Thursday, November 20, 2014

My daughter is going to kindergartner.....uggg

My daughter is going to kindergarten. No not this year, next year, but still it is fast approaching. In order to understand where I am going with this story, I have to take you back to the beginning.

My first day of my senior year of high school.  I got off the bus, walked down the street to my home, put my hand on the front door handle, and the door swung open so fast that it nearly pulled my arm out of its socket.  My mom was on the other side of the door opening it quite fast.  She had tears running down her face, and my dad was standing behind her at the top of the steps.  He said,"She is all yours. You need to take care of her.  She is upset about you going to college next year." And with that, he walked away placing my teary eyed mom in my hands.  I hugged her, and she proceeded on telling me how all day she had been upset about me going to college next year.  She explained to me how fast this LAST year was going to go.  And the truth is she was right.  It did go fast.

And now I am a mom, and my kids are six and four. I see how very fast time goes.  It seems cliche to talk about this, but it is cliche because it is true. It doesn't seem that long ago that they were born. My son started kindergarten this year, and I miss him.  He even joined his first club, lego club, and he loves it.  But this means that he goes to school on Thursdays from 8:30 am until 4:45 pm.  It is a long day.

My daughter starts kindergarten next year. I have been teasing her lately and saying that I am not going to send her to school next year. I tell her that she is way too much fun to hang out with, so school is out for her. Well, of course she laughs and tells me," No, Mommy I have to go to school, just like Aidan.  I have to learn and grow up."  So wise my little girl. Anyway, so this is where the story begins to take a twist.

We were grocery shopping Monday, I decided to pull out my typical tease line,"So, I have decided that I am definitely not sending you to school next year.  I mean you don't want to go to school and learn? And I love hanging out with you.  If you go to school, who am I going to hang out with?"

Without skipping a beat, she looked me straight in the eyes and started to say, "Daddy....."  But she stopped herself, looked away for a moment,  and said under her breath, "oh no Daddy is at work." Then she raised her head and her eyes and confidently looked at me and said," Mommy, you need to get an imaginary friend."

I laughed so hard.  And I thought, that is what I am going to miss.  What a gift it has been hanging out with these two little people.  No matter how frustrating situations may get sometimes; it has been a gift.

My daughter didn't think she was being funny.  She thought it was a great solution for me.  At dinner time, we always recap our day and share it with each other.  One of the moments my daughter chose to recap was a moment that she believed highlighted not only her problem solving skills, but also her ability to help someone else in need with a problem (me).  When she arrived at her solution, "Mommy needs an imaginary friend," everyone at the table had an opinion on who this imaginary friend should be.  My son immediately wanted the imaginary friend to be a ten year old boy.  He thought this would be the most fun for me, and he wouldn't mind playing along with us once he got home from school.  My daughter thought it should be someone just like herself -- of course.  And my husband just thought it needed to be an adult woman, so we would have things in common to talk about.  I sat quietly listening to them debate the issue with passion and simply thought .... what a Blessed life I have.  And I don't want to miss a moment thinking about stopping our future that is constantly revealing itself to me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Naturally Perfect Peach Jam without Pectin

I love the idea of making jam and canning it myself.  I know exactly what went into making it.  And there is a sense of pride that I feel when placing the homemade jam on the table.  Also I love love that my kids have no idea what store bought jam or jelly tastes like.  It does takes some work, but a lot of things worth doing take your time and energy.

So if you are feeling that desire to try canning --- peach jam is a great place to start.  No experience needed.  There actually is not much you have to invest in even if you have never canned before -- well, except your time.  But you do need to buy a few things.

Supplies you need to buy for canning:
Canning tongs (used to put the jars in and pull them out of the boiling water)
Canning magnet stick (used to pick up lids after the are boiled)
Air bubble stick

And lastly, I am sure you have a large deep pot.  It has to be deep enough that once the jars are in the pot you have 1 to 2 inches of water over the jars.

Ok -- Once you have the supplies and a large chunk of time.  It is time to get started. My mom and I did this together.  It was great having a partner to hang out with because it does take a while to go through this process.

Step 1: Taking the skin off the peaches -- blanching.  
This is the labor intensive part -- once this is done, the rest is just time -- it is easy.

I used 24 peaches; I was able to make 12 jam (half pint) jars from that quantity of peaches.  So adjust the recipe to your needs.  The first step in getting the thin skin off the peaches is getting a large pot of water to a fast rolling boil. Next, with your pairing knife, place an X at the bottom side (the opposite side of the stem) of each peach. Also get a large bowl and make an ice water bath for the peaches after they get out of the boiling water. The ice water bath will stop the cooking process; you don't want to cook the peaches -- just get the skin off.

Once the water is boiling, it is time to start blanching.  Work in small batches of peaches to make it easier for yourself. With a slotted spoon, take 6 or so peaches and place them in the boiling water for 40 to 60 seconds. After 40-60 seconds, take the peaches out of the boiling water and place them straight into the ice water bath.  After they have cooled off, using a paring knife the skin should come right off.  Continue in batches until you have blanched and cooled all your peaches.

