Monday, March 22, 2010


Tedious:  adjective; Middle English, 15th century:  Tiresome because of length or dullness.  Webster's Dictionary Online.

The other day, I had a group of people come through the kitchen on a tour, and since I was in the middle of making the Spring Thyme Marmalade, I explained the process to them.  One man said, "Whoa!  Sounds tedious!  And the others chuckled and nodded in agreement.  And a few weeks ago, my friend Bonnie, after reading my blog entry on Loomy Tunes ( said, "That sounds like fun.  But tedious."  And I remember my first impression of being a professional pastry chef:  We make the same things over and over!  How tedious!

It made me think about what that word means and how often I've heard it applied to things I love to do, which made me wonder about myself.  The things that make me happiest are very technical, very repetitive and very unforgiving to those who don't follow the rules.  Is one person's tedium another's bliss?

This week, I finished the lace hand towels I've been working on since before Christmas.  I say I've finished them, but I really only cut them off the loom.  This morning, I washed and dried them, and tomorrow morning, very early, I'll serge them, iron them and cut them apart to show my Tuesday Weaver buddies.  I'd do that tonight, but it's day-off eve, and I've already had a beer.  I'm not going to work on something for 4 months and ruin it!

Today, I also finished the Spring Thyme Marmalade, after a week of preparation.  I just love the way the day's production looks, all lined up and glowing in the light!  The marmalade took 3 days; not the entire 3 days, but at least 12 hours per batch, and this is two batches.  Peel the zest, cut off the pith, supreme the segments, boil one day for ten minutes, the next day for ten minutes, the next, cook until it's marmalade.  But this one has one more step:
Yes, I have to pluck thyme leaves off the stems!  .10 ounce per pound of fruit.  This is 2.5 ounces.  Since each batch was about 25 pounds, that's 5 ounces, which doesn't sound like much, until you realize we're talking itty-bitty leaves that weigh next to nothing.  It gets blanched for 30 seconds, shocked in cold water, pressed dry in a towel and thrown in the marmalade at the very last minute before it goes into jars.  Tedious, but oh, so fragrant!

I don't quilt anymore, not since I got my first loom, but I quilted for 25 years (impossible!  I'm not old enough!), and what I liked best was hand quilting.  I watched baseball while I quilted, during baseball season, because it was two really boring things combined to make one sort of interesting pastime!  I made two quilts in my quilting career that were made completely by hand.  One is too big to take a picture of in my small house tonight, but one is hanging in the hall:
I bought one big piece of fabric while I lived in Paris that faded from dark green to light green, and pieced this from an idea in an article in Threads magazine.  My son and I designed the quilting pattern, and it kept me busy for many months in my t.v.-less apartment, listening to Radio France and practicing French.  When I returned to the states, I started a new quilt from scraps from a summer dress.  I worked on a lot of other quilts at the same time, but this particular quilt became my first machine quilted quilt.  I found out that I hated machine quilting; it was a way to get quilts done faster, but it was an unpleasant chore for me, not the restful, monotonous, tedious rhythm of hand quilting.  So, I hand beaded all around the border, and into the applique:

I have lots of sweaters with fussy patterns and socks with complicated methods, but the most arduous knitting I have ever done is when I decided it would be fun to knit lace edging for pillow cases and make my nearest and dearest hand made pillow cases.  I finished my mother's and my sister's, but didn't have time to finish my son's.  I still have to sew one strip on:

And then, there's baking.  How many times have non-bakers told me how much they love their bread machines?  And how they just don't have the patience to make bread by hand?  Here's my lunch yesterday:

I made it while I cut lemon segments, mixing the first sponge, setting it aside; mixing the rest of the flour and the salt in to get it to a lovely, elastic dough, then forming it.  Four hours total time, but maybe 20 minutes of work, for a lovely, fragrant, hot lunch, made by my hands.

My life is filled with wonderful, creative tedium.


LA said...

And this is why we all love you just the way you are!

Tina said...

I know what you mean about repetitive stuff being restful. I feel the same way!

Bonnie said...

You seem to have it figured out. That is nice. You know what you want and you go for it.