Life and Jelly

9 09 2009

Why is it that there can be so much going on in my head, but when I place my fingers on the keyboard they sit motionless while I struggle?  I suppose it’s just hard to know where to start sometimes…

“What have I been up to?” you ask.  Ok, so you haven’t ask, but for posterity’s sake, let’s pretend.  I need someone to ask today, and since there’s no one around, I shall indulge myself in imaginings 🙂

I’ve been up to lots of things.  I’ve been trying to be a full-time teacher to my sixth-grade daughter, for one.  I have found it easy, as a home educator, to leave my children on auto-pilot for a few hours each day, while I keep other responsibilities under control, but I’ve discovered that this approach doesn’t work quite so well with this child as it did with the first.  Siblings can be so different!  That’s another conversation entirely, and I’ll stay on the current one.  Staying near my daughter as she works, being available to answer questions (she won’t search the house for me like her brother did), asking about her progress regularly (to inhibit daydreaming – or whatever it is her mind turns to), and moving her from one task to another (to eliminate the time wasted when she fails to come to me when she has completed what I have given her) is sooooooo difficult some days!  In case you haven’t concluded so yet, today was one of those days.  By the time we finished the school day, it was 4:50, and I truly thought I would implode before dinner was cooked.  Some momma-chosen tunes and self-control, along with the cooking assistance and companionship offered by my love helped put out the fuse!

I’ve really slowed down in the hobby area, simply because of the lack of time.  I’ve set up and made only a handful of postcard trades since school began a month ago, and letterboxing was completely ignored  through the entire summer (although I did think about it many times).  Hiking is not happening, either, but I have probably spent more time dreaming/planning about where and when I can hike than any other single pleasurable think I have been able to allow my brain to escape to these last few weeks.

My mom and niece came for a visit over the weekend, and it so happens that I had been planning to make apple jelly on Labor Day for two weeks.  My daughter expressed a desire to know how jelly was made, and see the process, so the homeschooler in me delighted at the chance to indulge her curiosity and delight in her eagerness to learn something new, and I forged ahead with it!  Although my mom had made jelly many times when I was growing up, I don’t remember ever helping past the point of helping gather the fruit,  so I had no experience making jelly from fruit.  In college, I made jelly from canned fruit juice once, but that was the extent of my experience with jelly-making.  So, I became excited easily about the prospect of going through the entire process using fresh apples from a local orchard.  That my mom just happened to be here to see the process along and share in the fun, was just perfect.  The jelly turned out great, it is delicious, and though not a requirement, it is  absolutely gorgeous!   But out of the whole experience, I was most excited to learn that you don’t have to have whole apples to make apple jelly.  It may not be a surprise to you, but I was elated to learn that all you need to make apple jelly are the apple scraps!!  The cores and peelings alone result in wonderfully tasting, beautifully colored jelly!  The first batch we made was made from whole apples,  We left on the peels, but tossed the cores and the result was a very flavorful, light peachy-pink jelly, perfect in sweetness.  When I looked at the huge bowl of apples remaining and began to discuss making another batch with my mom, she suggested that I freeze or dry some of the apples for other uses, since there were really enough apples left for two more batches.  It was during this discussion that she revealed that all we needed were the scraps from the apples we  would freeze or dry to make another batch of jelly.  I couldn’t believe it at first, and then it sunk in as we discussed the ‘old way’ and how it would never have allowed for the ‘waste’ of good fruit just for jelly.  True.  And I couldn’t wait to try it.  I am still ecstatic with the result 🙂  And I still think it’s so cool that you can make lovely, sweet, scrumptious jelly from the parts I usually throw away!!!  And to make my new knowledge even more amazing, the ‘scrap’ jelly is much deeper in color – never again will I think of peelings and cores as garbage!

Check out the difference in the color…(the taste is pretty much the same, I think, but my tastes of each weren’t within moments of one another, so there could be a slight difference).

Apple Jelly  Apple Jelly

This jelly still needs a name.  I just haven’t been able to come up with something creative enough – it’s one of those “I’ll know it when I hear it” sort of things…suggestions are very welcome!!

