Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Before relocating to wine country, I decided to try my hand at jam making. However, I had a couple obstacles: 1. Doesn’t mom or grandma or someone normally pass this skill down? I missed my lesson. Missed actually being skipped out on. 2. I only like strawberry jam and I don’t like seeds. How do you get the seeds out? 3. Two little ones, one doesn’t want anything to do with it except eat, and the other wants my attention.

One day after work the kids and I met up with hubby at a u-pick strawberry patch a couple towns over. We were a little late to the party, so it was slim pickings, but we still had a great time.  I still remember the feeling from having baby in a front carry pack. It was quite the workout, 3 days later my legs were still killing me. I was basically out there doing squats with a 30 lb pack that moved & hits. I remember thinking I wasn’t sure about the hitting thing, it really made me nervous that the little man was going to be a handful. My older son never hit, or at least never out of anger or annoyance. That day the youngest was basically going – won’t let me down? Bam! take that lady. Should we go again?

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kelley Wolther

I swear this baby/ now toddler, has been Gods way of teaching me not to judge.

Me with baby 1: “oh I would never let my baby sleep in my bed, that is soooo bad”

Me with baby 2: F* this colic he has to be touching me 24/7 – baby slept in my bed for about 2 months.

Me with baby 1: “blankets are so bad for babies, only sleep sacks”

Me with baby 2: me to Dr over screaming baby – “there has to be something wrong he wont stop screaming!, my other had colic, this is not the same.” Dr – “give him a blanket to cuddle with, it will be more like sleeping with you”. Me “nooooo”. Next night – here’s a mini blanket (in fairness it was one of those little monkey/blanket lovie things).

Anyway, back to the point. The next morning I pulled up a blog from my favorite cook/pioneer woman Ree Drumond and sure enough she tells how to make strawberry jam. I took her recipe and adapted it a bit. I wanted something low sugar, and though that didn’t work out, her ratio was still a bit high (7 cups sugar to 5 cups berries). I made two batches the first I did and even split 5 to 5, then the 2nd I tried 3 cups sugar to 5 cups berries. The full adapted recipe is below. The 5 to 5 worked great.

Like I said I don’t like seeds in my jam or fruit leather, so I bought a fine mesh strainer and strained out the seeds after I pureed the berries as smooth as possible. It’s a bit time consuming, but seems well worth it. I found if you mix it in the strainer and scrape the bottom with a spoon it seems to go fairly quickly.

20180530_1644201951656406.jpg

This time around, I have our garden, and after picking a mid full big bowl (that holds 32 cups) of strawberries yesterday evening I couldn’t wait to try jam making again. This time with my KitchenAid – hubby bought me an accessory that is for sauces!

I should have taken pics, but I was preoccupied. This is basically the look, only not tomatoes.

Image result for kitchenaid sauce maker

Last time my jars with less sugar didn’t set, and I didn’t measure this batch exact, so I became a bit paranoid that it was going to be a flop. I found a good youtube video with a grandma lady that explained how to tell if your jam will set. I tried others, and apparently its not my thing, because I wasn’t sure where mine fell. This test worked.

As the kids get older (not me haha), things like jam making bring back memories that make me smile. When I was their age and my family would gather for harvesting or jam making, there would be kids running and playing everywhere. Adults would be yelling for us “get out of the kitchen”, or “don’t slam the door!” They used all the standards we use now as parents.  To this day, my favorite sound is actually a slamming wood screen door followed by kids laughing. That is my happy sound.

**** June 14th, 2018 – Update : TRY AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!! MY JAM REFUSES TO SET USING MY KITCHENAID MIXER MIX —–ARGH!!!

Recipe:

5 cups Strawberry base (either puree or hulled mashed strawberries)

5 cups sugar (have pre-measured & pour all at once)

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pack 49 gram pectin

Directions:

  1. Pour berries into large pot (I use a spaghetti pot), mix in lemon juice, and fruit pectin.
  2. Bring to a boil and pour in sugar
  3. Bring back to a violent boil the kind that keeps boiling while you stir. Boil and stir for 1 min 15 seconds
  4. Turn off heat, Spoon off foam
  5. Fill jars to ¼ in from top & can using water bath canning technique.
Advertisements
Working Mom

Working Mom

The other morning my son asked “why don’t you make stuff like my aunties”?

