that I’d most recommend were:
The whole Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. I’ve read them before and have them all in paper but the audiobooks read by Simon Vance are wonderful. You just think you’re not interested in early-19th-century sea intrigues. Trust me, you are in fact interested.
In the Orchard, the Swallows by Peter Hobbs. Short and perfect.
The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin. An excellent takedown of the whole absurd autism/vaccine hoax.
For those of us who harbour a hostile and/or xenophobic tendency, Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books. Great, hostile, violent, gory fun.
Anne Patchett’s Bel Canto. I was less a fan of her more recent book State of Wonder but Bel Canto was lovely.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. People who seemed to take this as a serious tale gave it bad reviews but it’s very, very funny.
Doppler by Erlend Loe. Another one for the xenophobes out there, and again very very funny. As in don’t read it on the subway unless you don’t mind giggling helplessly in public kind of funny.
Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe. A good summary of the issues and entertainingly written.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. All extroverts must read this book immediately. Introverts are welcome to read it at their leisure.
Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs by Marc Lewis. Really well done and thorough descriptions of what various drugs feel like, and excellent science too to back it up.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Yet more evidence that going walkabout can be surprisingly curative. Anyone who’s ever spent any significant time in the woods, who’s physically run away from a dead relationship or who has properly hated a pair of hiking boots will recognize something in this. It would be good to read alongside Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, I think.
And finally, Les Misérables. Victor Hugo, of course. Even in translation the language was so lovely it really made me wish my French was up to reading the original.
And now on to 2013! If you’re on Goodreads feel free to friend me; the more the merrier.
* No, I did not read that 50 Shades of Grey book. It sounded ghastly.
It turns out that depression may not be a mere trade-off for a vigorous immune response. Dr. Miller suggests that depressive symptoms like social withdrawal, lack of energy, and a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities were actually advantageous to our ancestors. For example, a loss of energy might ensure that the body can leverage all of its energy to fight an infection. Also, social withdrawal minimizes the likelihood of being exposed to additional infectious agents.
Interesting, if not entirely convincing. More evidence needed, etc.
About 76 per year. Between 1999 and 2009, 761 Americans died falling from cliffs, according to the CDC’s magnificently detailed data. That’s a relatively small number. If commentators wanted to scare the public, they might have called the looming economic crisis, the “fiscal anvil,” because falling objects killed nearly 10 times as many people as cliffs between 1999 and 2009. Or they might have gone with the “fiscal cobra,” as venomous plants and animals killed 856 people in the same 10-year period. Another option would be the “fiscal hansom cab,” since 1,201 Americans perished while riding on an animal or in an animal-drawn vehicle.
For those of you who are wondering how you weaponise shark teeth, which are already regenerating, serrated meat knives at the business end of a streamlined, electric-sensing torpedo, here’s how. You drill a tiny hole in them, and then bind them in long rows to a piece of wood to make a sword. Or a trident. Or a four-metre-long lance. And then, presumably, you hit people really hard with them.
The scientists need a standardized material for testing their toilets, and that’s where the fake poop comes in. Soybean paste is extruded into 350 gram segments for testing in toilets. They can’t use the real stuff because it’s a hazardous material, and of course, it’s noxious. So the foundation turned to the experts of fake feces — Maximum Performance, which distributes synthetic poop to nearly all toilet manufacturers around the world for testing purposes.
I am glad there’s someone out there who is worrying about creating standardized fake poop for testing toilets. I’m VERY glad it is not me.
Previous studies have linked this disorder to an increased risk of stroke and structural brain lesions, but it has remained unclear whether migraines had other negative consequences such as dementia or cognitive decline. According to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), migraines are not associated with cognitive decline.
Over the course of 10 weeks, the link between less lying and improved health was significantly stronger for participants in the no-lie group, the study found. For example, when participants in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than they did in other weeks, they experienced on average about four fewer mental-health complaints, such as feeling tense or melancholy, and about three fewer physical complaints, such as sore throats and headaches, the study found. In contrast, when control group members told three fewer white lies, they experienced two fewer mental-health complaints and about one less physical complaint. The pattern was similar for major lies, Kelly said.
Ninety-nine children (8–12 year olds) listened to stories wherein one character made either a literal or ironic criticism or a literal or ironic compliment. Children appraised the speaker’s belief and communicative intention. Shyness was assessed using self-report measures of social anxiety symptoms and shy negative affect. Shyness was not related to children’s comprehension of the counterfactual nature of ironic statements. However, shyness was related to children’s ratings of speaker meanness for ironic statements.
…participants experienced ownership over the virtual arm up to three times the length of the real one, and less strongly at four times the length. The illusion did decline, however, with the length of the virtual arm.
