Month: April 2014

Oh My Chokecherry Jelly!

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I had full-blown berry fever. After picking several quarts of black raspberries (eating most and freezing some), I started wondering what other edibles may be scattered around my new property. I hoped these were currants, but after tasting one, I thought they must not be edible. A little research revealed these babies were a very popular staple of the pioneers and the Native Americans. They are chokecherries; probably named such because the taste will choke you, and the pits are toxic. However, when cooked down for jelly, or pitted and heavily sugared, chokecherries are supposed to be tasty! I had my doubts. But I was in foraging mode and felt like robbing the birds and teasing the mosquitoes with heavily deeted clothing. So off I went carrying a handy dandy berry bucket and gobbling up black raspberries on the way to the newly discovered chokecherries.

IMG_7237The bucket was half full, when I dumped it by mistake. Ugh. But lesson learned: bring scissors, and cut the entire cluster, that way if you do dump your cache, you can still pick up your losses.

IMG_7234The berries are found on bushes with bark that resembles a cherry tree; the fruit hanging in clusters like grapes. If you try one, be sure to spit out the poisonous pit. After loading up, I rinsed all the cherries and took them off the stems, ending up with about 4 cups. Next they went into a saucepan with a cup of water to be cooked down, mashing them with a potato masher after 15 or 20 minutes.

IMG_7263Then I drained them for the juice ending up with 1 1/3 cup, added 3 cups of sugar and began the boiling process. Instead of using pectin, I boiled this concoction for close to a half hour when it finally did its magic trick and thickened at 220 degrees F. I filled the prepared jars leaving ¼ inch headspace and processed in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

IMG_7265The jelly color is amazing, some of the prettiest jelly I’ve seen. Memories of breakfast buffets in Denmark flooded my mind, with their little crocks of jams and jellies and loads of breads and cheeses and bagels! Jellies are a fancy delicacy in the old world, made with all kinds of unusual fruits, but none better than chokecherries from my own back yard.

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Softening Up for Summer!

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Reading blogs this morning when I realized the sun was shining in on my living room make-over. I tried to get shots of it yesterday, but it was raining, and the flash kept washing out the pictures so they didn’t do justice to all the fussing I’d done. But the warm bath of sunshine called me to grab my camera and try again.  This is a bit more like it!

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I found these delightful little dogwood pillows at a thrift store last fall, and couldn’t resist!  Sweetest little things were under $3 and are backed with a baby pink quilted fabric.  IMG_8657

 Happy blooms from my friend Terri!  Friends who spread cheer with flowers.  Love ! And another thrift find: the blue vintage metal tray. Drum roll please: 99 cents. (Or was it 69 cents?…I can’t remember)

IMG_8658Cheerful mug my honey brought me from Germany 🙂

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Found the vintage ticking pillowcase on Etsy for six bucks. And the lighter one I found at a thrift store for under a dollar. But it was one long piece in a six-inch wide strip.  So I sewed it together to add to my collection of vintage ticking pillow covers!  More love!IMG_8666 IMG_8668

IMG_8645Happy Spring! Fresh and new all over!

 

 

 

Spring Kitchen Makeover!

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Great Lion of God

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by Taylor Caldwell, and excerpt from a novel about St. Paul on this GOOD FRIDAY 🙂

Oh, you have embraced the folly of pride, and how dare man be proud? Of what can he be proud? His history? May God forgive us this blasphemy! You have often spoken of the future. The future is born in the womb of the present, and I see nothing in the present, or in the past that promises glory for man, created by himself. For he cannot rid himself of his baseness by his own effort. It is written that a man cannot earn merit by himself, for he is underserving of merit. History is our witness. Man was not born for his glorification. Scripture teaches us that man was born solely to know and to love and to serve God and nothing else, and in that knowing and loving and serving -alone- can he transcend his nature and become more than man. You have based your hopes on the world, which will pass away and be known no more among the suns and the Pleiades, nor will Orion know her any longer. On this frail orb that pursues her star you think to establish the golden city of man’s reason and man’s aspiring alone, forever and a day. You believe that it will be by the will and design of man alone that evil will be abolished- yet evil is the very nature of man, and immutable. He is a shadow, and on the shadows you would erect eternal palaces and pleasure-ways and advance urbane conversation and peace and what you aver are ethics. You know you are mortal, and in your shallow hearts you deny mortality, and speak of the far future as if you will be there, alive and triumphant! You do not know that future, but you have deluded yourselves that you will be there! Or is your vaunted ‘glory of man in the future’ enough for you, who will be dust tomorrow? ……………

How pathetic you are. Your own deaths in this little time has not been believed by you. You have really hoped you will be part of the future which to me appears terrible, not beautiful. You believe in pleasure, in the day’s tranquility and grace and conversation and the meeting of friends…You deny the resurrection of the dead which has been promised, for you believe that when men are dead they are no more than the beasts of the field. It is evil enough that you have betrayed God….

For peace in your time, and pleasure, and worthless harmonies, and prettinesses, and conversing, and pride and dainty perversities, and music …and dancing girls and money and handsome houses and villas and servants and laughter and strange women and theaters and baths and arenas and gambling and horses and evil little appetites and enjoyments, you have called upon your people not to resist, not to believe in the Promise of the Ages- to obey, to bow down their heads, to submit their necks to the yoke. You have taken God from them and for that you will not be forgiven!

It was your duty to sustain your people with the hope of Messias, to alleviate their hunger with your fortunes, to intercede for them, to nourish their faith in God, blessed be His Name, to exalt them with patience in their tribulations, to turn their eyes to the sun and to the stars, to repeat to them the Promise that has been given to us, to strengthen their endurance. What man will not suffer in quietude if he knows his Redeemer is nigh, and that god has not abandoned him?

