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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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New Again: the life of a Christmas cactus

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I had this wonderful cactus in full bloom when I bought it from Wegmans a couple years ago. I have never had any luck keeping a cactus alive long enough to bloom again.  Not for lack of trying mind you.  I have tried to get a clipping from an old one to start my own.  It never made it.  Bought a new one and tried to keep it alive after all the blooms fell off.  It died.  But they are just so pretty I had to buy one more little plant for the holidays.  It was the typical routine: gorgeous blooms, breathtaking color.  Then the blooms fell off, and the plant got more and more unhappy.  But this time, I took it down in the basement and tried to forget about it.  I saw it a time or two and gave it a drink, but it looked dreary and wicked sad.  I left it there till fall.  Then I repotted it with new soil, gave it a hefty drink and put it in the window.  Slowly the flat dull  stems plumped up and got a nice green color, and a couple weeks ago, little buds appeared.  I am in awe!  A cactus plant of my very own that returned to bloom for the holidays!

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Happy Face

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It’s time to fire up the blender and mix some yummy ingredients to soothe this dry thirsty winter complexion.  First I shredded an ounce or so of beeswax and put it in a double boiler to melt. Then, to the pot, add 1/8 cup each of cocoa butter and palm oil.  Next add 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil.  When these are all liquified, they go in the blender to sit and cool.  Once cooled, add (a little at a time through the hole in the top of the blender) 1 cup of 100% aloe vera gel and several drops of essential oils.  I used ylang ylang and sweet orange. Blend well, and store in jars.  I added a 1/4 tsp of cocoa powder for color and got a rich creamy earthy color.

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Black Raspberry Delights

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Season is FLYING BY!  The berries are long gone, and we’re on to grapes and peaches!  And the garden is loaded with tomatoes!  I’ll TRY to keep up!  But I miss those berries!IMG_7256 securedownload-2

O What FUN

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IMG_6091Brown paper packages, tied up with string…naw…too grown up.  Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes?  Sure!  Warm woolen mittens?  You bet!  But the warm fuzzies that these glassy ornaments bring is a WAY favorite thing!  I have seen photos of them on etsy, or pinterest and thought, Why yes! I must have them.  And WHAT to my WONDERING EYES did APPEAR?  IMG_6102

But lots of them everywhere! As basement finds, gifts, and thrift store loot! Oh Merry Christmas to ALL and to ALL a GOOD NIGHT!

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Herbalist Wannabe

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 I watched another video from a neat collection I purchased recently from Rosemary’s Remedies.  She’s sweet and inspiring, and when she said she looks, smells, and tastes her herbs to see if they are still good, I pulled out my whole collection that I’ve been storing in a dark cabinet in a box, and started smelling and looking at them. I decided they need a new home in antique jars in my pantry.  And now that I have a pantry full of inspiration, I will decide what exactly to concoct with them. Tincture? Tea? Infusion?

Guest House?

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This rickety old shed has too much potential to just house rakes and gardening gloves. I see wallpaper, curtains, shabby furniture, and an antique cookstove. Even a loft upstairs like the Ingalls sisters slept in while their parents talked about serious things beneath them.  I have my work cut out for me however.

Notice the wood pile to the left of the window.

Apparently it had been there a while judging from the slant of the floor boards.  My mind was racing. The place became  an old abandoned cabin in the woods, and I was sweeping all the dust and cobwebs out to make it livable; putting on a pot of coffee and enjoying the rustic life.

The job was exciting.  Just like when I was little and I would ask if I could have a space;  in the attic at the cottage, or in a bedroom closet, or upstairs in the garage.  It didn’t matter what it would become, just that it was all mine. And I could do whatever I wanted with it.  We made dozens of forts when I was a kid.  Nothing more than a place to take a bagged lunch, a place to bring friends, a place to plan things.  The Cinderella play was dreamt up above the garage.  Invitations were delivered to the entire elementary school, including the principal, and by the cars parked out front, it looked like that many showed up.  My mother seemed a little overwhelmed. I probably hadn’t told her what we were up to.  But she kept the popcorn and Kool-aid flowing.  There was not enough seating in the driveway for all the patrons, but I am pretty sure the principal got one.

The shed hasn’t taken shape yet.  For now, it’s just cleaner.  But my wheels are turning, and in time, who knows what it will become.

I think this broom has been out here since the 50’s!  I swear we had one of these when I was a kid.   Till next time…