Dishing up my breakfast I responded confused “what do you mean?”

“Well Aunt A makes syrup, and Aunt R makes apple sauce, and ….”

And key knife twisting. In the most positive voice and a smile I could muster I explained that I did make apple sauce, and I don’t like homemade syrup, plus I use it too fast.  We discussed the benefits of stay at home mom’s and working moms, and how we need to do what works best for our family. We also talked about how we try to make sure he is still able to get as much quality time with each parent as possible.

I am part of a circle that many families are quite blessed in their ability to have the flexibility of a parent home or available most hours for the kids. My son can’t see that most of those moms work in one form or another, and only a couple are not working from home, but we talked about that too.

This really got me thinking though. Sometimes I think as moms and humans in general we really struggle with comparing ourselves to others. Social media has really amplified that too: Amazing moms posting amazing cakes and crafts on Pinterest. Fun family vacations, and perfect Christmas pictures on Facebook. We rarely stop and realize we are comparing our real life to the highlight reel of others.  When we see the perfect family with the perfect portrait pose, rarely do we think or realize that the photographer was bribing the kids with candy, or that husband and wife may have been arguing 20 minutes before over finances. Looking at the perfect birthday decoration ideas on Pinterest how often do we think about how perhaps it’s that perfect because the blog writer is paying bills by making others see perfection?

I find that from time to time I get so caught up trying to make up for working that I waste time on the details that probably won’t be remembered in 10 years.

Perfect example, I tried to earn mom points with cool shaped sandwiches in my son’s lunch. What a waste of time. By the way, you have to cut the bread before you make the sandwich – would have been smart to read the directions.

For my son’s 6th birthday he had a perfect Army Transformer’s cake, with a party at an arcade, everything looked planned and perfect. What wasn’t seen was that I forgot all about how close it was, and suddenly it was the day before and I had no cake, no decorations, no birthday gift. I had a reservation and invitations out. That was it. Late the afternoon before I was calling around like a mad woman trying to find a cake. I got lucky and Walmart had one the right size, and even sort of fit what he wanted. Birthday came, and my son thought I was AWESOME. But I knew I was a wreck.

It’s life. Life is a rollercoaster.

My life is not always perfect, and somedays I feel like I’m a wreck just barely getting by. In the end though I know my kids will look back and think “mama did her best, and loved me unconditionally”.

highlight-reel

Baseball Birthday

Baseball Birthday

This past weekend my baby turned 1. I avoided thinking about it as long as I could , but at a certain point I had to accept that my baby is getting to be a toddler and let him have his day. Hubby’s mom was up from out of state, so the family would all be at the house, and that alone is a full house.  Just hubby’s family made a house of 9 little ones and 8 adults. We kept the party limited as we expected to need to be indoors, and I’m not sure about you, but that basically maxes out my home especially having that many kids running around. However, we had a great surprise in the form of an 80 degree sunshiny day.

farmlandlove_baby

Thinking back it turned out great, but I really do owe it all to hubby. You see, I decorate, and plan, and fuss over the minor details. He on the other hand implements.  He’s the one that remembers the practical stuff; the things I wouldn’t use personally and therefore don’t think to buy, pickles, tomatoes, extra chips. I also don’t seem to understand how much food kids eat. The family gathered at our house the night prior too, the chips were eaten, the veggies were eaten, dinner was eaten, and popcorn was eaten. I was out of ideas, and one of my snackers was gluten and dairy free. I was in a bit of a panic for the next day. All I had planned was hot dogs, popcorn, and cracker jacks. Hubby to the rescue! He picked up all the practical stuff and no one was hungry at the end of the night.

farmlandlove_baseball_birth

farmlandlove_baseball_cake

And since he took care of the real party needs, I got to set up cute baseball theme decorations. Baseball invitations (sample pic below) which turned out perfect!

