Posts Tagged With: Jam

Christmas Wrap

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I am ALMOST ready for Christmas.  Jams are done (by the skin of my teeth they all sealed properly), shopping is done, and now all that’s left is the mountain of wrapping and packaging to do.

We’re crazy in my family about the wrapping.  Everyone has a theme each year, and it’s possible to tell who gave you the gift without looking at the card at all.  My aunt goes for funky, natural, and shiny, in browns and blacks for the main bits, but with the strangest and most delightful ribbons attached, everything from lacy glitter orange to natural stuff printed with reindeer.  She hand-makes her tags, too. My sister usually sticks with white craft paper, but goes CRAZY on the bows.  She also usually has some sort of natural topper wedged between.  Last year was maroon, the year before was blue and sparkly.  My mom goes all out festival with novelty prints of which no two are the same, and large tags that give you a clue as to what’s inside, if you can figure out who it’s from (a drill from “Norm,” a cookbook from “Julia”).  I am usually a craft paper girl like my sister, but the colors change.  Last year was white paper, and brown ribbon printed with “Merry Christmas” in red.  The year before was red paper, black baker’s twine, and mini clothespins with trees attached.  The year before that was brown paper with red and white bows.  I usually have the wrapping before I have the presents.

Not so this year.  I have no wrapping paper yet, and I’m not sure what everything will end up looking like.  This is the first time ever that I’m so late.  I’ll be heading out tonight to figure out what I can find.  Whatever else happens, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with gigantic red bows, though.  In velvet, if possible.

In other news, I have been doing this thing called 750 words where you write 750 words a day and it gives you prizes and puts your writing through an analyzer just for fun when you’ve finished.  I’ve been noticing that I clock major introvert when I’m writing about life.  But when I write fiction, it tracks as extroverted.  I don’t know what that says about me or my work.  It probably says something, though.  Anyway, I thought it worth noting.

I hope your Christmas is shaping up to be as good as mine seems to be.

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A Week of Education

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I’m just gonna do a general roundup today, because it seems like that sort of a week.

It’s the National Park Service’s 100th birthday today, and admission is free all weekend.  It makes me want to road trip SO BAD.  Joshua Tree is only an hour from us.  It’s supposed to be 93 degrees out, though.  I don’t know.  At this point, temperatures have been over 100 for so much of the summer that 93 seems doable.  We’ll see.

I had a spate of work that was all mindless adding things to the database, and so I was doing it while listening to the On Being podcast.  They’re all amazing, but I want to particularly recommend this one by Ellen Langer.  Mindfulness without meditation?  Amazing.  And her advice on “can we?” vs “how can we?” is also mind-blowing.  This podcast maybe has changed my life.

I made both Apple Lemon Lavender Jam last weekend and Watermelon Jelly.  The apple lemon is a bit tart, and the watermelon didn’t set up correctly, despite all the pectin I added.  But both are tasty, so there’s that.  I’ve made the Apple Lemon before, only with lemon balm instead of lavender, and it’s one of my favorite flavors EVER.  I just think that I should have either soaked the lemon peel or picked a different herb to put it all with.  Or maybe just added more sugar.  Next time.  And I’ve officially invented watermelon syrup – good on ice cream of all kinds. Just don’t try to spread it on any bread (it doesn’t spread, it oozes.  I may also have a B movie in my refrigerator, only time will tell).

The students come back to school in a couple of weeks.  I’m not ready.  Mostly because I haven’t even started my seasonal reading list, and that’s no small task.  I’d better get on it.  Amid all the novel writing and dissecting of my favorite books, of course.  I’m ½ way through the dissection of A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle and I feel like it’s so full of stuff I never fully realized yet still felt. I’m in love with all the quotes she uses.

I guess the point of this post (if it has one) is that it’s been a very educational week.  That’s all I have to say on the subject for now.  Have a good weekend.  I’m going to.  How do I know this?  Ellen Langer told me so.

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Jam, Bread, and RPGs

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I realized I’ve been binge-reading romance novels as comfort books because the news from the Republican Convention has been so depressing.  You know, among other things.

In times of trouble I have to turn to something.  Romance novels and kitchen exploits are my favorite thing to turn to.  The Roger’s Red grape vine has gone crazy on me, and I have a TON of grapes that are dark purple and that right kind of sour.  I’m planning on making grape jam this weekend before the birds can eat all of them, and possibly I’ll try my hand at a loaf or two of wheat bread.  I may even have enough grapes for a REAL, full batch of jam.

