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Archive for June, 2011

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.

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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?

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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.

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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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Yesterday, I shared with you some of my thoughts on inside out change, how I realized that the ‘out’ part was not going to simply happen on its own.  You will remember that I identified the person God made me, the person I am becoming:

  • a passionate follower of Jesus
  • a generous wife
  • an unconditionally loving mom
  • a devoted friend/family member
  • a dependable homeschooling teacher
  • an organized homemaker

In my desire to move closer to this person that I really am inside already, I realized that purposeful steps were necessary.  I love to make to-do lists.  I mean I really love to make to-do lists.  I love that feeling of crossing off stuff I have accomplished.  (I admit that I have, on occasion, actually put things on my daily to-do list that I have already done so I could cross them off.)  I decided to use this list-love to my advantage.

Each day, when I make my to-do list in the morning (or if I am on the ball, the night before), I list out the above six things with a space underneath.  Then, I pray about one practical step I will take toward the outward expression of each part of this inner person and I jot the steps down.  What does this look like?

Passionate Follower:
– spend time in prayer and Bible reading (currently using the 1 year plan from the back of The Narrated Bible)

Generous Wife:
– tidy the area of the basement that dh likes to sit in, but is always left a mess by the kids and I

Unconditionally Loving Mom:
– play soccer with the kids outside

Devoted Friend/Family Member:
– e-mail my sisters

Dependable Homeschooling Teacher:
– Work on ds’ math (I tend to slack off on this as the weather warms and he is almost done.)

Organized Homemaker:
– clean out homeschooling shelf in basement

Then, I list my other to-dos underneath.  When I am looking over my list, I give the things at the top my priority attention.  And, for now, that is it!

What do you do to make sure that you focus on what is important, not just urgent?  How do you move closer to the true person God made you?

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Becoming

Do you ever have one of those moments where you read or hear something that really resonates with you?  Something that makes you sit up a little straighter, something that makes you suddenly shift your thinking?

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a message at church.  I don’t even really remember what the message was about, but that’s okay.  During the message, the pastor encouraged us to ask ourselves the question, “Who Am I Becoming?  In other words, if I continue the way I am right now, with the same thoughts, activities and actions, who will I be in a year from now?”  Wow.  Good question.

I immediately perked up and began to consider.  Who am I becoming?  Who does God call me to be?  I need to keep the vision of this person before me if I am to move closer to becoming who I really am.

Who am I becoming?

  • a passionate follower of Jesus
  • a generous wife
  • an unconditionally loving mom
  • a devoted friend/family member
  • a dependable homeschooling teacher
  • an organized homemaker

This person is not going to happen by leaving myself on default.

In my journey with God, I am aware that change happens from the inside out.  However, the practical working out of this has been confusing to me.  Am I supposed to just wait, then, until I feel like being all of these things above?  Is that what inside out change means?  Here is the thing: while heart change will always be ongoing in our lives, when I was welcomed into the Lord’s family, He changed me right away.

If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

If my list above is who I truly am already, there is no need for me to wait for another change of heart to bring my actions into alignment.  In other words, it is okay to actively work on my thoughts and actions.  (Maybe this is more of a duh moment for you than the aha moment it was for me?)  These days, in general society and in our churches, the focus seems to be placed almost exclusively on personal inner growth.  Our actions are an afterthought, expected to fall into place on their own.  But, consider this thought from Scripture:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  Matthew 16:24

Why didn’t He just say, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must just study my life and the more he gets to know me, the more his heart and actions will naturally fall into place”?  Could it be that it is just not true?  Am I expected to have to make an effort?  Do I, as a Christian, actually still have to fight against my human nature default settings?  Darn!  That sounds like work!

Tomorrow, I will share the idea and the practical steps I have been taking to work this idea out in my life.  I hope you will find it as inspiring as I do.  🙂

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Summer Sewing

We are winding down from homeschooling, so I have been able to get some more summer sewing done. 

I finished up some matching pyjamas.  One is for our baby and the other set is for my nephew’s first birthday on Saturday.  These match the set I made for my 3yo awhile ago.  These feature Fishsticks Designs free tank pattern.  (I made size 12m for our baby and size 18m for my nephew.)  The shorts are from Fishsticks Designs Lazy Days Lounge Set.

Action pic on our 8mo:

And, a super-geeky close-up of the cute ‘Handmade’ tags:

Today, I was able to whip up some summer nighties for three of our girls.  They went together very quickly, about 2-3 hours to make all three from start to finish, in an assembly-line fashion.  The smaller two are from the free tank pattern above, lengthened and flared a little.  The largest one is a lengthened and flared tank pattern from one of my favourite books, Easy Sewing for Children by Leila Albala.  I have used this book, as well as her book for babies over and over and over.  I sized down for all the girls from what they normally wear in ready-to-wear clothing.  The nighties are sizes 3T (normally wears size 5/6), size 5T (normally wears size 7/8) and size 8 (normally wears size 10).  All have plenty of room.  The bottom hems are a lettuce-edge rolled hem done on my serger.

More geeky-tag pictures:

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