"Do you want these grapes?" my husband yelled from the backyard

He was clearing out the ancient, bug-eaten vines that had been the bane of our garden. For years, they did little but grow out of reach and deposit the few grapes they managed to produce on the sidewalk, to be tracked into to the house, where they would stain floors and rugs that distinctive reddish- purple color.

"Sure, I want 'em," I answered. Big mistake. There were lots of vines loaded, much to my surprise, with lots of fat and juicy Concord grapes so perect they looked like they'd come out of a winery brochure.

I couldn't resist. I plopped down in the grass and started picking those plump beauties off the twisting vines. 

Four hours and 5 lbs. of grapes later, I was thinking about all the friends I'd give jars of jam to.That I hadn't actually made any jam didn't seem to bother me. I'd already decided my jam would be the best ever.

When all my colanders were overflowing with grapes, I started in on recipes, comparing them, debating their merits. I still had plenty of enthusiasm when I had to call a search-and-rescue mission for the scale (behind the cookbooks),the canner (hidden under the stairs), the jars (gone), the sieve, the rack, the lids and labels. I was still keen on making jam through the math lesson -- weighing, subtracting for containers, dividing by batches.

When I realized that I would have to peel each and every grape, my committment wavered a bit. But I powered through. By hour 6, I had grape stains up to my elbows, but the grapes -- all 5 lbs of them -- were peeled. 

By hour 7, my kitchen looked like a crime scene: reddish-purple stains on the dish towels, utensils, countertops,even the backsplash. The sink was piled high with bleeding pots and pans, my food processor was permanently discolored. It was when I was sterilziing my second set of jars that I lost my will to jam. It evaporated like the steam from the canner, along with the list of would be jam recipients.

Hour 10. I stood staring at my piddly10 half-pint jars of jam, willing them to give the signal -- ping! -- that they had sealed, that I was finally done. I didn't hear my husband come into the kitchen. He took my hand and saved me with the words: "It's bedtime."

The next day, on the way out of the house, my husband pointed to the vines still laden with clusters of pictured-perfect grapes, and offered to cut them for me. 

This time, I wisely said something that amounted to no.