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Almost Time…

I know I haven’t posted in a very, very long time.  It used to be so easy to come up with inspiring things to say, but then it got harder!  I thought I’d give you an update about a couple of important aspects of our life, though.  First of all, we are expecting another baby!  I am due on November 7th, now officially less than 2 weeks away.  Steve and I have decided that this will be our last baby, so I am enjoying every minute of this pregnancy.  I do really love being pregnant, so that isn’t too difficult.  As well, happily, I seem to get at least one bonus week, so I don’t expect to be giving birth until at least mid-November.

One day short of 38 weeks on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012.

We’ve had loads of wonderful blessings in our family this past year.  This baby will be the second new family member we welcome this year.  In July, our oldest daughter got married to our dear son-in-law.  The two of them are making their home at the time near the chef school where our son-in-law is attending.

I am taking this week off of our regular homeschooling routine to prepare for our new baby.  I have already sewn up a bunch of little, adorable newborn diapers, which I may post about later on.  Today, I will be assembling birth supplies and, hopefully, cleaning!

Okay, I am backing away from the computer, but it isn’t easy.  Have you ever visited Awkward Family Photos?  You’ll need some strong abdominal muscles for the laughter you’ll be doing if you make your way over there.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here he is — dirty, but loved dearly by so many.

  • Served dinner on the grass to make clean up easier
  • Self-feeding leftover spinach quiche
  • Pink bowl, even though he is a boy
  • Dirty onesie (from self-feeding strawberries)
  • Onesie snaps not done up to make it easier to change diapers/EC
  • Adorably happy and easy-going

We did it.

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary!  While a successful marriage is always something to celebrate, I think it is especially so when a couple starts ‘behind the game’ and is able to overcome some really big hurdles.  Two years ago, I posted a bit about starting off with less-than-ideal circumstances and the beautiful way that God uses those circumstances to help us die to ourselves to become more like him.  It is one of my favourite posts, entitled Against the Odds.

Last night, we had a yummy dinner with our children and then, after putting our baby to bed, headed out to a local restaurant for some adult time over chocolate fondue.  We do not take for granted the privileged position we are in having two capable teenagers who can look after our home and children to allow us time to reconnect.  It is just one of the great blessings of being married for 20 years.

Finished Quince Jam by MGF/Lady Disdain
Finished Quince Jam, a photo by MGF/Lady Disdain on Flickr.

My mom and I are canning partners. Each summer, starting about the end of July, we start madly preserving the harvest. We can all kinds of food, which makes up a good share of what my family eats during the winter. My only regret is that, for some bizarre reason, I was actually too intimidated by canning to do any preserving until about 5 or 6 years ago. Asking my mom to help me, I found it intensely satisfying and much simpler than I thought it would be. It is a beautiful sight to see canning shelves filled with jars of pickles, tomatoes, salsa, peaches and pears, applesauce, jam and loads of other goodies — all local foods.

A lot of people who want to do just a bit of canning start with jam. Grocery store jam is often full of sugar and natural food store jam comes in very small, expensive jars. To make low or no-sugar jam, you cannot use standard Certo brand pectin. I tried Certo Light pectin, but found the results unreliable (sometimes the jam would set and sometimes it wouldn’t) and was frustrated that the instructions said not to double recipes. Making 5 or 6 little tiny jars of jam at a time for our family of nine did not seem efficient to me!

Then, out of nowhere the happy fateful day arrived. I was at our local natural foods store and noticed the Pomona’s Universal Pectin on the shelf. I can only believe that God must have prompted me to buy a box since it was about $6, which is about three times as much as grocery store pectin. On a whim, I picked it up and took it home.

Later on at home, I looked over the instructions. I was pleased to find that Pomona’s makes three times the jam that regular pectin does and giddy to read that they encourage you to double or triple the recipe AND to experiment! If you have ever made jam before, you know that most pectin instructions do not encourage creativity and all but ban you from doubling the recipes. Pomona’s honestly seems to be virtually fail-proof.