In case it helps, the apples used were Empire, Jonathon, and Cortland.  “Think, think, think.” says Pooh.  😉

We also canned two whole pints (hee-hee) of the jalapenos growing so well in the garden.  I promised you pictures when it was all in full green…sorry about that; I never took photos and now it’s in that not-so-lovely stage, where the lettuce is gone, the tomatoes and bell peppers, some scallions and herbs are still green and producing, but mostly just the jalapenos are thriving!!  Maybe I’ll get pictures during it’s peak next year. 

I’m also getting ready to start back volunteering in the children’s ministry at church.  Not writing for them as I had hoped, but God has other plans for my writing 🙂  I’ll be teaching Kindergarten boys – such cute little bottles of energy and curiosity, and I am very excited about it and implementing the changes that have been made in the progression of the hour we have them.  I am working on a postcard-sized newsletter to send home weekly to update the parents on what their boys are learning and encouraging them to help reinforce it at home.  I need a few creative group activities to use with them in a whole-family group setting, so if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions, they are welcome!

Even though the preceding barely touches the surface in attempt to tell you what I’ve been up to, I’ve sat still long enough and have to move on to something else.





Up to Speed

4 04 2009

To bring you up to speed on a bunch of things I’ve mentioned and left you hanging on…

My mysteriously missing “indoor” letterbox – the owner who was so gracious and seemingly anxious to house my box in the store display case never responded.  I’m giving up and planning to recarve and make another hand-bound logbook to replace the precious plant.  Until I get that done, I’ll have to leave it marked “unavailable”.  As dumbfounded as I am about this whole experience, I’m not giving up on having that box – it was a “planter’s choice”!!!

Newbie boxers recruiting effort – My sister-in-law contacted me to plan a letterboxing outing this time, which proves that they are successfully recruited 😉  This time they came to my town, and I went with them to boxes that I already had logged, so although it didn’t result in any new finds for me, it was wonderful to spread the love of the hobby and a perfect-weather day in which to be putzing along the trails!

Stumped on a stamp image – I finally managed to complete the stamp that conveys what I think is beautiful about KY.  It ended up being a sort of mosaic of images that fit nicely into the basic outline of the state, rather than one single image.  There’s just too much that I think is beautiful to put into one image, and even then, I only concentrated on the natural beauty (because I love nature), but it would have been impossible to express all the beauty in this state…the people, the culture, the history, the tradition… so I had to pick something, and the nature seemed most appropriate. 

It’s a spoiler, but the decision is yours… but first read the insert that went in the logbook – the image will make more sense…

“My task for this stamp was to carve what I thought was beautiful about my state.  The first thing that came to mind was the Red River Gorge area, where I love to hike, with it’s incredible rock formations, natural bridges and acres of deciduous forest.  Then other images immediately followed:  the foothills of the Appalachians where I was raised – making me take a deep breath every time I visit them; Cumberland Falls – a simple falls, but one of only two places in the entire world where a moonbow occurs; Mammoth Cave – the longest cave system in the world; all the lovely rivers and lakes – making up more miles of coastline than Florida.  When I couldn’t choose, I incorporated them all, including the marshes of the western part of the state, whose beauty I have seen only in pictures, but have on my list of places to see.”

My “Beautiful KY” Stamp

 

In other news, I’ve been fillilng my garden beds.  They are home to Rosemary, Basil, Cilantro, Italian Parsley, Plain Parsley, Garlic, Thyme, Chives, Red Bell Pepper, Yellow Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper, Jalapenos, Sweet Texas Onions, Scallions, Big Boy Tomato, Roma Tomato, Cherry Tomato and Green Leaf Lettuce!  Oregano to go and I’ll be done with the planting.  I’m having so much fun with it – I hope it all grows beautifully and that I don’t fail to put the roofs on when we have a cold spell…

I planted a Jack-in-the-Pulpit in a shady bed today, and some pink Primrose seeds…tomorrow I plan to plant Purple Coneflower, and two varieties of Poppy, along with about 1/2 a flat of annuals.  When everything’s grown enough to justify pictures, I’ll post some 😉

My “Sensational Educational US Passport Postal:  Kentucky” made it back home this week, after traveling through the ring.  It has visited Alaska, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine.  Too cool!!  Once the rest of the ring postals have completed their journeys, I’ll most likely use mine as a postal single – my very first 🙂 

Well it is quite past dinner time, and we’ve had none, so I suppose I should mosey on down to the kitchen and see what I can fix…or find dh and see what he can come up with 😀

Adios!