I made the tastiest Irish Blaas from scratch last weekend, and my bread-making confidence is all up in the lofty heights of amazingness right now.  It was easy, I just had to wait for rising.  Wheat bread now seems surmountable, even without a stand mixer with a dough attachment.  Kneading for 8-10 minutes?  Good exercise.  We’ll see if I continue to say that after my arms fall off this weekend.  Wheat bread is supposed to be the hard one.  It’s reputably dense if not done right, though I wouldn’t know.

It is 10 days from the end of the month, and I have already spent all of my allotted book budget.  Which means I will have to subsist on rereading like I used to do in the dark ages before there were e-readers.  Can I do it?  I can totally do it.  If nothing else, I have plenty of Kipling on the shelves.  The last time we moved, I was happy for almost a month on a book of his stories.

In other news, we’re starting a new Rippers game on Friday… which means new characters.  Which means new character backgrounds.  I didn’t have the gumption or the time to make it as much of a short story as the last character, but I felt like the one I came up with was fairly clever.  I’m working on all the short stories, but I don’t think anything is good enough to share currently.  So in its stead, you can read a few paragraphs about Meg Hews.

She’s got a signature weapon that I’ve named “Carrie” after Carrie Nation – the gal that used to go into saloons with an axe and break stuff (including people).  She was very anti-liquor and a little bit insane.  Badass women for the win.

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Photo by Caelkriss on Deviant Art – click picture to link.

Meg Hews:

There is an old assumption that men whose wives die in childbed visit their grief on their children, but Margaret Hews never found that to be the case.  Her father was a jolly man with a quick smile, a firm sense of duty, and a black-and-white view of the word.  He was never sad.  When her mother died he just raised her at the Pinkerton office, and when Uncle Charlie complained, Dad said it was Meg or him. Charlie knew Dad was too good an agent to lose.

Dad let her scramble around his desk and crumple up old newspapers, teaching her to shoot a BB gun at the tender age of 5, and leaving her with Uncle Charlie whenever he had to go out on a job.  Uncle Charlie voiced his dismay, but eventually he shrugged it off and taught Meg to play poker with licorice pipes for winnings.

Dad was against her taking the badge, of course.  But she wasn’t fit for anything else when she grew up. She wasn’t demure enough for the boys who wanted a gentlewoman and her housekeeping skills were atrocious.  She refused to learn to type.  The only thing she could do was shoot straight and spy a lie from a mile off.  Pinkerton Agent it was.

It would be easiest to make her way in an office where everyone didn’t call her Meggie or remember that one year where she executed all her dolls for murder and subsequently burned them at the stake in the metal office trash cans.  Embarrassing.

So when a spot opened up at the St. Louis office, Meg made Uncle Charlie pull strings to get her in.

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Lazy Week

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My week has mostly been the boring kind.  Which is the kind I like best, in some ways.

I bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition on Monday and have burned through it.  Brian has hardly seen me, as I’ve been reveling over diagrams of dragon eggs and portraits of Harry and Hagrid in a rowboat, seagulls wheeling overhead.  It’s prettier than you ever could imagine it would be, even if you’ve already seen the pictures.  My only criticism is that it is a bit too huge to hold and read, though it’s good for spreading out on the pillow next to you.  (Brian?  No, he doesn’t need a place to sleep).

Previews of Chamber of Secrets are available, and I already can’t wait for the next installment.

I made strawberry jam from strawberries we bought at the farm store down the street on Sunday, which I know Brian has been DYING to get into.  We still have ½ a jar of Apple/Lemon left first, though.  It was so good that I licked the pot clean (shhh… don’t tell anyone).  I also had about ¼ of a jar’s worth of leftovers that didn’t fit nicely into the 6 full jars I made, which I promptly ate as well.

The tomatoes have tripled in size, overnight, and are starting to flower.

The kitten has been into her usual shenanigans.  I let her ‘help’ me clean up this weekend (by which I mean I crumpled a bunch of the junk mail into balls she could chase around the house so she would stop bothering me to pet her).  I put them in the recycling at the end of the day.  Don’t worry, she upended it all and pulled them out again (plus more), and strewed it all over the house.  It might have been my own fault for giving that stuff to her to play with in the first place…  I’ll tell you though, the lesson is not learned.  She’s too adorable, and at least the mess is clean paper.  She was waiting in the window for me to come home last night, too (and then promptly showed me that she didn’t care about me at all when I walked in the door).

