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.





Global Warming? Yeah, right!

16 06 2009

We could use some of that “Global Warming” the crazies are talking about 🙂  This is the lousiest excuse for June in Kentucky that I have ever experienced!  It is NOT even hot…what’s up with that?  Pool parties are being rescheduled because it isn’t warm enough to swim…IN JUNE!!!

It’s very frustrating to one who has been pining for summer to get here!  We’re going to have to move south if this is any indication of what a “warming planet” does!  Frankly, I don’t think those guys have a clue about what the planet is doing. 

Subject change.

We’ve been FINALLY “officially” finished with school for four days now, and it still just doesn’t feel like summer break.  I’m not just referring to the weather (that isn’t helping, of course), but to my state of mind.  I guess I’ve been in fast-forward for so long…and there are just still lots of things that I have to do that feel like work, I guess.  The Girl Scout troop that is disbanding will be running through the summer, and I’ve been busy tying up those loose ends.  We’ve got four girls working on their Bronze Award Project, and a big trip planned for the end of next month, and a pool party to try to squeeze in (if we have a warm enough day without rain).  I’ve also been cleaning out closets, cabinets, drawers and bookshelves for a long overdue yard sale.  We spent most of last Saturday cleaning out the garage for that, too.  I’ll be glad when that is over and the big piles of stuff that are all over the house and in the garage are gone, and a bit of cash in hand takes its place.  I’m just having trouble mustering up that last measure of motivation needed to prepare for the sale this weekend…cleaning out some more spaces, making the kids clean out their spaces, picking up some boxes to display things like books in, organizing the sale stuff, putting an ad in the paper, picking up some signs…

<sigh>  Some sunshine would help.  I know it would.  I could use sitting in it on the patio as a reward for myself after getting some of this done.  (I know, I could use the lack of sunshine as good time to do these things while not having to feel like I’m missing out on the sunshine while I work – but that’s just not the way my brain works!)

I also acquired a new computer last week, and I’ve got all the file moving to complete, iTunes to organize, and upgraded software to get used to.  Where did that ability to “go up a folder” by clicking that little up arrow disappear to??  I have to use the back arrow!  Either they are wrong in thinking that’s an improvement, or I’m missing the better way they expect me to do it somehow…





Cleanin’ the Plate

19 05 2009

I’ll bet you think this post is about food – but it isn’t!  This post is about cleanin’ another kind of plate all together…the proverbial plate that we carry around laden with all our duties and responsibilities (real or imaginary).  It is good for our plates to be full.  Plates that are full, but not overflowing, keep us active, involved in the lives of others and keep us working and growing.  However, there comes a time when the plate must be cleaned, and it’s hard to clean a plate that is full – we usually do that after we eat from it, and then it is ready to be filled once again.  The plate of responsibility is no different from the dinner plate in that it requires a good regular cleaning – not quite so often, but regularly nonetheless. 

I have not cleaned my plate of weighty to-do’s in a very, very long time, and it has begun to reek!  I am losing my ability to enjoy life because of the stink generated by all the stuff on the plate; so I’ve made a promise to myself to begin again with a new plate, and  allow God to guide the filling spatula this time, rather than self- wrought guilt, guilt so graciously piled on by well-meaning lunch ladies, perceived obligation or simply band-wagon decisions that add a spoonful here and a spoonful there until I simply cannot digest it all.  When the school year begins, I shall have nothing on my plate but homeschooling, which is God’s entree for me, and I will stop there, taking dessert only if I have room and it is a heavenly portion offered by the Lord himself!

It feels very freeing to have made this decision, and although I’m having a difficult time finishing up the last few bites before the plate gets scoured, it will get finished and the plate will be clean for once!  There are just a few more tidbits to digest and I’ll be done!

I remember having to sit at the table as a child until I finished every last bite, and some things took a long, long time sittin’…like salmon…ugh!  and meatloaf (funny that I’ve found ONE recipe that I like, now), and green beans…I like those, too, now, by the way.   I don’t know why I never could just start stuffing it down, gagging, but getting it over with.  Everything tasted so much worse stone cold!  I should’ve just shoveled it in and spent the evening playing rather than staring at the plate, actually making it taste worse in the end.  But I didn’t.  I sat there.  And sat there.  And would finally have to yield to mom’s mandate – and eat it

I guess I didn’t learn a thing from those experiences that I transferred to the responsibility plate.  I’ve taken on more and more, and although looking at it certainly brought on the same sort of nauseous feeling, I just stared at it and sat there, unwilling to do what it takes to clean the plate.  I may not be gagging, but I’ve certainly had the feeling that I need air!  I guess I didn’t want to disappoint people; I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t do as much as some (without losing my mind or being miserable).  I rationalized that others were doing even more.  Ridiculous, I know.  That is why I have decided to embrace my limits, and keep to them.

Well I guess this post ended up discussing food just a bit…

If your plate is dirty, maybe it’s time to clean it 😉





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.





Talkin’ out loud

24 07 2008

My head is so full of stuff….I’ve been extremely productive lately, and I still have a billion things I want to do before my motivation to “do” goes away 🙂  I’ve been carving stamps for my new letterbox series, cleaning the house, putting away fresh corn in the freezer, planning K’s 5th grade curriculum, thinking about the school calendar, trying to pick up Flylady habits, serving in the children’s ministry at church, tying up loose ends with some Girl Scout troop stuff, struggling to keep in touch with people, trying to learn about tree identification, some Spanish, and dabbling in other new topics, like web design and personality profiles, reminding myself that at some point I need to get back into the habit of regular exercise, thinking about writing a cooking curriculum, wishing I could make time to letterbox, looking at the landscaping that needs attention, trying to keep the laundry in check, floundering around with the public school system’s inability to get organized while suppressing the urge to scream and volunteer to help them better organize at the same time.

I’m out of breath.  Now that you know what I’ve been doing, you can appreciate why although I enjoy the dumping that I get to do on here, I really don’t have time to be consistent.  I also don’t get to keep up with other bloggers that much, so I sort of have to sit down and binge once in a while and catch up 😀

I’ve checked email today, unsubscribed from some things that I really just don’t spend time reading anymore, and decided to take a few minutes to “talk out” all that is on my brain, in hopes that it will get organized in there in the process.

My washer buzzed at me, my stomach is growling, and I’ve realized that I haven’t stopped to drink anything today!

I hope you don’t feel tired now 😀  Gotta go while I’ve still got go in me 😀