Spring Break Happenings

1 04 2009

I finally got to begin exercising again today, and boy does it feel great.  I had purchased My Fitness Coach for the Wii a couple of weeks ago, after reading some great reviews, but had pain in the area of my surgery from just doing the fitness test, so I had to wait awhile longer.  It’s been very frustrating recovering, because evidently when the Dr says it’ll take “a couple of weeks” to recover, he means that after a couple of weeks you won’t be needing pain pills for the pain you have just sitting on the couch – not that you won’t hurt when you get up off the couch and do something.  Surgery sucks.

Anyway, I have worked in the yard and not hurt, resumed all regular activity without pain, and even did a whole lot of painting over the course of 2 days without anything but some soreness not related to surgery, so I can finally begin to work my butt off again…literally 😀

I did my first workout with Maya today, for half an hour, and it was really the perfect amount, intensity and everything.  It was a good workout – but not too hard or too easy.  I’m going to walk or hike every day as well, and watch my body get back to normal!  Hubby is on board with me, and we are both motivated and excited to get back in shape (he isn’t as out of shape as I am).

It’s Spring Break around here and my dd and I spent the first 3 1/2 days of it with two of my aunts, uncle, and grandma up in Ohio.  The plan was just to hang out and visit, but that changed when a bunch of women congregated in a newly constructed home with white walls in which one aunt was unsure where to begin decorating.  We had a blast, but we did work hard!  We painted the kitchen, dining nook, living room and half bath, and shopped for curtains, rods, dish towels, cloths, heat mitts, and general decor.  It turned out beautiful!  We sat up until around 1 am every night and were up before 8 every day.  Some work was left for my aunt and uncle to do, but we certainly managed to get the bulk of it done.  We filled our bellies with wonderful home-cooked meals and laughed until we cried.  It was great!

One aunt and I tried to find a blue diamond letterbox, but it was a puzzler to which I just didn’t have the time or energy to devote brainpower to once the painting was underway…but I’ll try again on the next visit 🙂

I’m back home and still have a few days left of break, in which I’ll hammer out a fitness routine, do some scrapbooking, begin mailings for the postcard exchange I’ve gotten involved in and finish planting in the garden and do the spring flowerbed/yard maintenance. 

I do love being able.





Country Girl Making Due in the ‘Burbs

23 03 2009

Project garden has been underway around here…Obama’s stimulus showed up on dh’s paycheck, and alas…it won’t be enough to allow us to buy some acreage.  It did pay for a can of stain for the cedar planters I lucked up on last week.  Next week’s will cover the second can I had to buy when one wasn’t enough to do the job. LOL  Ok – that’s enough, I know …”Nobody likes a smartass.”

My neat little home for veggies and herbs (’cause my dh didn’t want “to have to weed-eat around anything else!”:

102_3535

As-purchased, without the roof

I found two of these covered sandboxes at the local garden center.  I just happened to walk up and show interest in using one as a planter (hadn’t looked at the price tag yet), when one of the employees said his job today was to break them down to be sold as planters, because the pulley system to raise and lower the roofs were broken and they weren’t drumming up any interest as clearanced sandboxes as-is.  After speaking with the owner, he offered me a very good deal if I bought two, because they really needed them out of the way for new spring stuff.  I ran home and measured my space, because I wasn’t sure if they’d take up the whole back yard…and I needed to have a phone conference with my honey over the deal.  They fit, and hubby approved, so I headed back to the garden center to pay for them and arrange to pick them up when my honey got home from work with the truck.  As I was excitedly paying for the two veggie homes, the guy who made me the deal walked up and said he’d found a third in the back and that I could have the three for even less each.  My mind was reeling with whether or not they’d even fit in the yard, whether the money was even in the checking account, and thinking quickly, I asked if I could have the same deal if I paid for two now and came back for the third before they closed that day.  He hesitated, then agreed.  He then offered to follow me home to deliver them – for free – because he really needed them out of the way.  Of course, I didn’t argue with that!  And after measuring and consulting with my dh when he got home, we went back and bought the third for less than a nice dinner out 🙂
After staining and placement