The researchers found that the flies rarely fly at night and mostly sit or run on the ceiling. Finding the flies by echolocation is nearly impossible for the bats as the faint insect echo is completely masked by the strong background echo which makes them virtually “invisible.” This scenario completely changes when the male flies find a suitable mating partner. The subsequent copulation is a noisy event because males then produce broadband buzzing sounds that can be heard by the bats. Around five per cent of the fly pairs that engage in copulation were attacked and mostly eaten by the bats…
Artificial light has been known for a long time to attract many insect species, and therefore may contribute to the spread of different vector-borne diseases. Also, based on the collection of different species of triatomines with light traps, several authors have suggested that light might attract triatomines to houses, but the role of artificial light in house infestation has never been clearly demonstrated and quantified. Here we performed a spatial analysis of house infestation pattern by T. dimidiata in relation to the distribution of artificial light sources in three different villages from the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. In all three villages, infested houses were significantly closer to public street light sources than non-infested houses (18.0±0.6 vs 22.6±0.4 m), and street lights rather than domestic lights were associated with house infestation.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that mice and rats have evolved to gnaw with their front teeth and chew with their back teeth more successfully than rodents that ‘specialise’ in one or other of these biting mechanisms.
The qualitative high-speed video footage of these volunteers coughing into their sleeves demonstrates that although this method rarely completely blocks the cough airflow, it decelerates, splits and redirects the airflow, eventually reducing its propagation. The effectiveness of this intervention depends on optimum positioning of the arm over the nose and mouth during coughing, though unsightly stains on sleeves may make it unacceptable to some.
Glad I wasn’t in on that study. All that coughing!
Fear of risks killing 100 people was higher than fear of risks killing 10 people, but there was no difference in fear of risks killing 100 or 1000 people (Experiments 1–4, 7–9). Also in support of the hypothesis, the median number of deaths that would cause maximum level of fear was 100 (Experiments 5 and 6).
UCLA anthropologists asked hundreds of Americans to guess the size and muscularity of four men based solely on photographs of their hands holding a range of easily recognizable objects, including handguns.
The research, which publishes April 11 in the scholarly journal PLoS ONE, confirms what scrawny thugs have long known: Brandishing a weapon makes a man appear bigger and stronger than he would otherwise
Dennis Hennis, a 52-year-old self-employed builder, was working on his neighbour’s roof when his nail gun jammed and he tried to clear it. The nail pierced the right side of his heart and he went into cardiac arrest. His surgeon credited Mr Hennis’ recovery to prompt medical attention and knowing that he should not remove the nail himself.
Me, 10am: I didn’t sleep well and I still have the headache I had last night and my nose is stuffy and I have cramps and a backache and I have skinless patches of psoriasis in spots where it’s very awkward not to have any skin and there’s a big pile of laundry and waaaaah, it’s too early to start drinking isn’t it?
Results There were 116 reports of death or injury of pedestrians wearing headphones. The majority of victims were male (68%) and under the age of 30 (67%). The majority of vehicles involved in the crashes were trains (55%), and 89% of cases occurred in urban counties. 74% of case reports stated that the victim was wearing headphones at the time of the crash. Many cases (29%) mentioned that a warning was sounded before the crash.
This sounds a bit confused — were there 116 incidents, or 74% of 116? One wonders. Either way, 116 over seven years (16.6 fatalities a year) doesn’t seem like a lot to get excited about, given that the USA has over 30,000 fatalities annually from car crashes (did they have their car stereos on? Perhaps it’s the music that’s at fault).
One also wonders, if I count as “one”, why the headphones are being blamed here. Being a pedestrian is not in itself inherently dangerous. It’s hard to kill yourself just walking around; it’s the large vehicles with which one may suddenly come into contact that are the danger here. As a pedestrian walking around at 6km/h, I am not dangerous. A motor vehicle comprising a bunch of metal traveling at 50km/h or more is dangerous.
A train is also dangerous. If 55% of these crashes involved trains, mostly in urban areas, why is the focus not on decreasing pedestrian access to train tracks? And since when is 29% — where “a warning was sounded” — “many”?
This sort of blame-the-victim writing really ticks me off.
While I love them, physical books have a few practical issues for me at the moment.
One, it’s trivially out of my way to pick them up at the library. It’s only a few blocks but it has to be either on my way to work (unlikely, since the library doesn’t open until 9, and I leave to take M to school rather before then) or on my way home (which means I can’t use a transfer and take the bus, or which means I add 2km to my bike commute) – both awkward.
Two, I have to physically carry them around. My purse is big but once it’s full of Purse Stuff, lunch, coffee thermos, keys, iPod, etc. there’s not a lot of room for a book. Plus if the subway is crammed — and it always seems to be crammed these days — there’s not a lot of room to wave around a large book.
Three, if I buy them, they don’t go away when they’re finished. I rarely re-read books so more and more I enjoy reading something and then giving it back to the library so it takes up their shelf space, not mine. I know it’s there if I ever need it so the whole library concept seems pretty ideal really.
Four, aside from subway time, I mostly have time to read late in the evening after the dinner/child-putting-to-bed fuss is over, which means I’m tired and have trouble keeping my eyes open.
I haven’t yet committed to an ebook reader / iPhone type of object, so unless I read on my computer (and I sometimes do) my commuting/bedtime salvation is found in audiobooks.
