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Archive for July, 2008

A mom’s number one fault is probably lack of self-pampering. In our hectic lives, we often find ourselves rushing around to get a massive amount of work done & we put our family above our own needs. It’s important to remember, that to be the best parent possible, we need to make sure that we are in good spirits too! And it doesn’t take the time or money that you might think! We can be wise with our time & frugal in our choices. Pampering doesn’t mean lots of money & hours of time alone!

Make your home less stressful – Right off the bat, the easiest thing to do is remove as much stress as possible from our lives. You know your family – you can predict the things that keep you running around & stealing your time to just BREATH! If you have young children – baby proof! This will prevent accidents before they occur. When you know this are none (or no foreseen) obstacles in the way, you will feel better about taking a few minutes to sit alone and meditate, read your favorite blog or newspaper article or have a quick chat on the phone. Have your children learn the rules about interrupting during your personal time (barring emergencies). I’m not suggesting locking yourself away for five hours a day. Just a few minutes can be all that your spirit needs to restart fresh.

Have friends – This can sound difficult in the midst of daily activities, grocery shopping & more. Just trying to squeeze in a few hours of sleep (and likely interrupted at that) can sound like a daunting task! But friendships are important – they can assure you that you are not the only one in these stressful parenting situations. You can be assured you are not the only one with a crazy child or that other people out there have to wake up 4 times a night just to calm a fussy toddler. Friends are important for support, advice & just non-Elmo based conversations.

Help is not a four letter word – Don’t be afraid to let the words “I need help” fall out of your mouth. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it & I truly believe it takes a strong & good person to admit when they are lacking all of the necessary ingredients to accomplish something. Be it asking for help with a specific chore, to resolve a situation or just to have a break, it is alright to ask!

Teach your family to give you time – Children can be taught that you need your alone time. They can also be taught that certain areas are off-limits. Be it your bedroom, the master bath or another area – it’s ok to set limits and let people know that a certain space is for adults only.

Once you create a path for yourself that includes a moment or two of “only for me” time, you’ll find yourself functioning at higher capacity & you will smile more often. Just remember – pampering and selfish are NOT the same things.

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Self-sustainment is something that our family is always working on. We make an effort to grow our own produce to limit what we need to buy (as well as in effort to assist in a more frugal organic diet). Part of the sustainment is a realization that to limit waste & last ourselves through winter, we will need to freeze, can or dry as much as possible before the white fluff starts to blanket our yard. Since growing season started, I have added many additions to the freezer, but it’s just recently that I’ve begun to can. It’s somewhat of an adventure as I am still learning a lot but with some searches on the internet or help from a friend, it can be easy peasy!

I decided that there’s nothing better to start off these next few weeks of canning than a tasty and sweet strawberry jam. Not only will it be more appreciated due to the homemade aspect, but I can control the ingredients and ensure that there are no voodoo “things” that I do not wish my family to ingest!

Before you begin, be sure to get your ingredients and tools ready. It makes life much easier when everything is ready & within reach!

You will need:

4 quarts Strawberries

4-6 cups Sugar

1/2 cup Lemon juice

Large pot

Spatula

Sterilized mason Jars

The first thing that you need to do is gather all of your ingredients. Hull, or remove the green stems, of all strawberries & toss then into a bowl.

You can mash them up or do what I do – toss them in the food processor! This makes for a smoother jam & in my opinion, is faster and easier. And heck, my husband bought me a food processor so I use it every chance I get!

Once that’s done, pour your mixture into a large pot. I suggest the biggest post in your house. I used a stainless steel stock pot. While your berries may look like nothing much right now, they will bubble up significantly and cause a great mess if they overflow in a smaller saucepan.

Heat the berries on low & add the sugar. You can use discretion at the amount of sugar you like. I am finding that somewhere between 4-6 cups is appropriate. The heat is on low, so go ahead & taste & add until you’re satisfied with the amount. Pour in your lemon juice & stir.

Once all three components are in, you’re ready to turn up the heat! Bring the temperature up & stir constantly. You want a rolling boil & I’d suggest not planning to do anything during this process. You will want to maintain an almost constant stirring to avoid burning on the bottom as well as for even heating. You’ll see countless bubbles forming in the pot & that’s fantastic! That is exactly what you are going for. Continue to heat & stir for approximately 20 minutes, longer if needed.

You can see the difference between the previous picture and the one when the bubbles start sneaking up on you:

How do you know you’re done? Take a little of the would-be-jam & pour onto a plate (I actually used the same measuring cup I was using earlier as to avoid dirtying more dishes). Toss it in the freezer and wait a few minutes – this cools it quickly. When you take it out, see if it moves around or give it a touch with your fingers. Take a taste even! If it meets the criteria of a nice jam for you, then it’s ready! If not, continue the rolling boil process. Keep in mind, however, that there is NO pectin in this recipe. It will never be completely gel-like. Think more along the lines of preserves.

When you’re satisfied with the consistency, remove the pot from the heat & begin spooning the concoction into already sterilized mason jars.

Be sure to leave approximately 1/2 inch of space. Secure the lids and let stand both upside down & right side up for several minutes each. Once they are sealed, hide them away in cabinets or decorate & give as gifts! If they are not sealed, toss them into a hot water bath until they do seal.

A note about ingredients:

I highly suggest organic whenever possible. This time of the year, you can either dig from your own garden or find produce at local stands. In my area, I am lucky to have local Amish neighbors that are firm believers in the organic practice. Organic not only tastes better, but it’s better for your family.

Sugars are more nutritious when they are processed as little as possible. I suggest Sugar In the Raw, or another minimally processed sugar. It not only is better tasting, it actually contains nutrients that your body can use!

For lemon juice – of course fresh squeezed is best, but bottled will work just fine too! I forgot lemons at the store, so a quick knock at the neighbor’s door helped me out!

Have a tip? Know of a recipe you want me to try out & share tutorial style? Be sure to reply and let me know! I’m always up for a challenge & love helping others learn new things!

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