Tuesday, 23 August 2011

From Tartan to Tomatoes

So I'm sitting here on a nice cool evening, enjoying a temperature that's actually comfortable for a pair of track pants, hang on ... There I'm back now. Seeing as it was cool enough I figured I would actually go and put on a pair of yoga pants and my housecoat and get cosy before penning this post.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks! Last weekend we went to Fergus, Ontario for the Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Our daughter was competing in the highland dance competition there on both mornings and so we decided to make a vacation of it and camp out there from the Thursday to the Monday. Now, we are tent campers. However because we were also going there to spend time with good friends we decided to book a serviced site that would normally be used by people with a camper/trailer. In the long run this turned out to be the much better option anyway as the tenting area tends to be where all the bagpipers camp and as we were later informed by more seasoned attendees of the Games, depending on who wins the competition and where they're from, the piping can start up at about 2:00 in the morning!

We had a great time there and our daughter did really well for only her second competition, placing and bringing home medals for 5 out her 6 dances! We are so proud of her, not only for dancing well but also for her sportsmanship and grace under pressure. We had our fill of all things Scottish - well, not the haggis, but I'm okay to give that a miss! It certainly seems that no one can party like pipers and we thoroughly enjoyed performances by the Mudmen and the Rogues. We also had a chance to spend time with friends we've seen too little of in the last few years and had a great time with the collection of campsites all our party had booked together so we had a hemmed-in place for the kids to play safely.

After we'd been home for two days my parents came to spend a few days with us which ended up being providential as it is tomato season. "What?" you may ask. Well seeing as we are so Italian (not really but it's fun to say so) we have made it a tradition to can our own tomatoes in the fall. The thing is that it's a very limited time frame when you can do so. Last year we missed it and we had to spend the year eating store-bought tomato sauce. There's about a week at the end of August or beginning of September when you can go to the Italian supermarkets and get tomatoes by the bushel basket, but you have to be there early or else all the Nonas get there first and you get nothing! And If you happen to not be near an Italian grocery store that week and you miss it altogether then you're also out of luck. So luckily, Geof (the TPSI Dad) happened to be driving through Woodbridge last week and discovered that the tomatoes were out so that decided what we were doing the next day!

Now what I really want is to be temporarily adopted by an italian family at tomato time and see how they do their tomatoes because I have heard stories of them doing up to 50 bushels of tomatoes in a day to supply the whole family. That is a production line I want to see! We can barely get through five and as it is I'm proud of that much! We put one bushel away in the freezer to use whole in soups and stews for the winter and we canned four bushels, getting about 60 litres of sauce out of the deal. It's not a huge cost savings when you consider that you can get tomato sauce for $.88/750 ml when it's on sale, and it's definitely labour intensive, but there's nothing like it for the taste of pure fresh tomatoes all winter and knowing exactly what went into them - nothing other than tomatoes! It's also a great family activity with all the kids taking turns at the different stations, washing the tomatoes, stirring the pots, pouring tomatoes into the hopper of the "tomato machine", (I used to call it a food mill, until all the Italians I asked about to find one just kept giving me blank stares) pushing through the pulp to get the skins and seeds out. It makes for a great family day. However, while also caring for a young baby four months old and with an eighteen month old toddler underfoot it can be a crazy time so it was great to have my parents here as my Mum was able to help with lots of child care and tomato chopping! I've now finished processing all the jars in a boiling water canner and they're all tucked away on the basement shelves.

Now I just have to get myself in gear to get through all the other tasks on my summer to-do list before we settle down to our first year of homeschooling all the kids. If I'm good I should just be able to manage it, by the grace of God! And I'm sure it will provide lots of fodder for this blog!

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