Hurray, audiobooks! An especial hurray for unabridged (abridged books are an abomination) audiobooks read by authors or readers who are good at reading. A huge, monster-size hurray for ones I can borrow from the library. (Granted, borrowing most audiobooks from the library usually means I have to have a Windows computer “read” them to my Mac in real time and re-record them before I can actually listen to them, but whatever.)
So lately, my audiobooks:
Katie MacAlister – lots of fluffy but entertaining quasi-romances about dragons and whatnot. In the first couple months of this year I was working insane hours and wanted pure fluff to distract me as I fell into bed, and this fit that niche to a T.
Neil Gaiman – I had some short stories on my iPod as well as Coraline (kids book) and The Graveyard Book (YA-ish). He reads his own books, and well. They’re very good. I’ve read all his other stuff on paper, as it came out.
“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.
I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.
I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.
I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.
I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.
I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.
I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.
I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.
I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.
I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.
I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Patrick O’Brian – a wonderful, wonderful friend loaned me the entire 20-volume Aubrey-Maturin series in paper when I was pregnant with M and hopelessly sick and bed-bound. They’re fabulous books. “But I don’t care about 18th-century naval battles and spycraft,” you say. Yes you do. Trust me. Read them. Or get the audiobooks — the first one is read badly, much too slowly and ponderously and with no sense of fun, but the rest are excellent.
As actual physical books:
Ian (M.) Banks – I have a couple of these on my nighttable, waiting to be read. He never disappoints. But they are heavy, and I am tired, and once I read them they’ll be read and I won’t be able to look forward to them anymore. So they’ve sat for a while.
Jasper Fforde – recently I finished pretty much all of his oeuvre by finishing off the last two Thursday Next books (not quite as clever as the first couple in the series), the Nursery Crime books (fun but more ponderous, somehow) as well as Shades of Grey. They’re all well worth a read. I somehow came across Shades of Grey as an audiobook after I’d read it in paper, and I liked it rather more as an audiobook. Not sure why. It was very well read, anyway.
Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. I wasn’t crazy about this one; I think his reach exceeded his grasp somewhat. Great universe, great concepts, but the plot and characters didn’t do much for me. The supposed cleverness overreached the actual content, IMO.
Anyway, there’s a brief overview of my recent fictional explorations.
I detect a nascent world domination plan here, which I suppose was inevitable given her genetic material.
I’m intrigued by the possibilities of the “fake lightening machien” and the “bat machien” and I wonder what the stuffed horse robots are going to do with their remote-controlled car, but I particularly like the note at the top: “*clean desk before attempting any of this”.
Having pretty much exhausted biological subjects (roadkill, organs, diseases), makers of fine plush lovies have moved into statistical distributions. You can buy a full set of ten, or individual distributions if you’re particularly fond of one.
I note they also sell “statosaur” burp cloths featuring embroidery which combines dinosaurs and statistical distributions. Excellent!
I finally got my Bixi key last Wednesday, hurray! But I had to wait with tappy-footed impatience to try it out since I wasn’t downtown until today. I’ve been looking forward to its launch, as my own bike has been languishing due to the need to take the subway to get M to school and home again (there’s really no kid-safe bike route between our house and her school, and anyway 6km each direction is probably a bit far for a kid’s commute). It’s almost another 3km to my office. I often walk at least one direction, but being able to bike is a nice (and faster) option.
For the uninitiated, Bixi is a bike-sharing service. You pick up a bike at whatever station you like and return it to whatever station you like (the same station or a totally different one). You can pay by the day ($5), 72 hours ($12), month ($40), or year ($95). Trips of less than half an hour are included in those prices; trips longer than that cost extra. Since at the moment it’s a downtown-only service, however, it’s mighty hard to exceed thirty minutes unless, I don’t know, you ride around in circles for a while or something.
There’s a Bixi station just by M’s school, with ten or so bikes. So I stuck my key in the lock to get the station to release a bike, adjusted the seat height (they have convenient numbered markings), clamped my purse in the front basket, put on my helmet and off I wobbled. I got the feel of the bike within a few blocks and stopped wobbling — they’re just very different from my own bike!
Heavy but stable – these things feel solid. Tanklike, almost. No light breeze will push you off-course on one of these things. It takes some effort to drive them. I wouldn’t want to, say, put it on my back to go up the Casa Loma stairs or anything. On the other hand, they’re very stable, not twitchy or fussy or unpredictable at all. Solid. Once they get going they have some decent momentum. I hope they’ll be easy to maintain.
Very upright – they’re cruisers, definitely. I found myself sailing along in an almost perfect standing position, like Mary Poppins on her carousel horse. This is so entertaining I don’t think you could help but be in a good mood while riding one. Also, it gives you excellent visibility.
