Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Lost Arts: Jam

Here in Central Indiana, the strawberries are in their peak season, full of juicy sweetness. So last week, I invited a friend to go pick strawberries with me at a nearby farm. It was a perfect morning, sunny with cool breezes. It was a perfect farm, complete with beautiful farm house, big white barn, and a country store. Mothers pushed babies in strollers between rows, and little hands enjoyed picking and sampling, too. In less than two hours, I'd picked fifteen pounds of strawberries.

Yep, that's a lot of strawberries! I knew I had to work fast to preserve them.  I went out to my garden and harvested the rhubarb for a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. I love it when I can add elements from my garden to my kitchen concoctions!

The day before strawberry picking, I had  gone to the store to purchase the necessary items for jam preserving: Ball canning jars, sugar, and pectin. If you've never made jam, I can promise you that it's easy if you follow directions. The pectin boxes always include recipes as well. For starters, you need to wash all of the canning jars and lids and rings in hot soapy water, and then sterilize them in boiling water on the stove. It's important to keep all of your tools sterile in this process.

The canning jars now include these adorable sticker labels. How handy is that? My husband actually thought I'd hand stamped the labels, bless his little heart. :)

I like to make freezer jam because it does not require the extra step of the hot water bath. After combining all the ingredients and filling jars, you have to leave them in a nice quiet place for twenty-four hours where they will not be disturbed.

And twenty-four hours later, you can pop them right into the freezer!

Over a two day period, I made thirty large and small jars of jam! Strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, and triple berry jam (which is my new favorite!).

It was the perfect week for jam making, too, as they made the sweetest gifts for Sam's teacher and bus driver on the last day of school!

I thought that thirty jars would last me a long time. I have to family has already consumed two jars! I may need to make more jam before the berry season is over! This jam is so delicious. Last night, we had the triple berry jam on top of vanilla ice good!

I think that canning and preserving the harvest is a lost art. Sure, it takes a little time, but it is so worth it when you look in your freezer at all of those bejeweled jars. I think that the increasingly high cost of foods in recent years has many people like me giving some serious thought to growing and preserving now. At one of my grocery stores, the boxes of Sure Jell pectin were completely gone, which makes me think I'm not the only one making her own jam these days.

I recently picked up a copy of Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Now that I have the canning bug, I'm anxious to try more recipes. The boys would like to try canning salsa this summer, and I'm hoping to try some basic tomato sauces as well. I'm also looking toward the fall, when I can make my own apple butter.

The berries are ripe for picking, folks! Try your hand at some jam making this week. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Take Ten Tuesday 3: Cherries

As the temperatures cooled last evening, my husband and I sat out on the front porch with a glass of wine, watching the robins pick cherries from our tree. I would try to harvest these sour cherries myself, but the birds love them so much. It's fun to watch the robins with bright red cherries in their beaks. Yes, I know, I'm a cheap date and easily entertained. :)

I made a fast card today using the PTI set "Modern Wood Mats". This set is a must for quick and easy stamping!

{recipe: PTI Modern Wood Mats, PTI Rustic white card stock, soft suede ink (SU), riding hood red ink (SU), old olive ink (SU), chipboard and paper from Crate Paper Farmhouse collection}

I like Crate Paper's chipboard accents. When paired with coordinating papers, they make a fast and easy card.

Sadly, we woke up to this...a large limb from our pear tree, felled from an early morning thunderstorm. Luckily, the tree itself is still standing, and the fallen limb didn't damage anything on its way down.

Sam thought of a new way to climb in his favorite climbing tree. As far  as I can see, this limb did not house any nests, so I'm thankful. Looks like we'll be busy today! It's a good thing my husband is home on vacation this week. Time to play lumberjack!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Musings from Nashville

My husband and I returned yesterday from a two day trip to Nashville...Indiana, that is!  Brown County is just beautiful, with its rolling hills and trees and farms. It's a great country escape! The town of Nashville is a little artsy community filled with quaint shops, fun restaurants, and lots of bed and breakfast accommodations. Here are a few photos from town.

Wait a minute! Do I spy a dulcimer near that doorpost? Yes, indeed, I do! I had a great time talking to the owner of the Weed Patch Music Company. She pointed me to the dulcimer books, and convinced me that I also needed to purchase a new Clarke's penny whistle while I was at it.

After a shopping blitz in Nashville, we headed to the Story Inn for our fabulous dinner (everything is made and raised locally!) and room for the night. The Story Inn (which claims to be haunted by a ghost known as The Blue Lady) is a truly unique experience. It is filled with rustic charm and surrounded by adorable cottages and gardens.

What a fun, relaxing weekend! I spoke about cross stitch with another guest at the inn, laughed with the friendly staff, explored gardens....yes, that is a bathroom sink plunked in the middle of the plots as garden art.  Yep, these are my kind of people! We saw so many horse farms, along with deer, wild turkeys, and a box turtle that my husband rescued from his eminent demise in the middle of a winding road. I love the country!

My husband and I rarely get out alone, so this was a real treat. Short, but sweet. A great start to the holiday weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

PTI May Blog Hop

It's that time of the month when we pull out our fabulous stamps from Papertrey Ink for a little blog hop fun. This month's photo is definitely inspiring!

