Posts Tagged ‘family’

We tap our red maple tree using a tap, some plastic tubing, and empty milk jugs.

The plastic tubing helps keeps the bugs out, and the milk jugs provide convenient storage.

(The neighbors’ kids drink the milk)


Tapping the tree

The sap is reduced in batches throughout the season. Otherwise we would have 40 gallons of sap stacked in the garage!

The stove was obtained specially for this purpose. Other (more common?) uses include deep-frying turkeys, and boiling lobsters.

Boiling the sap with an industrial strength stove


To boil the sap down to the correct concentration without burning requires extreme accuracy.

Good thing my family is so good with precision.



Making the syrup requires intense concentration

After the syrup is ready, it’s poured hot into jars. As the air cools, the jars are sealed and the syrup is safe for the season.

The darker syrup is actually a batch made from sap gathered later in the season. I wonder what makes the difference?

Maple syrup. Note that one jar has already been eaten.


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Yesterday was the 69-year anniversary of the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, marking the start of the United States’ direct involvement in the Second World War.

The Pearl Harbor attack was thirty-five years before I was born, but it is still a cultural hotspot. Like the day JFK was assassinated or 9/11, it can evoke powerful memories and strong emotions. “Flashbulb memories” are memories that combine a personal event with a cultural hotspot – the recollection of where you were and what happened to you on a historic occasion.

I don’t have a “flashbulb memory” for Pearl Harbor, because I wasn’t there. But it makes me think of my grandfather, who fought in the Pacific and who was stationed in occupied Japan after the war. He hardly ever spoke about his war days, but he did tell a story about the spiciest meal he ever ate. He also talked about the day that Japan surrendered. He was in a tent when he heard gunshots outside and he thought, “this is it, I’m going to die.”

Instead, the gunshots were celebratory rounds in honor of the end of the war.

So on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor I’m thinking, not just of war, but of the end of war. My grandfather was about to be sent with the ground troops to invade Japan and he was absolutely certain that his life was almost over. “If the war hadn’t ended then,” he said, “you wouldn’t be here.”

This post is in honor of the people who still don’t know if they’re coming home, and of the granddaughters they might someday have.

What does Pearl Harbor evoke for you?

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Well, Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it, the stress of one of the most highly charged family meals of the year.

I used to hate Thanksgiving. In fact, my freshman year of college I chose to stay in upstate New York and celebrate with a friend instead of making the 8-hour bus ride home. The dining halls all closed down, which we anticipated. What we hadn’t considered was that the buses would also stop running, nearly all the restaurants would close, and we would be stranded on an empty campus without proper sustenance. So, instead of turkey and cranberry sauce and stuffing, she and I raided the vending machine, watched Zoolander, and gave thanks for the man who delivered our emergency General Tso’s chicken. It actually turned out to be a pretty fun day.

Less fun, though, are the family negotiations that seem inevitable around the holidays. Who’s going where. Who’s hosting whom. Which relatives are escaping to remote islands (or secretly wishing they were) instead of joining the rest of the extended family for football and conversation.

These days, Thanksgiving is less stressful for me. Part of it is that I’m older and I can make my own plans. Part of it is that I’ve reframed the holiday and now think of it as a big family meal as opposed to a super-charged family fest. Gathering in small groups helps, as does eating out, which is a tradition that my father started several years ago. Last year, we went to a Greek restaurant anticipating ouzo, saganaki, and moussaka, only to find they were serving turkey! This year, we’ve embraced traditional American fare and have a reservation for four at a quaint New England inn.

Whether you hate, love, or are generally indifferent to Thanksgiving, take a deep breath and enjoy the food. Remember—if things get too stressful, you can always escape for a nap and blame it on the turkey.

Weather: Cloudy skies all day, but warmer than usual for late November.


Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. She ate great cheese this weekend.

Hannah – 6 out of 10. She hates November.

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