Easter Quilt

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Almost finished.  And the dear friend who will get it doesn’t surf the net or read my blog…thankfully 🙂IMG_8583 IMG_8582 IMG_8581 IMG_8580 IMG_8579 IMG_8578 IMG_8576IMG_8575

Patience

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The night I was voted onto the planning board, the chairman took me aside and welcomed me.  He was a relaxed fellow with an easy armchair manner.
“It’s like watching paint dry,” he shared. I nodded.  A slow-moving venture; I liked the sound of that.

Yesterday, Michael held the car door open for me to get in,  and then scraped the near-April snow from the windows and mirrors and windshield.  He was wearing dress pants and cowboy boots and had agreed to come with me to church.  This is the man who I reached out to fourteen years ago with the gospel.  This is the man whose atheism challenged me to convert him. This is the man who I fell in love with, dashing all of my evangelical confidence.  This is the man who made me recoil and stop sharing the good news; for fear that I was not a trustworthy vessel.  And now this man is my dear husband, scraping snow off the car so we can go to church.

Has he been saved?  Not to my knowledge.  Yet twice in the last week I have witnessed him pulling out his phone and sharing scripture stories and trivia with those gathered around the table.  Those listening to his readings are perplexed, thrilled, or a little turned off.  His own father says with some sarcasm, “I think he’s going to fill in for the preacher up there,”  signaling toward the church uptown.

I beam with a smile I cannot hide.

I look back on the years this story has taken to unfold and wonder if it has even begun yet.  He gets in the driver seat and off we go.  My head spins a little thinking of the first conversation we ever had about God.  We arrive at the Catholic Church.  The standing and sitting and standing and sitting don’t deter him.  But the big surprise was the kneeling.  The man knelt down like the rest of us.

This is a little more interesting than watching paint dry.  Even if the pace is similar.

So You Think You Want to Homeschool (Advice for Newbies)

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Homeschooling.

I recall the landscape that it arose from. I was a young mom and didn’t know what else I wanted to be. I had never had any career aspirations besides writing and being a Solid Gold dancer; neither of which were coming to fruition. I was an Air Force wife living in Alaska. A woman had invited me to her church to hear someone sing. Since I was to ride with her, I went to her house first. She had several kids, a couple of whom where making crackers on the kitchen counter. I was puzzled. I didn’t know you could make your own Saltines. Another kid came bounding down the stairs with a math worksheet.

“He got all but one.” She handed it to her mother and ran back upstairs.

Something about this household made me feel at home. All the activity, the finches chirping away in their cage, the kids, the smell of things baking, it reminded me of the home I grew up in. It was my first exposure to homeschooling and I knew right away what I could be for the next twenty or thirty years.

Many years before that, I had seen a PBS interview with a homeschooling mom. She had big frizzy hair like a hippie. The camera zoomed in on her face as she spoke with tears in her eyes, “All kids need is love,” she was saying. But it wasn’t just her words. It was the way she said it. Like she was pleading with the whole world to simply stop and love your kids. I made fun of her a little bit. But I never forgot her. And when people would ask me, years later why I homeschooled my kids, I would say, “I just wanted them around. I didn’t want to part with them for six hours a day.”

Today kids are away a lot more than six hours. Up around 6AM to bathe, eat, and get off to a sitter or daycare until the bus comes, then a full day of being directed by teachers and surrounded by other kids. Then the after school programs and sitters, and finally home in time for a quick dinner and a very early bedtime so the poor things aren’t too tired at dawn.

I’ve always felt sorry for the other kids. In Alaska, I would wake mine up and we would look out the window over the back of the couch. It was still dark and all the little kids had their backpacks over their snowsuits and hats and mittens and flashlights waiting at the crosswalk while all the grown ups went by in their cars on their way to work. We drank cocoa and felt warm and glad we didn’t have to join the ranks of the normal folks.

Some people are just cut out for homeschooling. They don’t fit the system. And others would not dream of homeschooling. My advice is this: If you wish you could, you can. And if you feel drawn to it, you probably should give it a try. It was the privilege of a lifetime to spend years with my kids around me. Those years go by in a blink.

 Homeschooling Tips for Beginners:

  1. Before you pull your kids out of school and try to do it yourself, read books about homeschooling. Not books about how to teach, or what to teach, or how to decide on a curriculum. No, read about how children learn. And about homeschooling styles, philosophies, and various methods. See what resonates with you before you start.
  2. Let your kids (and yourself) take some time off. No expectations, no school, no studies; like summer vacation mode. During this time you too can become more accustomed to being with your kids, without the pressure of schooling.
  3. Don’t believe what the local public school tells you.
  4. Do the research on the laws for your state. Find a veteran homeschool group that can put you in touch with lawyers and resources to protect your rights.
  5. Find out what home school groups exist in your area. Homeschooling has grown large enough to encompass lots of different families. Some are very religious, some are secular and wouldn’t go near religion, some are focused on the child, some on the family, some on the faith, some on reporting, some on ways around reporting. But you do not have to reinvent the wheel. The legal battles have already been won in a number of cases, and you just need to get in the loop and find the veteran homeschoolers. They are usually very willing to share resources and advice. But don’t rely on just one.
  6. Don’t believe everything you’re told.
  7. Ignore the nay-sayers. If anything, use them as motivation to prove you CAN do it the way you want.
  8. The only rules are the ones you decide work for you and your family.
  9. Question everything.
  10. Think outside the box.