20 April 2010

Strawberry Jam without extra sugar

This weekend the kids and I made no-sugar-added Strawberry Freezer Jam. Oh. my. goodness, it is good! We made a special loaf of Honey Oatmeal Wheat bread and the combo is our go-to food for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Fresh strawberries smeared on toasted perfection... what's not to love?

Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 lbs strawberries
1 tube frozen white grape juice concentrate or apple juice concentrate
1 package no-sugar added pectin
2 envelopes plain gelatin
2 T-1/4 c. lemon juice

Heat juice concentrate to boiling and allow to simmer until reduced to approximately 1/2 cup. Set aside.

Hull and cut the strawberries (we cut ours in 1/2 inch pieces). Crush the strawberries to desired smoothness (we left big chunks). Allow the strawberries to sit for a while, or until a lot of juice has come out of them.

Put strawberries in large pan, then mix in juice concentrate and 2 T of lemon juice. Next add pectin and gelatin and mix until both are dissolved. Heat the pan over medium high heat, stirring frequently. The jam should boil hard and thicken (if it seems too thick, add a teeny bit of water or more lemon juice -- it is better to have it too thick than too runny). It will eventually begin to foam. When this happens, turn off the heat, skim the foam and continue to stir occasionally for a minute or two. Taste the jam (carefully!) and add stevia to taste (Start with 5-10 drops and mix well before re-tasting. Don't add so much that it is bitter. Stevia is not good when it is the first thing one tastes.).

Ladle warm jam into freezer containers and allow to cool before covering and putting in fridge or freezer. It should keep in the fridge for several weeks and the freezer for several months, though, trust me, you'll use it long before that.

Before eating, stir it a little to make it less jello-like. Ours is exactly like regular sugar-filled jam when stirred.

Enjoy (in copious amounts)!

And let me know if you try it!
Edited to add: I forgot the lemon juice! It's fixed now.


Mommas... I entreat you. Read Ann's words here today.

19 April 2010

The fruitful year

This year, at the beginning of May, I turn 35. I have decided to make it my "fruitful year" by embracing the gardening gene long latent within me and plant the bejeebers out of the yard of our new house.

Dennis gave me the go-ahead and so, for a pre-birthday gift, I ordered a significant load of fruits, including:

5 apple trees -- Honeycrisp, Goldrush, Pixie Crunch, Sundance, and Pristine.
2 cherry trees -- Montmorency and Sweet Stella
1 peach tree -- Contender
1 pear tree -- Honeysweet
10 raspberries -- Heritage (above)
3 Currants -- Red Lake
3 Cherry Bushes -- Nanking
2 Native Plums
2 Gooseberries -- Pixwell
2 Grape vines - Cayuga
...and a partridge for the pear tree. :)

Our yard is very large, and the trees are all semi-dwarfs, so they won't get too unmanageable. We cut down some inherited trees -- two pears and an apple -- that were unruly, old, and non-productive, so now we can have the fruit we want.

This weekend was spent digging holes. The raspberries, grape, pear and peach are in. Pristine is waiting in a trench against the garage for her sisters to be delivered. I expect to get an email notifying me of impending delivery soon. I'm eager to meet these ladies.

I'm excited. I think it's going to be a fruitful year. :)

18 April 2010

What we've been doing lately

Collecting pebbles/ fish from side of the cellar door/ river

Doing Very Important Tasks with Daddy's hand truck

Building castles in the sky...and the sand

Watching the goings-on patiently...

...Or not so patiently

High-fashion digging

Helping Daddy...

... pants optional.

My new BFF

07 April 2010

Keeping eyes open for the risen Christ

Post-Easter has always been a bit of a challenge for me. In pastoral ministry, the focused intention of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter was a gift, especially for a congregation that was, generally, rather purpose-less. After Easter, we had a "now what?" feeling, I think.