After staining and placement

I’ll post more pics later.  I’ve already planted some herbs and seeds, and still have a few places to touch up with stain, plastic corners to put back on (after having spray-painted them tan – they were primary colors).  They look very nice and will provide some growing fun and of course, the satisfaction of plucking something I’ve grown for my family to eat.  The roofs have a green tarp over a cedar frame, and will eventually be stained and have clear plastic instead of green tarp – but I want to do some research first to see if it’s worth it.  I don’t know much about coldframes and hotbeds and such…and don’t even know which is which.  I only know that right now the roofs will serve to protect from frost on nights when it is still possible.

In letterboxing news, a most frustrating situation has materialized.  I’ve been working on a set of 9 themed boxes for months.  Seven are planted, one is waiting to be planted (because the building on the plant site is undergoing renovations and I simply can’t plant until that is done), and the last one is nearly complete.  I recently got an “attempted” message on one of the plants – which could usually mean that the box may be lost…but this one was inside a building, inside a case that only employees can access, and was enthusiastically placed there by the owner.  So, of course, I had to go there and see what is going on!  An employee informed me that it was removed because “it didn’t receive enough traffic” – which I didn’t promise loads of!  Since the owner was not there, I left a message and am hoping with all my heart that they didn’t just throw the box away.  Surely not!  But it is difficult to think of much else until I hear from him.

<Deep sigh>  It was one of my favorite boxes.

The dryer is beeping at me.  And it is time to get the potato salad fixed so it’ll have time to chill before dinner.

Hasta luego.





Gettin’ on the Soapbox

12 03 2009

For a quick update on the last post, the stamp illustrating my opinion of what makes Kentucky beautiful is coming along.  My son did know someone who is an excellent artist, but I wavered and then changed my mind about getting help.  I determined to do it myself for two reasons, the first one being purely sensible:  my son pointed out that I couldn’t very well ask this person to design a stamp for free.  I hadn’t thought about that – my only thought had been getting help 😉  Then after I had agreed to compensate the artist and tried to convey to my son what I wanted, I struggled to believe that I had a great chance of being 100% happy with the work, and could end up paying and still not having a stamp image, not to mention that I’d be pushed for time with the days spent depending on someone else (and I am not good at that).  So I commited myself once again to the task and am on the verge of having on paper what I had in mind.  Most importantly, the work will be entirely mine, which was the other reason I changed my mind about getting an artist – I really want it to be mine, even if the artwork may not be noteworthy.

I have lots of little errands to do today which will do much to clear my to-do list of  nagging interruptions in regular duties.  Though I typically put such things off till the last minute, it is always completing them that makes me feel most satisfied with the day’s accomplishments.  So why don’t I just do them as soon as they go on the list?  Pshaw, if I knew that, I could council others on their procrastination!

I got an email this morning directing me to a news article about a North Carolina judge forcing a homeschooling mother to enroll her children in public school this fall.  Without recapping the story or expounding on the apalling comments he made (because you can google it yourself if you’re interested) I must say that I am utterly disappointed in the increasing incidence of loss of rights in this so-called free country.

Now before you go making assumptions about my views on every aspect of freedom, let me say that this is just one more area, like gun-control and socialistic tax reform that some people’s views on are seriously off – and it ain’t mine!  This is America – a country that was founded on rebuking unreasonable control by government, and we are inching closer and closer to becoming exactly what our founding fathers were rebelling against!  It will be a dark, dark day in the Land of the Free when law-abiding citizens can’t buy guns, while the criminals would continue to get them the same way they always have, when wealth earned by hard-working, motivated tax-payers is “spread” to those who refuse to get off their butts and realize that the world doesn’t owe them jack, or when families who spend their own money on their own curriculum, often sacrifice a second income so one parent can teach, strive to offer their children an educational advantage in a competitive world, and commit themselves to being solely responsible for their children’s morals are told that they cannot choose this path.

Parents can beat, molest, neglect, and/or mentally and emotionally abuse their children and the government carefully tiptoes around their “rights”, often to the detriment of the child; but parents who choose to homeschool, which is in no way easier than plopping them in a government school where books, food and transportation are all free and if the kid doesn’t fare well in life, responsibility can be blamed on someone else to boot, are being targeted.