3 speeds, none particularly fast – if you’re used to zooming along at near-traffic speed, well, forget it. These are not fast bikes; sit back (stand back? One barely sits) and enjoy the ride. They have three speeds controlled by gripshifters — the lowest will probably get you up most big hills, the middle will get you started at stoplights, and the highest will carry you along at a reasonable but by no means speedy clip. I found myself wishing for a fourth gear. Because of the weight of the bike, though, I found I did work up a bit of a sweat as I sailed along. These bikes are not going to win anyone any races, although a race of Bixi bikes would be very entertaining to watch. A bunch of sweaty upright folks working to exceed 20km/h…
Soft brakes – you can’t stop in a hurry. It takes a bit of time. Not that you’re going very fast. There’s no possible way to flip yourself over the handlebars by braking too hard (my specialty!) on one of these puppies. Still, I pity the pedestrian who steps off the curb without looking and gets nailed… the weight of the bike combined with the inability to stop on a dime is going to hurt.
Step through frame and chain guard – clearly these are bikes made for riding in whatever clothes you happen to be wearing. Smart. It’s nice not to have to carry a pants clip.
No clips on the pedals – this was the biggest adjustment for me. I am, apparently, very used to my clips. I had a couple of false starts where my attempt to raise the pedal by lifting my foot left me looking pretty goofy. I’d kind of forgotten about having to push off the ground to start! By my second trip I’d more-or-less got the hang of it, but my first few stoplights were probably pretty funny for onlookers.
Overall: I was thoroughly amused, got to where I was going in less time than it would’ve taken to take the subway, and can recommend it fully. Let’s hope they’re successful enough to expand the service area!
I’m terribly bored with this election — lots of pointless hot-air and genital-waving — so instead of involving myself in it, reading every word out of every politician’s machine and listening to the debates, I embarked on a bit of needlework. A far surer path to ongoing sanity, I think. (I will vote, of course. I always vote. And I always inform myself about the issues. But there seems to be little of import being waved about just now, despite many potential issues of import which might be good to raise.)
I was testing out a new pattern-transfer paper (Transfer-Eze), which I was hoping would simplify the matter of getting detailed/complex patterns onto the material to be embroidered. Wax transfer paper, pencils and the like are fine for most things, but I’d been stymied by my Green Man pattern and I thought it would be a good one to use to test the new paper, which promised that I could print right on it and stick it to my work and wash it out afterward. Would my printer work with it? Would the markings stay intact through the whole process? Would the paper wash out properly afterward? Would the project last long enough to distract me from both English and French debates? The happy answer to all these questions is an unqualified Yes, and I can definitely recommend the product.
So here’s my election-avoiding Green Man, embroidered on the front end of a heavy-duty canvas newspaper bag like this one (I also recommend reuseit.com — I’ve ordered from them a number of times):
At the beginning. I wanted to see how the transferred lines held up throughout the process.
Even halfway through they weren’t deteriorating much, even though I had my fingers all over them all the time and I moved the hoop a half-dozen times.
And the end result, before I washed out the paper — it looked identical afterward:
So there we have it. A Green Man. Which, I suppose, is as good a political statement as any about who I might vote for.
Surely Santa will feel jet-lagged at the end of his trip! To deliver presents at exactly mid-night all around the world he will have to spend 24h in trans-meridian travel with rapid changes in time zones and little time for his body clock to adapt. He will travel in darkness all the time, so he will be more likely to fall asleep. Catch-up sleep helps to recover from the short-term tiredness and fatigue, but will not help avoid the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation. If he were to do this all year round, he would definitely run the risk of dying prematurely.
The thing the Expert Curmudgeons always overlook, and I think this is a real issue, is that health is about more than sleep hygiene and carrot sticks. Health is also about having a good time with friends and family, relaxing, enjoying yourself and enjoying eating and drinking yummy seasonal treats.
Western concepts of health and medicine should take a page or two (or, hell, the whole book) from the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel concept, in which health comprises physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health all together. Eggnog, cookies, gravy, friends and family may not be absolutely helpful to our physical wellbeing, but they’re a very important part of the total picture of what makes us happy, content and — therefore — healthy in a more inclusive, absolute sense. You can go to a party and eat carrot sticks and drink water and feel all virtuous and abstemious, or you can go to the same party and actually enjoy yourself: which is better for you as a whole? I’d argue a certain amount of seasonal indulgence is good for the soul. It’s a long, cold, dark winter and we’re in the darkest bit: eggnog and cookies are perfectly reasonable coping mechanisms.
This biologist says drink the damn eggnog, eat the damn cookies, sleep in (or get up early, whatever floats your boat) and enjoy yourself. So you might gain a pound or two or suffer the odd hangover. So what. Your emotional, mental, spiritual self will probably thank you. Your physical self can correct any lingering issues in January.
To our intense dismay — because we are both strong proponents of the public school system — for the past few years we’ve found ourselves deeply dissatisfied with our local public school. Which, according to all publicly available data, is supposed to be a good school. It’s a school at 108% (or something similar) capacity, though, and there are nearly a thousand kids there from JK-8 so it’s a school that focuses very much on shallow compliance and smooth operation. It doesn’t really have time to give a fig about any particular individual student and it makes no attempt to do so. M was bored and unchallenged there, a problem which nobody attempted to rectify in any useful way, and we put up with many ridiculous and unhelpful processes. Her teacher last year in particular was absurd in her marking (examples below) and really went out of her way to set kids up to fail.
