Checking off my jam list

Last week, the newest issue of Kaia came out and I was more than a little excited to see my article on canning in it.  I grew up making freezer jam and terrrified of the idea of a boiling water canner.  I learned to can because as a wedding gift I was given a Ball start up kit from Lehmans and since I had everything, I needed to bite the bullet and get over my fear of getting burnt.  Some people get hooked on shopping or running races, I discovered that I love making jam.  I really, really do.  I love testing for the jelling point, wiping the threads of each jar and then listening to the jars sound their triumphant “ping” as they seal.

Every year, I mean to make strawberry rhubarb jam and every year, and yet every year passes and somehow, I have not managed to make any!  This year was the year though and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  The berries were really sweet, so there is a much lower amount of sugar in this jam than in other recipes I found.  I think that there is just enough sweetness to overcome the tartness of the rhubarb without overshadowing the flavor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

  • 4 cups Rhubarb
  • 6 cups Strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pan.  Heat through and then mash well.  (I used an immersion blender to do this, even though I knew it is incredibly unsafe.  I still have strawberry bits on my wall.  If I were you, I’d use a potato masher.)  If you allow the fruit to heat through, it will mash better which is extremely beneficial for the rhubarb as it can be a bit stringy.  Continue to heat the jam, skimming foam from the top of the pan as necessary.  The jam will reduce in volume by about a quarter in 15-20 minutes.  Put a metal spoon in the freezer while the jam is reducing.  When the jam seems thick enough, put a drop of the jam on the spoon to check and see if you leave a clean streak through it if you run your finger through.  If the spoon is clear, then the jam has thickened up enough and will set nicely.   Pour the jam into the jars, wipe the threads of the jars with a damp cloth and screw on the caps and rings tightly.  Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Set the finished jars on a towel in a dry place where they cannot be disturbed for at least 12 hours.  Enjoy on fresh toast!

Fitness Friday (6.8.12)

Oh my… this week.  I’m having a rough time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is already Friday!  I had a lot of deadlines for my work and stress in this house has been high.  Not the best way to be diving into my second week of my workout plans, but we are making it.  I didn’t really have the energy to do my second workout last night, but there was a sudden influx of energy midafternoon during which time I agreed to attend class.

As I mentioned last week, I’m supposed to do 2-a-days on Tuesday and Thursday, but due to scheduling I may have to switch up those days.  I was a little wimpy during my workouts on Tuesday.  Ok.  Super wimpy.  Thursday morning’s class wasn’t awful, but Brooke challenged us me at the night class, so today, I’m gratefully sore.

I learned this week

  1. If I’m going to run, I really, really need company.  I need someone to keep me from crying.  Well, at least hand me tissues until I’m comfortable enough running that I don’t dread the first mile.  Last night, my running partner was a 9 year old who was more than happy to cheer me on.  Tomorrow, my running partner is also coming off an injury so we’ll be supporting each other.
  2. I also run/exercise far better with music.  I need to figure out my play list tonight once the kids are in bed and then actually transfer the music.  My phone has all kinds of gadgets, I just need to learn how to use them.
  3. I really should get new batteries for my watch.  Actually, I should find that watch first…
As far as my positivity progress, I was doing great until yesterday.  Really.  I only had 3 pennies in my jar from the whole week, but by the time I went to bed last night, there were 21.  But that’s ok.  As long as I learn from my mistakes and keep working toward improvement, then almost a quarter worth of negativity isn’t awful.  Next week, we shoot for a better mindset on Thursday night.
Also next week, we shoot for actual posts on this blog.  Heh.  Wish me luck with organization this weekend!

Coloring our play

I really enjoy playing outside with the kids.  I love when they are messy beyond belief.  I especially love when they are using their hands.  Liam crawled for approximately one week on all fours.  Prior to that, he motored around the house dragging his body with clumsy thumps of his arms on the floor.  He is very right hand dominant and his hand is considerably weaker.  Since he won’t do much with his left hand if he can avoid it, I am always looking for ways to increase his strength.