What is this country coming to?

I’m gettin’ down from the box now 🙂  I feel better!





Letterboxing Headlines

9 03 2009

New Boxers Successfully Recruited

My brother’s crew is in!  We had a beautiful day for boxing here in the Bluegrass, and it only took two successful finds to convince some potential Newbies that letterboxing is just plain cool.  I was worried when we found the first box, because not only was it at a busy park, the crazy March winds had apparently blown the box from it’s hiding spot (under a naked group of deciduous bushes) right out into the open, only about a dozen feet from a walking trail.  As my sister-in-law read the clues aloud for the benefit of the group, my nephew plunged ahead and interrupted, “I found it!”  That wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned for their first find.

As I lectured about the importance of re-planting carefully so the box doesn’t end up like we found this one, and about  how being inconspicuous is paramount, I led the group away from the plant site and we plopped into the grass for the ceremonial lesson on how to properly stamp in and conscientously replace the contents of the box, being careful to seal and deflate baggies and care for the stamp itself.

The stamp was not in the box.  The logbook was there, in a baggie, but no stamp.  Of course, although not a great way to persuade someone that it’s worth the trouble to find a box, it was to be a perfect example of what can happen if…

While I consoled, my sister-in-law returned to the plant site to have a look around, and miraculously returned with the stamp in hand.  How in the world did this box survive?  We certainly arrived at the climax of it’s life!  Happy boxers stamped in all around and added the new stamp to the ol’ logbook or carefully pressed the first image into a virgin one.  The box was carefully wedged into the crown of a bare bush, where the wind will hopefully not dislodge it.  It pained me to leave it so visible, but there was nowhere to put it that would have allowed the next finder to find it using the clues, so I made a mental note to alert the owner, and have done so.

The next box was the one that really did the trick.  It was well-hidden in the ivy at the base of a tree on an historical property – my favorite kind.  Not a soul was in site to wonder what we were doing, and the clues weren’t simly directions this time, which hinted to the newbies of the many possibilities that lie in boxes planted by different people.

Out of time, the newbies declared that they will box again.  I was satisfied.  Since they’re visiting the town where I have a “never before found” box this weekend, I made sure to tell them they’d be “first finders” and hopefully ensured that they won’t wait too long to start an AQ membership and get out and go boxing again!

Artistic Efforts Disappointing

I have discovered how difficult it is to convey what I think is beautiful about my state into a stamp image.  I know what I want to do; I just can’t seem to illustrate it.  I’m going to have to try finding each element as clip art and somehow join them together…ugh!  Maybe my son has a friend who’s a good artist that would be willing to help me get the image drawn…

Since I should be making Minestrone, I’ll go talk to him about that while I cook.





Aaaaaahhh…the great outdoors!

22 01 2009

Woo hoo!  The weather broke and I got to go hike a bit!!  My dh and I managed to get in a hike while the sky wasn’t dripping and the frosty wind was around the bend.  It feels great 🙂  I dare say that having to wait so long between hikes proved to make us a wee more winded on the hilly terrain, but we shall sleep well tonight!  I’m a little concerned now about my 100 miles by the end of May goal.  (What?  You haven’t read the Hiker page?  Well, get on over there and catch yourself up!)  I’m not giving up, but the weather has not been cooperative, and there is a surgical setback coming my way.  Fret not 🙂  I’ll be fine…more details when I know more…no sense in babbling on about nothing!  Right now, I’m determined not to let that stop me, however.  My shoes are quite muddy, but sans the minors, dh and I managed to keep the car void of evidence that we’d been prowling soggy trails.  I shall have to hike in mud or parched earth (fat chance of that before May, LOL) in order to reach my goal with the recovery period I’ll require.  I really want to do it though.  Maybe I’ll celebrate by carving a 100 miles stamp!  Ooh, now I’m onto something…who’d want it?  Me!  I’ll make it interesting to boxers somehow!!

Well, my little sweetie girl is waiting for the computer.  She wants to find a Hula dancing lesson online for a school Adventure Points Project for the Pacific Islands.  So I’ll write later.  There’s much to tell 🙂