This color combo brings to mind some of my favorite home and garden shops.  It's a little bit garden, a little bit French, a little bit je ne sais quoi!

Here's the card I made for today's blog hop!

It's about time that PTI's Lace Bouquet finally got a little inky! I used Versamark to give a subtle effect, then stamped a few flowers, fussy cut them, and popped them for a little interest.

{recipe: all card stock from PTI, PTI BB Gingham, PTI Lace Boquet, PTI Think Big Favorites, lace edge punch (SU), ribbon (SU), pin from My Mind's Eye, Vintage Button from PTI, baker's twine}

Thanks for visiting the cafe today! Blessings on your Memorial Day weekend, friends!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

For The Teacher

Tomorrow is Sam's last day of school. Summer vacation is here!

I needed to make a card for Sam's teacher and bus driver, both of whom are men. No frilly girly cards here! Just a card with a punny sentiment and a little clue to the end of the year gift.

{recipe: PTI Friendship Jar and Fr. Jar Summer Fillers, PTI Rustic Cream card stock, PTI dies, October Afternoon's Modern Homemaker papers, prisma markers}

Sam had a great year in Mr. Gibbs' classroom. I'm so thankful for the teachers that shape young lives. What a blessing!

Goodbye, second grade! Hello, third grade!

Let the summer fun begin!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Lost Arts

This summer, I plan on exploring some of the lost arts. I want to learn new things from a simpler time, the things that our grandmothers and great grandmothers knew and embraced as part of daily life.

I began to think of how dependent we have become on technology in just one generation. Think back...our days were not filled with computers. We did not Skype. We did not have digital cameras. We did not have cell phones, not to mention texting. We did not have video games and home theater systems. We did not have e-readers. We did not have GPS. We did not have online shopping.

How did we survive? Just fine. We had house phones...on long spiral cords. We had books. We had movie theaters. We had libraries and fantastic book stores. We had maps. We had stores. We had the outdoors to entertain us and friends to bike with us.

All of this technology that my sons take for granted. What has it done for us? It isolates us. We become so dependent on it for our everyday life rhythms that seem to focus on the hurry and rush and speed of things.

I want to slow down. I want to unplug. I want to create. I want to become less of a consumer and more of a producer.

I picked up crochet recently after a thirty plus year absence. With hook and yarn in hand, my brain instantly brought me back to a skill that I'd learned as a child. I'm so thankful that I have a mother that taught us to appreciate crafts at a young age. I think the world would be a much better place if we gave our daughters knitting classes instead of mani-pedis...if we taught our sons how to start a vegetable garden rather than how to kill zombies.

I'm going to reexamine the things that don't bear fruit in my life (this blog may be one of them!), and try to invest more time in the things that do...connecting with people, feeding my family, learning a new skill, appreciating God's creation.

A simpler life, rediscovering lost arts.

Tell me, what did you learn as a child? What lost art do you wish you could learn today?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Take Ten Tuesday with WMS

It's Take Ten Tuesday! Here's a fun card using the stamp set Sewing Box Hugs from Waltzingmouse Stamps. Stamp the images, color with Prisma markers, add a little gingham tent topper and a button, and done in ten. And with the busy day I've had today, ten minutes was all I could spare!

I managed to capture a few photos of Mama Bird feeding her babies on my deck. I love it when the baby birds flutter their little wings and cheep cheep cheep until Mama stuffs seed in their beaks. So precious!

The birds have been extremely active in our yard! We decided to add another bird feeder to accommodate all of the birds. We've also hung two hummingbird feeders, and the hummers are happily buzzing right along.

The weather has been nice and cool this week, which means I can have the windows open all day to listen to the birdsong. It's been a lovely spring here in central Indiana. Sunny days, blue skies, and cool nights for good sleeping. Ah, bliss!

A little birdie told me that hot weather will be coming this weekend. Better get outdoors and enjoy it while I can!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Message Just For Me

I made it back to church yesterday, and I'm so glad I did. God had a message just for me waiting there.

Remember my post on Belonging last week? I had read the verse from Isaiah 43:1, and it really had an impact on me.

Guess what? Just in case I missed it (because God knows I'm a slow learner!), He repeated the message to me again in the readings of the church service.

That, my friends, is a God thing!

And you know when the sermon was meant just for you by the notes you had to take on the back of the bulletin.

I LOVE Christ's church, don't you? It was good to be home.

I made a little card today that just reflects on love and home. I borrowed the same colors from yesterday's card because I liked them so well together.

{recipe: Love Lives Here (PTI), tangerine tango ink and card stock, baja breeze ink and cardstock, certainly celery ink, versafine onyx ink, PTI cream card stock}

Thanks for popping in to the cafe today!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Busy as a Bee

I've been as busy as a bee this week! So busy, in fact, that I've had little time for crafting. The garden needed a lot of tending.

I had three flats of annuals to plant. I now have the blisters to prove it. Curse you, terrible soil!

The roses needed dead heading. It's been an amazing spring for roses! I wish this photo came with smell-o-vision because you would not believe the fragrance!

