Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to those berries...

What's a girl to do with 19lbs of berries? Make jam of course. Actually I froze a good amount of them (along with most of the peaches and nectarines we had bought the weekend before). I see blueberry pies, muffins, cobblers, and all number of good things in our future. But with the rest I decided to try my hand at jam. I must confess though that I cheated and made freezer jam, but not because I wasn't motivated to try full out canning. However, I lack the supplies for that and the money to buy them. So freezer jam it is. And oh, is it good (if I do say so myself)! For the last two weeks I have had a daily dose of toast and jam on the side of my coffee, not to mention a midnight snack. Steven has been mixing it into his oatmeal. It's so flavorful. At the rate that we are all consuming it, I don't see it lasting very long. That just means we need to take another trip to the berry patch before the season is over! In the recipe below it calls for crushed blueberries. This makes a very chunky jam, which I love. Steven wasn't a huge fan of the blueberry skin so I pureed the second batch. Some people say this can change the way the jam sets up. I didn't see a difference. The pureed batch still made some very fine jam.

Black and Blue Jam:

4 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
5 cups sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 package powdered fruit pectin (for a thicker jam, add 1/2 package of pec
tin and 1/4 cup water

In a large bowl, crush the blueberries by hand. Add the blackberries and crush. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring water and pectin to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add to fruit mixture; stir for 3 minutes. Pour into jars or freezer containers; cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. cover and let stand overnight, but no longer than 24 hours. Refrigerate or Freeze. Store in freezer for up to 1 year, or in refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes approximately 8 8oz. jars of jam. Enjoy!

A boy's party

Christopher's birthday party this year was a little different for us. He's outgrown themed parties and moved into The Sleepover. And nothing says boy's night sleepover like a bonfire and late night video games! So that's what we did, or I should say, they did (I went to sleep). We ate s'mores until their bellies were stuffed and then they played with the Wii until the wee hours of the morning. They all woke up happily groggy for a big breakfast and then played the Wii some more. And it all ended with a very satisfied birthday boy who crashed early the next night.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Chris!

Oh, how he's grown this year...

My firstborn son in nine today! Nine! Christopher Michael. I can still remember what it felt like to hold him as a newborn. I remember him sitting with my dad as a three year old watching Bob the Builder Live. He's way too cool for Bob the Builder now. It seems like it wasn't too long ago that he was a four year old going to preschool saying, "mom, could you call me Chris now?". Break a mom's heart, why don't you! He's big and feeling like he's very grown up. And in so many ways he is. He's at this in between stage of being a little boy and wanting to be a young man. He's way past cartoons and toy cars (although he admitted yesterday that Mary Poppins is one of his favorite movies. shhh, don't tell anyone). It's now video games and extreme building creations. This boy of mine, so much like me and so much like his dad at the same time. The boy who would live on a snowy mountain year round if we let him. He feels most comfortable at the top of a tree. He's hit this awkward stage of wanting to fit in, while his parents keep saying be yourself. I'm pretty sure his goal in life right now is for his dad to think he's cool. Smart. Creative. Mathematical. Logical. Protective. Shy. Polite. Stubborn. Explorer. Skeptical. Curious. Generous. This is my boy. My son, who I love more than life. What an incredibly beautiful young man he is becoming.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


There is a certain peace I get when I return from a trip. A feeling that can be summed up with "ahhhhh". Do you know that feeling? When you walk through the door and your greeted by familiar smells and sights that just make your body want to sink into relaxation. Even if it's a mess, it's your mess. It's those first few seconds, before you let your mind start wandering to all that needs to be done the next day (the laundry, the unpacking, the groceries). It's those first few seconds that get you, when the familiar wraps you up like a warm blanket. I've been away this week and I had that moment today. Maybe I'm just a homebody. I like the familiar. So tonight I walked through our doors and sighed a big heavy sigh. It's good to be home. Tomorrow will be full. But tonight I'm going to sink into my big blue couch and listen to the sound of my kids running through the halls above. I'm going to drink a big glass of sweet tea in one of my favorite blue rimmed glasses. I'm going to soak in my tub. Then I'm going to fall into my bed and snuggle down under my brown blanket getting as close to my husband as I can. I'm going to sigh a big sigh and rest. I know that's a lot of "my" but sometimes leaving is the the best way to appreciate all of the wonderful things in my life.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The berries are here, the berries are here!