This is now my second Easter as a layperson and both Easters, I've been surprised to find that, come Monday morning, the same feeling settled upon our family. Dennis and I talked about how it almost seemed as though we had spent Lent, and especially Holy Week and Easter morning, really carefully shaping our family's devotional experiences only to have Easter pass away with the dawn of Monday morning and a 5 a.m. alarm clock call. The question remains -- now what?

This year, in the face of a bit of malaise, I was smart enough to go back to the Scriptures and read about what the disciples did post-Resurrection. It looks like they had returned to a "normal" pattern of life, to a certain extent. They went to work, ate and slept. But they also shared stories of Jesus. They met together, presumably to remember and perhaps, re-enact what they did with Jesus. And, most instructive to me, they were receptive to meeting the risen Christ wherever they were, even in the most seemingly mundane of settings.

So, this post-Easter, Dennis and I have decided we should do the same. We're back to the day-to-day activities, as per usual. But as we work, eat, sleep, etc., we're going to be intentional about remembering what Jesus did and we'll be trying hard to re-enact what he did, especially how he sacrificed himself. But most of all, we'll be trying to keep our eyes open, ready to meet with the risen Christ wherever we are.
Photo: Dan-o and Annalivia with our Easter cross

06 April 2010

Easter photo attempt

We've yet to get a good photo on Easter. I don't think I ever made it into a photo this year. Oh well. Everyone knows what I look like.

This photo was taken outside church. It was incredibly windy, as you may be able to tell. Annalivia and Emmeliese are wearing dresses that Dennis' mom made. They were lovely and are large enough that they should be able to wear them for a good year.

Daniel was supposed to wear a little black Eton suit that I had him try on about a week before Easter. On Easter morning, he put it on and, I kid you not, it was a good 1/4-1/2 inch too short on the sleeves. He looked like he was wearing last year's suit (which it was). Luckily, I stockpile dress clothes for boys several sizes ahead when I find them in thrift stores or on clearance and we were able to put together an entirely different outfit in about 10 minutes. His shorts were a little long for his knee socks, but he looked very handsome and he was SO proud of his tie! ("Just like Daddy's!" he said.)

Since this is our first year at our new church, we left our traditional hats at home. Next year, perhaps.

05 April 2010

My Lenten "sacrifice"

I gave up facebook for Lent. It was a fairly easy sacrifice, though I expected it to be more difficult than it actually was. I found that I really enjoyed the silence in my life and that, when I wasn't being filled with online interactions, I actually sought out real humans friendship. Amazing how that happens... :)

One of the best side effects of giving up facebook was that I tended to not think very negatively about a lot of people. I've realized that there really is virtue in our grandmothers' teaching, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I realized as I thought about this during Lent that there are some key people in my life whom I really, greatly admire and one of the things I have always loved about these individuals is that they didn't share all of their opinions with all people. I don't know why the internet gives humans the permission to share things that normal, well-adjusted people wouldn't share in polite society, but it does. I don't need to share what I think about every subject all the time. I realized that it's a good practice to guard speech, in real life, and online, and that there are many subjects that really require relationship with others before most people are able to breech said subjects. Peggy Noonan, Eugene Peterson, and some others get a pass. Most of the rest of us should probably still our fingers when something pithy comes to mind.

During my facebook-fast, I also found that, honestly, I just didn't think about a lot of people I "saw" all the time on facebook. And what I discovered was that I didn't miss them. I don't mean that in a spiteful way. It's just that those people are not in my everyday thoughts. And I realized during Lent -- I don't think they're supposed to be. I think relationships are supposed to be at different levels of knowledge and intimacy.

So, I logged in to facebook again in the evening on Easter. I was on it for about 7 minutes. I read about some friends I hadn't thought about for 6 weeks or so. I looked at some pictures. Then I deactivated my account again. I just don't think it's a wise thing for me. And leaving it behind is not much of a sacrifice.


Dennis by the garage at the house we rent

04 April 2010

Christ is risen!

Where, O death, is now thy sting?
He is risen, indeed!!

Photo: First light of Easter dawn on our resurrection cross