Step 2: The recipe and lots of time
24 peaches
2 cups of sugar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup of water

This recipe makes 12 jam jars of yumminess.  Take your 24 blanched and skinned peaches and cut them into large chunks, remember to take the pits out. In a large heavy bottom pot (I say this because it has to cook for a long time, and you don't want your jam to burn onto the bottom of your pot) place your peaches. Add the sugar, lemon, juice, and water.  Start cooking.  Try to keep it at a simmering boil.  Make sure to stir occasionally so you don't burn the jam onto the bottom of your pot.  The cooking will help thicken your jam.

After the peaches have been cooking for about 1 hour, I use a stick blender to puree to the consistency I like, which is somewhat chunky. I like chunky jam. I like to see and feel chunks of peaches, but if you like it smoother keep blending until it is as smooth as you like it.  Continue cooking until you reach the consistency you like. To check the consistency, you have to take a small amount of jam, place it on a plate, and put the plate in the refrigerator.  You cannot see the end consistency until it is cooled.  Which is why I started checking the consistency after about 2 hours. Remember it will always be looser than jam made with pectin.  It is more of the consistency of a French jam. Once you have settled on the taste and consistency, it will be time to start the canning.

Step 3: Canning begins with the sterilization of  jars and lids

Get that large pot we talked about before filled with water -- but not too much water that once you place the jars inside the pot it will over flow onto your stove  -- you would be mad at me if this happened, and I didn't mention it. Get that water to a rolling boil. Set up an assembly line for yourself. Put jar and lids into the boiling bath for a minute or so. Once jars are sterilized, you can place boiling jam into them.  Remembering to keep the sides of the jar clean from jam (you don't want jam on the side of the jar because you want the jars to be sealed perfectly). Leave a little room at the top  -- don't fill jam to the top rim of jars. Next, use the air bubble stick and slide in down the inside of the filled jar; this helps the air bubbles to escape.  Then use magnet stick to remove lids from boiling water and place them on top of jars.  Place lids on tightly (you will need to use oven mitts).

Step 4: Processing your jar -- Boiling the filled jars

The last step in canning is to process / boil the filled jars.  You will have to do this in batches as I am sure you don't have a pot big enough to place 12 jars in it.  My guess is you will be able to fit about 4 jars at a time at the bottom of your big pot.  Process / Boil your filled jars for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water bath with your tongs and set the jars aside on a towel for 12 hours. I have heard that putting the hot jars on a cold counter could cause the jars to crack.  I am not sure if this is an old wives tale, but I did it anyway because the jam takes too long to make to have a silly mistake like that get in the way of my morning coffee, toast, and fresh homemade peach jam.

As the jars start to cool, you will hear each of the jars "ping" or "pop."  This is the sound of the jars sealing -- pulling that lid down tight and creating the tight seal you want.  After the jars are cooled, you have to test each of the jars to see if they are sealed. The test is easy -- touch the top of the jar.  If the lid pops up and down with the pressure of your finger, it is NOT sealed.  So you have to reprocess (boil) that jar again.  Or fix the situation like I chose to do ---- this is the first one we are going to eat tomorrow morning.

Once you open a jar and start using it, keep it in the refrigerator. It can last about two weeks or so.

Step 5: Start enjoying your hard work

You are finished.  The morning following the canning day, I always sit down and enjoy a perfectly boiled egg, a hunk of cheese, and toast with my fresh peach jam. Mmmm a French breakfast... Yum!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Every time I get on the phone, I turn into a Gazelle

My kids can be fully engaged in a project without me; and the key to this story is fully engaged without me. But once I get on the phone, it doesn't matter what they were fully engaged in WITHOUT me. They stop that highly engaging activity they WERE involved in and instantly turn into lions. And I of course become a gazelle. It is the phone that creates this magical vortex. And it doesn't matter if the phone rings and alerts them to the inevitable change that is about to happen to both them and me or if I quietly walk out of the room and make a phone call without any noise signaling the change. It just doesn't matter; it happens. What happens? Whatever they have been wanting to do that they are sure I will say no to. That is what they want to do. They are either all over me asking the same thing over and over again. And then I start to walk away from them holding my one hand out shaking it back and forth. And I continue to walk from room to room holding my hand out. Upon occasion, I have had to lock myself in the garage or the bathroom to finish an important call. Or perhaps the worse of the two situations is when they are off doing whatever it is that I am sure they would not be attempting if I were not on that phone.And that leave me with the choice of finishing the call in peace and dealing with the repercussions of my peaceful phone call later or going and seeing what they are up to while I am still on the phone call. Whatever the situation, answering the phone or using the phone always seems to have a price tag associated with it. I have tried to change the dynamics of this situation by altering the variables. So to those of you who are saying...have you tried or have you tried this. Yes, of course I have tried that and that too. It doesn't matter the kids can smell that I am on the phone. And no I am not on the phone all the time. Just today -- the situation that inspired this entry -- I literally talked on the phone once, and it was to my husband for under three minutes. The kids and I were playing a game together, having a pleasant time when the phone rang. I saw it was daddy, and I told the kids it was daddy. I said hello, and I was still sitting on the floor next to both of them, but that didn't stop the transformation from happening. I turned into a gazelle within 10 seconds of answering the phone. So what I am saying is... does this happen to others out there? Or is it just me? And lastly, I know this is something that drives me crazy, so I always tell myself in the moment when it is happening and driving me crazy .... one day this won't happen, and I will miss it. And that always helps to soften my heart. So to my lions...your mommy gazelle loves you even though...