Well, not here. Not much grows in this blasted Charlotte clay. So we took a little drive and went to berry heaven! We picked blueberries and blackberries until our fingers were purple and our bellies were full. Is there anything better than a warm, sweet berry fresh from the vine? I love the way blueberries just fall off into your bucket with so little effort, as if they want nothing more than to go home with you. Blackberries aren't quite as kind. They hide and prick you, but ohhh, that makes victory that much sweeter. Sweeter indeed. We came home with 19 lbs. of fresh berries. We would have come home with more but much like Little Sal*, Sicily kept picking them from my bucket and putting them in her mouth. She followed me around picking a few here and there for her bucket and eating a few from mine. Talking to me in mumbles because her cheeks were too full for real words. I couldn't get onto her; my mouth was full too! Even with my little snacker, we came home with quite a bounty. I said we would have berries for months. They all disagreed, and they're probably right. They'll never last that long!

*Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey wonderful book!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A day well played

Some days I look around at the disaster zone that is our home and it bothers me. I grump around as I pick up discarded play dresses, scattered Lego pieces, and soggy tea sets. I mumble under my breath about responsibility and order and how I've told them this or that a hundred times before.

Other days I just look at it and sigh. On those days I don't have the energy to deal with it. So I crawl into bed and leave the mess for another day.

But every now and then, I stare at the mess and I smile. No, I haven't finally gone crazy. It's just that sometimes it hits me that this "mess" is a testament to a day well played. It tells the story of my children and who they are right now. I realize in these moments that the mess won't be the same tomorrow. These little ones keep growing and tomorrow they may not be exactly who they were today.

One day the play dresses won't be worn, the Legos will be stored away untouched, and the tea set will be nothing more than a pretty porcelain set on her dresser. One day, much too soon, there won't be a mess of toys scattered about my house, and I think it will make me a little sad to see a perfectly clean floor at night.

So, I smile. Because this mess is a museum exhibit of this time in their young lives. I linger over the little monkey suit, I really look at the Lego castle, and I gently dry the tea set. Then I kiss each of their sweet sleeping heads, tired from a day full of imagined games, and hope that tomorrow is a bit like today, at least for a little while longer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rainy Day

I love the rain. Pure. Refreshing. Especially warm, sweet, summer rain. I love the smell and the feel of it pouring over my head. I love the way wet grass feels on my bare feet. I love the rumble of thunder in the distance. I love opening the windows and letting the sound of drops hitting the ground fill the house. I love that my children love the rain. I love that their favorite time to play in the swing set fort is when it's raining. I love that rain makes us cuddle together and want to sip mugs of hot drinks. I love colorful umbrellas and bright rain boots. I love standing under the rain, face and palms up, letting it wash over me, and thanking God for the renewal that comes from this sweet water. I love rain .

My little artists

As most of you know, we do not fear art around here. I am not the mom who fears paint, glitter, or play dough. So all of my kids have a very creative side. With Chris, it comes out in the form of sculptures made of Legos, Magnext, or some other building tool. With Sicily, it's organized chaos. It's the crazy outfits she puts together or the intense forts she builds. With Analiese it's classic art. She's my painter, my drawer, my sketchbook keeper. She's very talented. I can see so much potential in her young work. I feel that it's my duty as a mom to nurture their creativity. Picasso said, "All children are artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." When we grow up we become self conscience about how good we are at art. So we stop doing it. We stop doodling and coloring. And I think in a way we lose a freedom. The freedom to lose ourselves in a coloring page or to build a fairy house in the woods. Creativity in its best form is allowing yourself to just be free of what others think you should be and to just be who you are. Children understand that in a way that adults seem to forget. So I'll keep giving them paper and pencils, legos, and colorful clothing, with the hope that as they grow they will know that their art is beautiful. After all they were created in the image of an incredibly creative God. How could they not be creative?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I hope you all had a great 4th! For the third year we spent the day with our great neighbors. We grilled a little, lit some sparklers, and watched the big fireworks show from the comfort of our driveway. We did have one scary moment. A couple of streets over from ours, one family decided to set off their own fireworks. One got out of control and skidded across several yards to land in our neighbor's driveway, only inches from all of our kids. By the grace of God alone it didn't hit anything. It was a bit crazy. The other downside to the night was that Steven wasn't here. He was watching fireworks from the sand in the Outer Banks with some of his closest friends. He'll be there all week. Rough life, huh? Other than those downers, it was a great night!

the girls chilling with our neighbor Hannah,

who was doing a little face painting for everyone

I saw this idea in Real Simple. It keeps the little ones from burning their fingers. I lit the sparklers for them, then just stuck it down in the play dough. It worked really well!

This is the only picture I got of the boy. The boys had a game going were they hid and tried to startle each other with "pop-its". They startled the adults more than they did each other!

No summer night is complete without popsicles!