We are raising our children to love color.  Matt is an artist by trade and I appreciate every bit of art: the color, the style, the passion.  Liam strongly prefers the color red and Sylvi is showing preference for purple and green.  We color and paint and draw all the time.  My back patio shows Liam’s attempts to be a muralist on our white walls with wet chalk.  I don’t know any child who doesn’t like chalk.  But, I do have a daughter who thinks it’s a snack, so I had to come up with another option for outdoor color that wouldn’t matter if she ate.  I found several chalk type sprays on Pinterest and decided this was my answer.

I bought plastic spray bottles for $0.99 each at Target in the travel/sample size section.  I then used a ratio of 2:1 for hot water and cornstarch.  Mix together the water and cornstarch and simply add food coloring until you get the shade you’d like.  (I used a very thin spray because the nozzles on my spray bottle seemed to clog very easily, but you honestly could use equal parts cornstarch and water.)  The kids loved the spray and I wasn’t worried at all when Sylvi wound up with it all her face.  As a quick note, though, if you’d like to make your sprays in advance, the color does separate but is resolved easily by shaking.  I store mine with the straw removed from the nozzle so it doesn’t clog.

The color spray washed right out from the kids’ clothes and the patio.  And Vito’s fur.  And my hair.  And our hostas.  Needless to say, Liam loved playing with the squirt bottles and it’s been great to see him using his hands together.  What fun outdoor art are you doing with your kids this summer?

Reversing my mental polarity

For starters, I’d like to say thank you for the sweet comments on my last post.  I am so thrilled with my progress and am just desperate to share it with people.  Not so they can cheer for me, but hopefully see that you don’t have to wear dumpy clothes to hide or never leave your home for fear of criticism.  I truly do wish I could bottle up this feeling and pass it out!

In light of my personal physical changes, I’ve been reflecting on my mental state.  This has been going on for months; actually since the beginning of the year because I found a box of my old journals.  I went through them because I was looking for a specific entry (I’ve kept a journal since I was 8 years old) and as I read, I was filled with so much sadness.  I was a very honest child and documented everything.  I was stunned by how merciful I used to be.  So kind and positive.  When something bad/sad/unjust happened, I gave the other person grace and resolved to love on them more.  And I’m just not that graceful anymore.

To be fair to myself, the years in between those entries and now haven’t been a walk in the park.  I grew up, I saw things, I experienced things and allowed myself to become quite a Negative Nancy.  Over the years, I’ve managed to cut out the awful habit of gossiping almost completely and I’ve gotten a much better handle on my temper.  But the one major flaw that I haven’t been able to manage is my constant negative outlook.  I am a perfectionist and I have very high expectations for myself, so I do tend to note failure before success.  I knew these were my issues, but honestly, until I started exercising consistently and watching a physical change, I didn’t really care to work on my mental outlook.

Therefore, for the month of June, I am challenging myself to not focus on the negative.  Instead of saying “thank you, but…” I’m going to just stop at thank you.  Instead of starting an answer or comment with “ugh, it was the worst!”… I’m not sure how I’ll start my comments, but I’ve got to break that habit.  Not everything is the worst.  I’m going to work on not complaining about the constant challenges that I face either during workouts, or parenting,  relationships,or business.  It’s a hefty challenge, I realize this.

This isn’t about me becoming a mindless cheer bomb.  I am going to have lousy days at some point in the next month.. I’m human and live in the real world!  But I don’t need to focus on that part of the day.  What I need to do is reverse the natural polarity of my thoughts.  From Negative to Positive.  From Nancy to Penny, so to speak.  As a visual for this exercise, I’m going to put a penny in a jar every time I don’t remember to focus on the positive.  I’ll be sharing my progress at the end of my Go Green Get Fit update posts since my mental health and my physical health go hand in hand.  It takes 2 weeks to form a habit, but I’m giving myself a month… I’m realistic and honest with myself.

Just as I’ve challenged you to join me in strengthening your physical bodies, I’d like to also challenge you to strengthen your mind.  All of our days could be so much more pleasant if we were Positive Pennys speaking with a purpose!  Join me in bettering your mental state and learning to enjoy the little bits of life that were previously unpleasant!