Vintage Baseball Ticket Invitation - Baseball Birthday Party Invitation - Boy Birthday Party - DIY Printable

I ordered those here. Baseball toddler photos curtesy of me. Thank you. Baseball baby smash cake, I’m not a cake decorator, but I think it turned out pretty good. Baseball themed party supply table with a couple pictures of the guest of honor. And my awesome sister hooked us up with slip and slide baseball.

farmlandlove_baseball2

We couldn’t have asked for a better family evening on the farm.

farmlandlove_baby1 farmlandlove_baseball4 farmlandlove_baseball3

Prayer Wall Project

Prayer Wall Project

When we first moved into our mini farm home, hubby brought me home an old large picture window frame. He thought it would be great for one of my photography or craft projects. I loved it! However, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it. This window has leaned against the wall in our home oddly fitting in with the décor it was hiding behind. There it sat for going on 3 years.

Last week an idea popped into my head and I decided we needed a prayer wall in our home. Somewhere to post pictures of those we pray for, inspiration, big goals that seem unattainable, whatever fits. I wasn’t sure what this was going to look like, then one night a picture floated into my thoughts and it was the frame. And so, my prayer wall has taken shape.

farm-land-love-prayer-journ

While cleaning the frame I became distracted by spider webs/nests. Took a few minutes to come back from my mobster mentality of killing anything spider related.  But I digress.

After cleaning the window (both sides), I hot glued mini clothes pins randomly across the glass. Next I printed some pictures I had that symbolized my prayers, and I printed them onto regular printer paper.

farm-land-love-prayer-wall2

Using some tags I picked up at a craft store at some point, I glued the pictures to the tags.

farm-land-love-prayer-wall3

I took some extra tags and wrote a few favorite scriptures. On the back of a couple of the pictures I jotted down my prayer.  Earlier a speaker at the bible study I attend gave us moms scripture cards.

bible-verse-cards-for-moms1-1024x872 (1).jpg

You can find those here. Those fit in perfectly.

farm-land-love-prayer-wall4

I’m kinda in love with this little project. Not too over the top, and fitting for my family.

farm-land-love-prayer-wall-

By the way, when I told hubby my window idea, he thought I was talking about the giant picture window that is the front of our house. I believe its 12 ft by 8 ft. the mental image makes me smile.

Building a Baby Swing

Building a Baby Swing

So I’ve had a unique set of obstacles with this new baby that I didn’t have with the first. Now, with my eldest, I thought he grew so fast. He was always around the 90+ percentile for his checkups, but his weight stayed around the 60% mark. Mostly, he was tall. Now as a new/1st time mom, I thought he was a bit of a handful, but I also knew he was pretty easy, and I was lucky. I’d seen enough of other babies to know I had it easy.

Baby number two, now he’s still pretty easy, but takes a bit more entertaining. And this baby, really is a fast grower. He started wearing 18 month clothes at about 8 months. Luckily, he’s still in 18 month clothes, but the shirts can be a bit tight depending on the brand.

Initially I planned to buy him a Johnny Jumper to hang in our dining room area, but I was afraid he would jump right into a sharp corner. Instead I decided that a new swing would be good, plus this summer I will be able to move the swing and use it outside too. Baby had gotten to the point he had exceeded the weight limit on his normal swing! I thought the motor had gone out as every time I put him in I would look over a minute later & it wouldn’t be swinging. Nope, after closer exam, it just wasn’t strong enough to move him anymore.

I searched Pinterest, because odds are someone else had already had the idea. I found a couple good options. I ransacked my fabric collection. Canvas had been suggested, but I didn’t have a color I would want hanging in my house. I did however have some black fabric I previously used to reupholster my chairs, and leftover fleece from his baby blanket. Hubby had the clip I would want to use to hang up and take down the swing. All I needed was the dowels & rope. I followed this basic process/pattern.