Leaving the absurd marking aside, one example. At a parent-teacher interview I caught sight of the sheet on the wall on which the teacher recorded whether or not the seven- and eight-year-old kids had, without any prompting from her (“OK kids, get your reading logs out of your backpacks NOW and put them RIGHT HERE” would be age-appropriate), turned in their reading logs on the assigned date and at the assigned time, and found a row of six or seven negative Xs beside M’s name. Why on earth, I asked the teacher, did you let this happen for more than two weeks without writing something in the @^$##@ planner that goes back and forth every day and which is supposed to convey such information? She sidestepped the question.
M’s reading log — and she was not the only one; this was the case for about a third of the class — had in fact been sent back to school on time each week in her backpack, so somehow not only was the teacher somehow failing to get the kids to turn them in, but she also wasn’t communicating anything to us that could’ve helped solve the problem. She was more interested in playing Gotcha! than in helping the kids learn. Of course, this is only one example, but if I listed all the ones I know of nobody would be able to read to the end in one sitting.
Then we looked at some of M’s work and discovered that the exact same bit of work hadn’t been done in the exact same place on each week’s spelling worksheet for fourteen weeks in a row, again with nothing mentioned in the supposedly critical planner.
At that point I admit I wrote off the teacher utterly and attempted to suppress some very stabby thoughts indeed.
By about February we were wondering whether we shouldn’t pull M out after March Break and homeschool until the end of the year. At that time I had a layoff notice for the end of March and while I may well suck as a teacher, I could not possibly suck as badly as the teacher she had. Had I been laid off this probably would’ve happened, but the layoff notice was rescinded so we focused our efforts in getting through the school year and preparing for the next.
We recognized that grade 3/4 — where you begin to read to learn instead of learning to read — is a perilous time for bright kids and that if you let them turn off, tune out and coast at this point, it’s very hard to get them back into active learning. In Toronto gifted programs used to start in grade 3 for this reason. Now they start in grade 5 or 6 — much too late. We figured we’d better do something pretty quickly because taking a flyer on M’s ending up with a teacher within her public school good enough to counter the damage her grade 3 teacher did was kind of a long shot. I hadn’t heard any particular schoolyard gossip extolling the virtues of the grade 4 teachers. The only other public option was sending her to grade-4 entry French Immersion, and the research on French Immersion didn’t lead us to conclude it was a good idea (sadly. French Immersion kids tend, in the general case, to emerge with bad English and then proceed to lose their French).
For April, May and June M went to 2 hours a week of tutoring at Oxford Learning. They were expensive and M didn’t have any particular academic issues aside from being bored, but we wanted her to remember that learning and challenging yourself could be both fun and worthwhile. Oxford did that job very well. I recommend them.
In January I sat down one night and looked up all the alternative schools within a 45-minute transit ride from our house. We ended up applying to one, but they used a lottery admission system and M’s number didn’t come up. There was no point trying other public schools in our neighbourhood. They’re all massively oversubscribed and none are taking out-of-area kids.
In early March I sat down again and went through all 174 (at the time) private elementary schools listed on the TDSB website. I eliminated schools that were unreachably distant and schools that were religious (madrassas, Christian, Jewish). I reviewed the websites of the remaining schools and among five or six possibilities ended up with a clear front-runner in the tiny Howlett Academy on Madison, next door to the Tibetan Buddhists and across from the eponymous pub.
We toured the school and OMG, it was like night and day. The kids there were engaged, the teachers customize the curriculum for every single child so they are all appropriately challenged (this is only possible with a tiny school), and oh, their processes were so, so sensible. They do everything humanly possible to set the kids up to succeed and to teach them HOW to learn as well as expecting them to then put it into action and do the learning. They have high expectations and they set kids up to meet them. The head of the school, a teacher herself, set it up to counter the flaws she perceived her own boys experienced in the public system — the exact flaws we too were perceiving.
M started there this week and yes, night and day. She loves her teacher and agrees she’s not bored and has learned stuff. Yay.
As parents we love that the school sent home a mere two forms at the beginning of the year. These forms took me 8.5 minutes to fill out, vs. the hour I spent last year, and since they were brief and efficient they didn’t leave me in a foul temper. They accomplished in about four paragraphs what took the old school twelve pages and eight separate forms.
Also, there has been nary a whiff of Comic Sans. That alone is worth I don’t know how many thousand dollars of tuition.
Happily, it’s easy to avoid, isn’t it? Just never ever allow your cycling self to be between the front and rear wheels of a large vehicle at or near an intersection. Simple. It’s not like you won’t notice they’re coming; those things make a ton of noise. So get out of their way. Don’t pull up on their right. If they’re behind you, take the lane so they can’t pull up on your left. Give them some space. Done.
I mention this because I think we need to remember what the primary danger is when cycling.
Is it the act of cycling itself? No. It’s pretty darn hard to kill yourself on a bike. If you try very hard and if you don’t wear a helmet you might manage it, but generally a fall won’t kill you.