I planted eight pepper plants and eight varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Every year I promise myself that I'll give up on the tomatoes and just buy local, but every spring they tempt me. It's their exotic names...German Girl, Black Prince, Golden Jubilee. The names get me every time.

Yesterday I laid ten bags of mulch to keep the weeds at bay and keep the plants moist. Today I am covered in mosquito bites, my shoulders are pink, my back aches, and my hands are not pretty. But my garden is pretty, and that makes me smile.

This morning, I felt the need to craft again. I purchased this PTI stamp set from one of the B/S/T forums recently. I just love Iconic Images, especially this vase.

A simple, no layers card. I used Tangerine Tango for the flowers, and I just love the color paired with the others...baja breeze, certain celery, so saffron, and a little soft suede to soften the edges.

I'm taking this tired body to church this morning. Haven't been to my home church in a few weeks. When I start finding excuses not to go, then I know it's time to get back.

Blessings on your Sunday, friends!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have struggled with belonging this month. Not feeling as though I belong here, feeling as though I belong somewhere else.

Last weekend, when I went home to visit family in Michigan, I had such a hard time returning back to Indiana. I feel a sense of belonging in Michigan, even though I haven't lived there for seven years. I go the grocery store there, and run in to someone I know. I go to my Mom's church, and all of my old friends are warm and welcoming. I sit at my Mom's kitchen table surrounded by brothers and sisters who know me (and love me anyway), and I feel such a comfort and peace.

I don't feel comfort and peace in Indiana. I don't run into friends at the grocery store.

I don't belong.

I was putting some books away the other day when this book literally fell off the shelf and into my hands. "Here I Am Again, Lord: Confessions of a Slow Learner" by Carole Mayhall. I decided that it was a sign that I should read this book. After all, I haven't been in the Word lately, and consequently, it's made me a slow learner concerning the lessons God has planned for me.

The book is filled with devotions about some of the characteristics of God, and includes verses in the Bible for further study. One verse seemed to jump out at me this week.

Isaiah 43:1: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name.; you are mine."

Wow. Not because of anything I've done, but because of what God has done for me. Redeemed me. Summoned me. Called me His own.

I am God's, and that is where I belong.

In a chapter titled "Lord, I don't understand!" (reflecting on God's sovereignty), Carole has this to say:

"I take my eyes off God and fix them on the circumstances. In these times the Father has to remind me again, 'I am the Blessed Controller of all things. My ways are not your ways, but My ways are best.' I am so grateful He never gives up on me.I'm a slow learner, but He's a patient Teacher."

I confess to taking my eyes off God and fixing them on my circumstances. I confess to not trusting that He has good things in store for my future. I only see my present circumstance, this place where I'm stuck and don't belong. I look around and ask "Why?"

I spoke with my friend, Beth, on the phone yesterday. She, too, feels displaced as her life is being turned upside down. We spoke of the Whys. And speaking them out loud helped us come up with a few answers.

Why here? Well, my oldest sons have had great educational opportunities here. They've made friends, really good rock solid Christian friends. They've found colleges and career paths.  And consequently, I've found myself embracing the role of "House Mother" to this ragamuffin band of college students. I counsel them, I laugh with them, I feed them, I open my home to them. It's been a very haphazard ministry in many ways. No church affiliation. Just house church.

Maybe that is why I'm here.

Maybe I'm here to take this house and its gardens from sad to special. Maybe I'm here to feed the birds in the nature preserve every day. Maybe we're here to welcome the couple across the street who also don't feel as if they belong. Maybe I'm not here to fit in. Maybe I'm here to stick out.

I don't know all of the whys and wheres and whens. But I do know the whose...I am God's, and that is home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Take Ten Tuesday

Good morning, friends!

I'm featuring something new on my blog today called Take Ten Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, I'm going to showcase a card or project that can be made in ten minutes or less. After all, the nice weather is beckoning us outdoors. Who wants to be stuck indoors for hours when the garden needs tending?

Today's card uses stamps from Anna Griffin for a farm fresh card. No sentiment. That way, I can add a sentiment that seems appropriate when I'm ready to mail it. Right now, anything farm related is super trendy. And sunbursts? They're everywhere!

I spent a great weekend with my Mom for Mother's Day. We had so much fun, and it went way too fast!

On Saturday, we visited the Erie Street Market in downtown Toledo, with Mom, my sister Jenny, and my oldest and youngest along for the ride. It was a great day to eat kettle corn, sample salsa, and find a good loaf of cinnamon bread while drinking freshly brewed coffee and eating homemade truffles. Yum!

I found this lovely herb planter, and knew I had to buy it for my step mom-in-law, Shirley Ann!

I also picked up a few things for myself. Local honey sold in a cute little package with a tea bag, some beeswax tealight candles, and a bee balm.

Our local farmer's market opens this Saturday. I'm hoping that the strawberries will come in soon, as I plan on making some strawberry rhubarb freezer jam with the rhubarb freshly picked from my garden. I'm going to be making a lot more things by hand this summer...more baking, canning, crafting and stitching. I'll share everything that works, and everything that didn't.

 A homemade, hand crafted summer. Sounds like fun!