My mom started a puzzle of Yellowstone at her house, which I find impossible to step away from.  Must get one more piece in (*eye twitch*). I have most of the lodges together, and was starting on the bears taking pictures of humans when we realized how late it was.

Hats off to lazy weeks.  I don’t get many of them.

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Jams:

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I have been in a reading slump (since I finished The Oregon Trail last weekend), and things have otherwise not been very exciting around here.  I have, however, been cranking out the word count.  I’ve started editing my second novel so that when I get so annoyed with the first one that I could spit, I have something totally different to turn to.  Both have been progressing nicely, although the almost finished novel is going better than the other.  Mostly because I don’t know where I’m taking the other yet (it seems to be totally different than the first draft indicated it would be).

Brian and I ran around all weekend in LA.  He had a work thing, and we had a party that night, and in the mean time we hung out at Gamehaus Café, ate pear/honey paninis, and played board games.  It was quite lovely, actually.  I was worried about driving around in LA because it was supposedly the weekend of the “Slow Jam,” meaning that tons of things were shut down and traffic was supposed to be horrible.

It wasn’t that bad, at all.  But speaking of jams…

The thing I’m most proud of this week is my latest round of fruit jam.  Brian and I have been looking into saving money via the food we’re buying and eating each week, and $5.00 for a jar of jam seems so steep when I can make 5 jars for about $10 or less.  I spent about $10 on things this time, but probably will spend less next time, as there’s plenty of pectin left over in the cupboard.  The bonus of making my own stuff is that I get to go with funky flavors.  The Persimmon Cinnamon jam I made at Christmas time turned out great, although it was my first round at jam and too runny.  It’s all gone now, so I needed to make something else.

When I left Scripps, they gifted me a lovely jar of jam that was Apple Lemon Verbena flavored.  But it was bad for PBJs because the apples were cut into large chunks and you couldn’t spread it.  It was great on vanilla ice cream, though, and amazing alone with a spoon (don’t judge me).  So that meant I was going to rip it off for my latest jam.  Bonus points because I had about a TON of small apples that Brian and I didn’t get to in time that were looking a little wrinkly.  Not so appetizing.  But mushed up with a ton of sugar?  Yum!

I also looked everywhere for Verbena, but didn’t find any.  Home Depot did have some Lemon Balm, though, that I thought might be as good.  It certainly smelled excellent.  So my jam is Apple Lemon Balm.  Here’s the recipe.

Apple Lemon Balm Jam:

  • 1 large bag of tiny apples – any kind, but sweet is better
  • 2 large lemons
  • 3/4 tablespoons of lemon balm, chopped (or any herb you think goes well with lemon and apple)
  • 4 tablespoons Powdered Pectin
  • 4 cups sugar

Core, peel, and chop the apples into fairly large chunks.  Put in a saucepan and cook at medium/low heat until some juices release and apples are soft.  While the apples are stewing, juice the 2 lemons and set aside.  Throw lemon peels into a food processor and pulse until the peel is in small pieces/pulpy.  Reserve 1 cup of this mixture.

Once the apples are soft, toss those into the food processor and pulse until they are also pulpy – just slightly chunkier than applesauce.  Reserve 3 cups of apples.  You can do the fruit in any quantity, as long as you end up having 4 cups of it.  So if you’re a little shy on the apples, throw in some more lemon peel…

Put the apples, the lemon rind, the lemon balm, and the lemon juice back into the saucepan you stewed the apples in.  Add pectin and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil for about 1 minute, and then add the sugar in slowly.  Boil another minute or 2, until mixture is thick and glossy. Don’t forget to taste it and add more sugar as needed.

If you’re unsure how thick your jam is just by stirring it, feel free to dip a spoon in it and let the jam cool on the spoon for a few seconds.  It should give you a heavy coating that reminds me of glue.  I think a little more solid is better than a little runny, so I err on the side of too firm.  You’ll know once you’ve done this a few times, but trust your gut and know that it will be tasty no matter what you do.  Once you’ve reached your desired consistency, pour that jam into jars and seal them up.

At this point, you have 2 choices.  You can put it all through a water canning bath and your jam will be good for a year or so.  Or you can just pop them in the fridge and make sure to use them within the month.  I go with option 2 because I’m lazy.  And because we eat a lot of jam in this house.

So there you go.  That’s my weekly accomplishment, and now it can be yours.  If you’re willing to wash sticky dishes, that is.  I promise it’s worth it.

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