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Jam Fest 2010

September 8, 2010

I have to admit that although I love to spend time every year putting by food for the coming winter, I had no intention of doing so this season. My first trimester had left my garden ravaged, with the only thing surviving being a very large pumpkin that must be more resilient than anything else alive. I didn’t think that I had the motivation to stand in the kitchen and makes jams, soups, and sauces, or even the desire, but a little bit of luck changed that.

As I mentioned on Monday, we were one of the last sets of customers through our local farmers market over the weekend, and I scored a lot of over ripened fruit for very little cost. I could see my husbands eyes to start to roll back into his head as I talked of all the jam that I was going to make. I think that he had a running bet going that while it seemed like a good idea at the time, I would in fact do nothing more than go home and nap and forget the entire Jam Fest idea, leaving he and the boys to eat a lot of fruit in very little time.

The next morning dawned sunny and cool, and I went to the sink and started the process of peeling peaches and pears. The peaches were sliced and placed in a syrup of red wine, the pears into a rich caramel sauce. Pear and peach butters were put into the crock pot, and soon the house smelled like a perfect summer day.

With jars running wild all over the house, I decided to also make up a few batches of Lisa’s Elderberry Syrup and Lavender Syrup. A tablespoon of elderberry syrup a day helps to fight against the flu, and I figured that it is never too early to get a head start. The lavender syrup had the most amazing aroma, and it filled the house with a sense of warmth and ease (and an excitement to eat it over a cold bowl of vanilla ice cream that a friend made and that has been sitting patiently in my freezer).

Since the smell was so intoxicating, I wanted to keep it going, and I threw some raw honey from a local bee keeper in a double broiler (I just use a bowl over a pot of water) and placed a cheese cloth full of lavender inside to infuse (make sure that the temp of the honey does not go above 100 degrees). Lavender honey is delicious on so many yummy goodies (from sweet cornbread to feat cheese, the possibilities are endless). True lavender honey is made from bees that pollinate the lavender (mainly in France), but infused honey still has a wonderful charm and a light feel.  Between the lavender syrup and the honey, I think that we are set for a very good autumn.

For my jams that need a bit of extra pectin, I decided to try a green apple jelly from the amazing Mes Confitures. It makes the jams a little bit sweeter, but they hold up better than powder pectin has in the past. The process of making green jelly yields us a few special jars of warm apple sauce that were jarred with lavender honey, and eaten by my little ones throughout the day.

Although my children both suffer from dairy allergies, my husband and I thankfully do not, and every Saturday or Sunday I go to pick up our share of raw milk. We are super lucky to live right in front of the dairy farm, so riding my bike or walking is always a fun way to spend a warm afternoon. I normally make two jars of regular yogurt for my husband (although I am not allergic, I do not enjoy the taste of milk, just cheese), and this week I decided to have a little fun and experiment with making butter. This had to be the highlight of my weekend, for here I was standing over what I believe was 1/3 cup of cream for 90 minutes to get the darn stuff to turn to the proper butter consistency. I used this recipe for making butter, and while it was delicious, it was a lot of work for 1 tbsp of result. The biggest benefit was the buttermilk that it yielded that was promptly added to our drop biscuit ingredients and cooked up immediately.

Corn bread and drop biscuits, jams and honeys, syrups and butter. It was a good day, a fun day, a laugh at the mess day. It was a day where I found dried peach goop everywhere, where we ate a bit too much sugar from tasting all the jam, and where I went to bed so exhausted I forgot to change into my pajamas.

I have come to the clear conclusion that I love homemade jam like others love chocolate. It makes me happy, and I am pretty sure that I could eat it just about every day. It feels good to have a nice stock of yummy goodness to get us through these coming cold months, and to help us remember the joys that the summer season has to offer.

Next up, apples!

For the lavender honey and syrup, I use organic dried lavender from Mountain Rose Herbs.

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When last Wednesday dawned September 1st, I realized that it was time that I get seriously busy about the long list of handmade gifts that need to be made. I emailed Tonya straight away and asked to join her and the amazing community of crafters she has gathered together in her Handmade Holidays 2010, both for inspiration and for encouragement.

We have recently begun an allowance with our children, and we have been working with them to save money, purchase a few of their own special snacks per week at the store, and have one or two quarters in their pockets for something of enjoyment.

After a great deal of discussion, and a lot of work on their part to try and balance their “budget”, I decided that it might be fun for them to have something special to carry their hard earned money in when we visit the markets. A few months back, Linda from Natural Suburbia held a giveaway for a few of her magical items. For the first time ever, I actually won a giveaway, and was treated to an amazing package. One of the treasures that I have kept on my work table ever since was a gorgeous piece of handmade felt felt that Linda had made (she is sweet enough to have a tutorial for doing the same on her blog). I have been thinking of what I wanted to do with it, and I knew that it had to feel right before I could use it.

The idea for this first holiday gift came when I folded the piece in half last week, and I realized that it could make a great wallet. The felt is super sturdy, and the project took all of about 30 minutes, start to finish to put together. What is it about completing the first handmade gift, even a tiny stocking stuffer, that just makes me feel so giddy? I love the holidays, and it is so meaningful to be able to give a gift, even a small one like this, that is handmade.

Personalized Felted Wallet

Cut your felt to what ever size feels right for you or your child. I chose to use Velcro as my closure (the sticky kind), and I matched them up and sewed them on for extra security.

Fold in half to the size you desire and pin in place.

Using a blanket stitch, sew the sides shut.

Using a scrap piece of linen or cotton, stamp or embroider your words of choice, and using a zig zag stitch sew in place (on front flap) to cover your velcro stitching.

Fill with what ever coins or dollars your child has saved, and enjoy!

This weekend we took the long trek (at 4 am) down to Colorado Springs for the Colorado Balloon Classic, and as always it was such a treat. There is something spectacular about huge colorful balloons filling the sky as the sun rises. When Jacob was about 18 months, he and I use to wake almost every morning at 6 am and head out to try and “chase” balloons. Ballooning is rather big in our area, and most sunny days you can find at least one in the sky. Jake and I would sit up on the hood of my car and he would just shriek in excitement. It is great to see that both boys still have that joy at seeing them fill up the sky.

At the end of the morning, we came across one of those high flying bungee things that kids can “fly” on. We went from balloons in the air to kids in the air in a matter of minutes. Oh the freedom of a trampoline and a bungee cord. I wish I could bottle those looks forever.

The weekend ended with true happiness, at least for me. We were the last of the visitors to the farmer’s market, and I scored a box of over ripened peaches, and another of pears for 1/3 the cost of what they would have been earlier in the day. Guess who is spending her Memorial Day Monday in the kitchen jamming?

Have a happy and safe holiday my friends

Savings Pouch PDF

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