On the other hand, on one discussion board I’m on, just this past weekend two participants were involved in serious car crashes. Luckily they’re (mostly) fine, but it’s not that hard to kill yourself in or with a car. People do it all the time. In fact it’s one of the most popular ways to die if you’re under 45 or so.
Think: how many people do you know, even very slightly, who have died in car crashes? I’m betting it’s a nonzero number. Someone from your high school class? A colleague? A friend of a friend? All of the above?
As a society we’ve somehow normalized a very substantial death rate due to motor vehicles and made it acceptable, just like we’re not especially fussed about the thousands of people who die each year of seasonal flu. Somehow we manage to delude ourselves into thinking that it all happens to other people when demonstrably it does not. We do the opposite when we think about cycling: we’re sure some jerk in an SUV will kill us, when in fact it’s wildly unlikely. As a society we completely suck at understanding risk.
Anyway, my point is that it’s not the bike that’s the danger here. And my other point is that as a cyclist even with millions of cars around it’s pretty hard to be killed in city traffic unless you do something foolish around the rear wheels of a very large vehicle.
So, bike commuting. It’s not as dangerous as you think. It’s often faster than either a car or the TTC, it’s definitely better exercise, and it’s probably more fun. Give it a try!
If you’re uncomfortable riding on your own, get someone experienced to ride with you the first few times if you like, but make sure they’re not Asshole Cyclists of the stop-sign-running, wrong-way-on-a-one-way-street-riding, weaving-in-and-out-of-traffic kind because the last thing Toronto needs is more of those jerks. Ask if they’ve taken a Can-Bike course, and book yourself into one. They’re good and they’ll give you both experience and confidence riding in traffic.
Aside from a bike, there’s other stuff that makes your riding life more pleasant. Here’s my list, but (as with baby supplies) what some people find absolutely necessary others find useless, so consider it just a starting point.
Well, except for a helmet. That’s not really optional if you prefer your brains on the inside of your head. Helmets are hot and mostly ugly but if you fall they reduce your chance of a head injury by (estimates vary) 63-88%. After the Ontario law requiring children to wear helmets came in, cycling deaths in that age group dropped by half. Sure, you might ride carefully and slowly but you never know what other people are going to do so best to wear the darn helmet.
Helmets have become both more comfortable and much cheaper in the past fifteen years, so it ought to be possible to find yourself something that fits you and doesn’t feel like your head is in a packing crate for a reasonable sum. If you have a micro-noggin like mine, go for a Giro. Otherwise you have a broad range of choices.
Don’t wear it on the back of your head; the front edge belongs two fingers above your eyes. This is so the helmet can protect your forehead. Frontal lobes are good things so you probably want to protect them.
Kind of like a helmet for your hands. You hardly need bike gloves for comfort over a typical commuting distance, but if you fall they’ll save the skin on your hands. I spend a lot of time typing for a living so I find this important. I buy very cheap gloves, since I’m not riding hundreds of km at a time and thus do not care about gel inserts and whatnot. I toss them in the washing machine every week (in a mesh bag) and dry them on the ends of my handlebars, so they don’t last forever but nor do they get really smelly.
For colder weather you can get a lobster-claw type of mitten-glove hybrid which is warmer than normal gloves but which still lets you brake and shift easily.
I like to carry both a U-lock and a cable. Neither are top-of-the-line, but my theory is that if some evil bike thief sees two locks on my bike and one on the one next to it, mine is more likely to be the one that’s still there when I come out of the office at the end of the day.
If you can park your bike inside, do so.
3. Rack and pannier
A rear rack is pretty cheap and so is a low-end pannier or basket. If you have a rack and pannier (or two) you don’t have to carry your stuff in a backpack, which can be really sweaty. Those black wire baskets that attach to rear racks are cheap, permanently attached and foldable, so they’re a reasonable choice. Also, they hold a 12 of beer.
4. Water bottle cage and water bottle
It’s nice to be able to have a drink at red lights.
The law in Ontario says you have to have a front light and a rear light or reflector. This makes little sense. Unless you’re doing something deeply inadvisable, a front light isn’t all that helpful in a well-lit city setting. You can generally see where you’re going thanks to streetlights, and you can also see anyone coming toward you. A rear light lets people see you as they come up behind you in the dark, though, and THAT is important. So get both front and rear lights. There are lots of good, cheap LED options now, and it makes a HUGE difference in your visibility.
The law in Ontario calls for a bell, horn or gong. There’s a sad, sad lack of bike gongs out there.
A bell is nicer than a horn because you can ding lightly and politely to announce your presence without startling the heck out of someone.
7. Light-coloured cycling jacket with reflective stripe
If you’re riding at night this is a good idea. Never mind that it looks dorky.
8. Padded shorts
Again with the dork factor. I like my lady bits to stay unbruised, however, and I find my 10k commute is long enough for some serious discomfort if I don’t wear the shorts. If you have a reasonably short commute (or more durable bits) you might not need these.
I just wear any old t-shirt. Some people like those bike jersey things but they’re all made of polyester and they all seem to have pockets right in the sweatiest part of the small of your back. Bleah.
