Monday, August 20, 2012


Annike's quote of the day:
"I am pretending to be a Pirate Serval Cat, with no hat, and no clothes, and no sword, and no bird.  I just have treasure." (except it sounds like she says "treadjure")

This was announced to me as I walked into her room during her quiet time and she was standing on the bed just as she said... with literally no hat, no clothes, no sword, and of course, no bird.  The picture I wanted to include was inappropriate for the internet.  

For those of you who do not have a wild-animal-loving 3-year-old with an overactive imagination in your home, this is a picture of a serval cat. Can you picture the pirate version without the hat and the clothes and the sword and the bird?  I definitely can.

I was thinking that she will have no trouble believing the passage in Matthew 6 that asks us to not to worry about our clothes or what we will wear, but to be mindful of where our true treasure lies ... 

Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? ... But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy... 
for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
Matt 6:20, 21, 25

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ice cream

We have so many delicious blackberries growing in the fields around our house, I got it in my head that I wanted to make homemade blackberry ice cream with Annike.

Doesn't that just sound heavenly on a warm summer night?

And, we have this homemade ice cream maker we were given as a wedding gift. I am pretty sure we have used it twice, right? ...nine years ago when we were first married.  Definitely at least once. When I came across it recently taking up shelf space, Christian wanted to get rid of it.  And I cried "No! I promise I will use it!!"

That was 6 months ago. Today we got it out and I am remembering why we didn't use it all that often.  Even with the ice cream machine, it is still a 3 or more step process to make the ice cream from scratch. There is this internal bowl that you have to remember to freeze for at least 24 hours before you want to make the ice cream. Then you mix up all of the heavy whipping cream and eggs and sugar and you practically boil them on the stove.  So that takes almost a day to cool in the refrigerator before you can add it to the ice cream machine.

We were finally ready to add our cooled ice cream mixture to the machine today.  Annike and I went down to pick a bucket of blackberries to go with it, and let me tell you that is a labor of love. Between the brambles and the thorns in my arms and clothes and boots, and the poison oak, and Annike eating them almost as fast as I can pick them, I definitely understand why berries cost so much in the store.

But we made it back to the kitchen with energy to spare, hyped by the anticipation of finally getting to eat our ice cream tonight.  I pulled the dusty machine off of the top shelf of the laundry room... you know, the shelf where we keep things we never use because they are so darned hard to reach up there.

You may see where this is going. I had every necessary piece and even the instruction manual, but after nine years of occupying precious kitchen space, the useless machine would not work!! It hummed and buzzed in a broken machine kind of way, but simply would not crank.

I did what every good mom would do. I hit the machine with my fist. I flipped it over and stuck a knife through each and every opening (unplugged, of course). I tried to force the rotation with a wrench. All to no avail. I am now convinced that the ice-cream-maker-making industry is a complete scam. Ninety five percent of the time they only need to produce a machine that will work twice. Most people never pull their machines out again.

It wasn't a complete loss because we stuck the cream mixture in the freezer and it came out just fine without all of the mixing, which brings me back to the ice-cream-maker-making industry scam thing. Plus Annike's favorite part turned out to be sticking her fingers in the cream and licking them off while I was beating up the broken machine.

Meanwhile, Sommer was being a little angel in her high chair, helping in her own way by making sure the ingredients were of the highest quality. She went straight into the bathtub after this kitchen experiment.

I thought it would be fun to make homemade ice cream with Annike because, well, isn't that what good moms do with their kids on a hot summer day? I was just trying to be a good mom. And, even though it is tempting to say that I feel bummed about the outcome of our endeavor, I am happy to report that I still feel like a good mom. My daughter and I bonded over blackberry picking and mess-making in the kitchen, and more importantly, we created a memory. We just didn't end up with the ice cream machine part of it.

FYI, the machine is going in the trash. I won't be buying another one. If you have one that works, I may ask to borrow it in another nine years.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

jars of jam

I've been busy lately...

It is all worth it come January, when there is no fruit to be found in the orchard.  There is nothing like warm homemade jam on waffles, or a bowl of ice cream, or even a regular old PBandJ.  Like a little taste of summer in a jar.

Admittedly, I have never loved to cook. Making jam, however, seems to combine my creative side and my love for chemistry. It is different than spending an hour in the kitchen making a meal that will be eaten in 9 minutes flat, leaving me with another half hour of clean-up.  That kind of cooking drives me up the kitchen wall.

A batch of jam is more like a craft.  And when I practice something enough, I begin to figure it out, and maybe actually get good at it. After batches and batches of jam I have determined just how we like it - with less sugar and plenty of tartness. A notable contrast from Smuckers.

Practice is funny that way. It can seem monotonous and mundane in the process. But in the end, a product emerges that we can stand behind, and even say we are proud of. Isn't it the same in life? Personally, we have been given certain gifts in abundance, like an amazing community of family and friends, and our health, and jobs, and freedom. We have to practice appreciating them, or let that abundance rot on the ground. Add a few key ingredients like gratitude, kindness, and unconditional love for the people in our lives, and soon we produce a cupboard full of blessings.

When life tosses you too much fruit, make jam!
Plum Jam(my current working recipe)
6 cups cut up plums (remove the pit, keep the skin on)
1/4 cup water (or less)
2 Tblsp lemon juice
--- Boil the above for 10 minutes
add 6 cups sugar 
--- Bring mixture to a rolling boil
add 1 package (3 Tbsp) Ball "Low or No Sugar Needed Pectin" 
--- Bring mixture to a boil for 1 full minute
--- Place into hot, sterilized jars and let cool.  See HERE for sterilization process.
--- Makes 8-9 cups of jam.

(Tip: The "Low or No Sugar Needed Pectin" is the key ingredient.  With other pectin types the recipes call for too much sugar in order to get the fruit to gel.  Then the jam can taste too sweet like store bought jam.)