Making up our first batch of jam with Pomona’s pectin was lots of fun. We did a double recipe of the low-sugar version included in the product insert. There are instructions as well for a no-sugar version, but we prefer just a little bit more sweetness. The resulting jam is absolutely delicious. It has tons of flavour, set beautifully and is gobbled up by everyone. I couldn’t be more pleased. We later made raspberry, pear, peach and apricot jam with the same, perfect results — not one fail.

If you are thinking you’d like to do just a little bit of canning, I heartily encourage you to try some jam (using Pomona’s pectin!). As long as you have a large enough pot to cover the small jars with water, you really need no special equipment. If you would like to try canning later this summer and the berries you want to use are ready now, you can freeze them to use when you are ready. We had excellent results doing this a couple of times.

So, that’s it! The secret for us is to use the right pectin. By the way, I am telling you about Pomona’s just because I love it, not because they paid me or even gave me any free pectin. (I wish.)

Are you planning on canning anything this summer? Do you have a favourite recipe you like?

Each day, our 9-year-old daughter makes breakfast for our family of 9.  Today she made frugal use of some leftover hot cereal by baking leftover hot cereal muffins. Since canning season is almost upon us, we decided to serve them with butter and a variety of jams to use up the few 2010 jars we have left before making the 2011 batches.  Breakfast was just delicious.  We felt like we were at a fancy Bed and Breakfast!

If you want to be frugal and use leftover hot cereal, but don’t have the quantity listed here, feel free to substitute an equal amount of flour for the hot cereal and increase the liquid slightly to make good muffin batter consistency.  Alternatively, you can keep a container in the freezer to collect leftover hot cereal until you have a reasonable amount for baking.

Here is the recipe she used.  It is adapted from a muffin recipe in The Tightwad Gazette 2, by Amy Dacyczn.

Leftover Hot Cereal Muffins
makes 2 dozen

2 cups leftover hot cereal
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs

2 cups flour (all whole wheat or half whole wheat and half unbleached)
1 cup sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 to 1 cup optional extra additions (craisins, raisins, coconut, nuts, seeds, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two dozen muffin cups.

Place all the wet ingredients, including hot cereal, in the blender and blend briefly to combine. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the blended wet ingredients and stir to just combine.

Scoop into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve warm with jam and butter or eat plain.

Speaking of jam, tomorrow I will be posting my secret to preserving delicious, low-sugar jam.  If you have never done any canning, this is a very simple place to start that requires very little special equipment.  You can make just a few jars if you like or quite easily make a big batch to keep your family supplied with jam all year.

I go through spurts where I read blogs and spurts where I don’t.  I have been perusing a few blogs I enjoy lately and thought I’d share some particularly good posts with you.

I often find it very hard to humbly apologize to my husband and children.  The post, Half-Baked Apologies are Offensive at Marriage Works! was very helpful in outlining a great little formula for forming a meaningful apology.

Mary shares some Good Books for Boys on her blog, Owlhaven.

I have been meaning to make a Grocery Bag Holder for a very, very long time.  I’m hoping this tutorial at Craftiness is not Optional might spur me on.

Probably the best blog post on homeschooling I have ever read was written by Sherri at Large Family Mothering.  Entitled, Homeschooling Sanity, it was a refreshing dose of some real experience from a mom of many.  (Sherri has 15 children.)  She looked at several different styles of homeschooling and discussed what worked for her family and what didn’t.  Her post was very affirming to me as I have had many of the same experiences, though I have fewer than half the children she has!

Kimberly at Raising Olives makes a great case for why you might choose to take your younger family members along on errands, in spite of the inconvenience, in her post Choosing to Run Errands with Little Ones.

We’ve got a lovely weekend planned enjoying the third week of fresh strawberries from the Farmer’s Market, going on my regular date with my husband, sheep shearing at my parents’ farm and a having a bonfire with our Home Church on Sunday night.

Enjoy your weekends!

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