9. Bike computer
For data geeks. It’ll tell you how fast you’re going, your trip distance, and all that kind of stuff. Mine’s a really cheap one but I like having an odometer. It’s fun and motivating to watch it tick up and up.
10. Repair kit
This doesn’t have to carry anything major, just enough to fix a flat or otherwise get you home. Anything more serious than a flat and you’re going to want a bike shop, or at least somewhere that’s not the side of the road. My kit includes a tiny pump, a spare tire tube, some tire irons, two quarters (so I can use the air machine at a gas station), a subway token in case things REALLY break, a couple of wet wipes, and a really clever little carbon dioxide tire inflater device that’s like a teeny scuba tank full of compressed air. It’s the size of my thumb and it holds enough air to fill one of my tires very well in three seconds with zero effort. I highly recommend them.
The whole kit probably sounds huge but in reality it’s about half the size of a kleenex box. The tube is the biggest space hog.
A patch kit would be smaller than a tube and probably more environmentally friendly but in practice I never patch punctured tubes. It takes ages and it’s messy and unreliable, at least when I do it. I find it’s easier to just chuck a new tube on there, deploy the CO2 inflator and get back on the road.
There’s zero point darting in and out of car traffic to try and get one or two cars ahead. Day after day I see people do this and you know? There they are stressing themselves out with this bizarre unsafe gotta-pass-everyone stuff while I hang back and wait ten seconds for dude in the car to make his right turn or for the light to turn green or whatever, and yet I get to where I’m going at exactly the same time as they do. Plus I feel more relaxed and have time to look around a bit. It’s not a competition.
If you’re just starting out, don’t worry too much about what bike you get. It won’t be the one you ultimately find you want. Take a few bikes for test rides — any good shop will let you test ride — and then get something that fits (get the shop to fit and adjust it properly for you), that you like right now, and that isn’t too expensive. In a year or two you can trade it in once you’ve figured out what style and features REALLY appeal to your needs. In the meantime grab something and go!
(OK, maybe only three. But it felt like twenty-seven since there was hand-sewing involved.)
M is hard on pants. At this point in the year every single pair will have a rip in at least one knee. I never bother fixing them particularly well, since she’ll have outgrown them by the fall anyway, but I do some nominal patching whenever the rips get indecent.
She had two pairs of identical jeans, one with massive rips in both knees, one ripped in only one knee. She’s low on shorts and the jeans still fit, so we decided to turn the more-trashed pair into shorts. After pinning them at a good length and cutting them several inches lower, I turned up a hem and stitched it down with the sewing machine. The thread is purple because I was too lazy to reload the machine with navy thread, but oh well, purple is M’s favourite colour right now anyway. Then I turned it up again and tacked it down by hand (grumbling only a bit) and added some little ribbon flower decorations for, as Olivia the pig would say, extra beauty.
I’m pleased with how they turned out. My theory is that they may withstand the summer.
Then I had two jean-legs left over. This is the less-destroyed one.
A piece of the more-destroyed leg became a patch for the other pair of jeans. Again with the purple machine-sewed hem and the hand-applique (with more grumbling).
It’s totally noticeable, but they just have to last through the summer — camp, mucking about in barns, etc. — so who cares.
Then (having been called on to sew up a light flanellette skirt for M’s doll that same morning) it occurred to me that the leg of the jeans was probably about the right size for a doll skirt. I cut it off at an approximately suitable length, used the machine to sew a single rough hem and added a bit of elastic. Done! Pretty good for a five-minute project.
Sadly it’s a little too tight for Ms. Doll to wear while riding her horse, but she can wear it post-ride.
I like to make my own jam. Unless you buy the crazy-expensive kinds, store-bought jam tastes kind of blah — over-sweet, too much filler, not enough fruit. I think I was spoiled by home-made jam when I was growing up and as with so many things (air conditioning, dishwashers, high-speed Internet) there is no going back.
You can probably make jam with stuff you have in your kitchen right now, but it helps to have some equipment. None of the extra equipment is very expensive — everything I show here would run you about $30 or $40, which you’ll make back pretty quickly if you make jam instead of buying it. It really is cheaper (especially once you own a bunch of jars) and you can’t beat the quality.
Here are some general instructions for fruit jams, like strawberry or raspberry — most fruit jams are easy and not a botulism risk, but if you’re doing something low-acid like blueberries, please use a real, tested recipe.
First, you need some jars. You can buy a dozen 250ml Mason jars plus lids at most grocery stores, Canadian Tire, etc. This will run you about $8.
Second, you need a big pot in which to boil and thus sterilize your jars. If you have a big stock pot you can use that. Or you can buy one of these cheap purpose-built enamel jobs. Sears, Canadian Tire and a bunch of other places usually carry them in the spring and summer.
Now you need some way to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot so they don’t break while they’re boiled. You can buy a metal insert like this (if you bought the enamel jam-sterilizer pot, it probably came with it):
Or you can use a small metal rack, such as a roasting rack or even tie a bunch of the screw-tops for the jars together with string.
Here’s some other handy stuff:
In that picture there’s a jar lifter (for picking jars out of the boiling water), a plastic funnel for pouring jam into jars, a box of snap lids, a magnetic wand for lifting heated snap lids, and screw tops for the jars. You probably have the snap lids and screw tops already if you bought a dozen jars. The other stuff is nice to have but not at all necessary.
OK, now we need some fruit and some sugar. That’s all the ingredients in real jam: fruit and sugar, in that order. It’s best if a quarter or a third of the fruit is a little under-ripe.
That’s waaay more fruit than you need for one batch. One batch of jam takes about four cups of prepared fruit. (Don’t try to double it; it just doesn’t work well.)
Now for the boring part: you need to wash and destem the fruit. Put some music on and make any available small children, spousal units, etc. help you.
I like my jam pretty smooth so at this point I like to toss the prepared fruit in the food processor and puree it a bit. Then, measure out 4 cups of fruit and put the rest in the fridge or freezer for later.
Now for the actual jam-making part.
You need a large, flat-bottomed pot and a sturdy implement to stir with. Something with a flat end that will scrape the bottom of the pot is good. You want to keep the jam moving and prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pot.
You also need a small pot in which to boil the snap lids. Put 6 or 7 snap lids in this pot and cover them with water.
Before you start the jam itself, fill your sterilizer pot with water, with the insert that keeps the jars off the bottom, and with 6 or 7 jars. Bring it to a good rolling boil before you start cooking the jam. Then, as you’re cooking the jam, boil the jars for ten minutes and leave them in the hot water.
Also before you start cooking the jam, put two small plates or saucers in the freezer. You’ll use these later to check if your jam is done.
When you start cooking the jam, also start heating the snap lids. You want those to boil for about five minutes to soften the rubber stuff around the edge so that it will make a good seal on your jars.
Now you need sugar. Put 3 cups of sugar and 4 cups of your prepared fruit in your big flat-bottomed pan. Don’t skimp on the sugar, it’s important for helping the jam gel properly. Console yourself with the thought that you’re using nice fresh in-season fruit and so your jam will be healthy despite the crapload of sugar. Turn the heat on your stove as high as it can go — the idea here is to bring it to a boil FAST and then boil it FAST. Stir constantly.
After a very few minutes the sugar should melt and everything should be boiling nicely.
At this point, make someone else stir for a minute and cover your arms. You’re probably wearing a short-sleeved shirt since it’s probably summer and you’re in the kitchen with three pots on the stove. But jam splatters in a particularly vicious way, so either put on a long-sleeved shirt or wrap some tea-towels around your arms.
After a while (fifteen or twenty minutes for strawberry, but it depends on the fruit – black currants can be less than ten minutes) the texture and sound of the jam will change. It’ll feel thicker and more lava-like, it’ll start spurting molten globs onto your arms (and everywhere else) and the sound of the bubbles will be louder. It’s kind of a horror-movie boiling-entrails kind of effect here.
When it starts to do this, drip a small amount of jam onto one of the plates you put in the freezer. Put the plate and proto-jam back in the freezer for about a minute, then check to see if the jam has gelled. If not, try again in two minutes (using the other plate) and repeat as necessary. You don’t want to overcook it; it’ll get all stiff and hard to spread.
When the jam gels properly, turn off the heat. Now lift your sterilized jars out of the boiling water and line them up on the counter. I like to put them on a tea towel to catch any drips and help contain the mess.
Pick up the jam pot and using the funnel (if you have one) pour jam into each jar. It’s a nice idea to have someone else move the funnel from jar to jar so you don’t have to put down the jam pot. Leave 1cm airspace at the top of each jar.
Pick hot snap lids out of their own pot (using a magnetic wand or two forks) and put them on the jars.
Hold the snap lids down with the screw tops, but don’t overtighten them. It’s not the screw top that matters here; it’s the snap lid. Just make them finger tight. That’s tricky enough, since jars and lids are really hot at this point!
Put the filled jars back in the sterilizer. You’ll see bubbles. Don’t fret, it’s just air expanding within the jars; they’re not filling up with water. Boil the jars for ten minutes or so – this step is actually optional but it’s a good idea as it both ensures a good seal and compensates for any errors in sterility you might have made while filling the jars.
Lift the jars out onto a heat-proof flat surface. Separate them as much as you can so they can cool, but don’t put them anywhere too drafty in case they cool unevenly. Uneven cooling can break the jars.
Now is the moment when you look around and realize that someone’s going to have to clean up a big mess. Toss the jammy dishtowels in the direction of the washing machine, fill the dishwasher with whatever will fit, rinse whatever won’t fit in the dishwasher and leave it in the sink, and be sure to use your finger to get all the yummy remnants off the jam pot and the stirrer.
As the jam cools, you should hear loud PING! noises as the snap lids seal the jars. This may take a few hours. When they’re properly sealed, the snap lids should curve slightly downwards. If you push down on the middle of a snap lid and it moves, it’s not properly sealed. After 24 hours, jars that haven’t sealed should go in the fridge and you should eat those ones first. Jars that DID seal can go in the cupboard.
Now you have jam! Even if winter is long and cold you will be happy!
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