Hubby brought in clamps and the saw, and then shortly after, he checked back in to see if I needed anything else, I got the “look”. You know the “see your projects always become my projects” look. Now I highly doubt the ¼ in I was off on cutting would really have made that big of a difference, but the part where I never considered marking the dowels to make sure the holes I would drill would line up definitely would have.

swing2

Given I didn’t want to go back to the store; I was okay handing over the reins. I’ve come to accept that my projects become his projects, and I try to keep them small. But I am also developing a list of things I actually want to learn. I feel like I’ve learned some basics that may lead to not needing so much help someday. I may be old and retired, but someday I may finish a project start to finish all on my own.

Here is the final thing I learned in this project: Don’t wrap the rope decoratively on the swing. Baby will not leave it alone, and it won’t be cute, just chop the ends off & burn the tips to avoid fraying.

swing

Falling back in love with photography

Falling back in love with photography

Recently I upgraded my camera. I’m in love with it. However, I really hadn’t used my old camera all that much over the past couple years. I just wasn’t feeling it. I think it was a cross between being busy, feeling uninspired, and the big one, it wasn’t special. Anymore a SLR camera isn’t difficult to use. Back in the day, they were film cameras, and the digital SLRs out there were very expensive, and didn’t have the quality in the finished picture that film did. But now, you can pick them up for next to nothing. Mom’s everywhere have one. You can snap a shot and see right then what it looks like. The auto settings and preset settings are amazing, and can do a lot for those that don’t really understand the technical aspects of photography. If you still need a bit more there are hundreds of photo editor programs, and even Photoshop has armature friendly software (elements – love this, I hate computer editing photos).

Now I’m not bashing anyone for picking up a camera and trying their hand. It’s a great way to express yourself and even save a few bucks when creating printed memories.

Getting my inspiration back has been slow coming. And in doing so, I’ve learned a couple things:

Photograph what inspires you. Don’t just photography anything and everything. Just because someone asks you to, doesn’t mean you should. You will likely find that photographing things that don’t interest you, or you don’t enjoy will result in less than awesome end products. For example, I don’t enjoy maternity photography. I like to do my own, but not someone else’s. I’m not comfortable dictating what pregnant women should wear, or telling them if what they chose won’t be as flattering as they’d like. Often women want to wait till they are their largest, and while I always tell them that they should do pictures around 7 months so they still have clothes that fit, and are not completely uncomfortable, it doesn’t seem to always register. As a result, I’ve never liked any of the maternity portraits I’ve done. They’ve turned out okay, and the mothers have seemed to like them, but they weren’t my best shots, and took too much time editing.

Find your style and stick with it. I personally love street photography style black and white. Sometimes rustic, sometimes industrial, but generally always black and white. I want my pictures to tell a story. You won’t find a single picture of brides jumping in my entire portfolio. It’s not my thing, so if I tried it, it wouldn’t look good. I don’t understand the idea, and wouldn’t be able to tell someone what I was looking for. Yet you can find a picture of a bride jumping on a trampoline.

 

Best late excuse – sorry cops were searching my house.

DSC_0448

So my internet has been down, but it is up just in time for me to tell my crazy running late for work story. So here goes. Deputies don’t drive around our area very often, so yesterday morning I was a bit surprised when I saw one drive by, then a little annoyed that he drove through my property treating it like a personal turn around. But hey whatever. So I take my son to the babysitter and realize I left my cell at home, then didn’t tell her or get her phone number again. Living just down the road I decided to rush home and get it. Like anyone living in the country (and some city dwellers), I left the truck running and ran inside to grab by phone. As I’m coming out a deputy is pulling in. Now I know something is up, but at the same time, I’m struggling to care as we are shorthanded at work, I’ve got a gal from our CA branch there to meet with me, and I’m already going to be late. So as politely as possible, I slow down to see what the deputy has to say.

Here’s how this goes:

Deputy: “You look like your leaving, have you been here all morning?”

Me:  “for the most part, but I left just a bit ago and took my son to daycare, but forgot my phone.”

Deputy: “well, we have a really bad guy running loose right now and we suspect he is trying to find a place to hide and a vehicle to steal”.

Me: “so, leaving my pickup running with my purse in the front seat while I run inside, probably not the best plan”.

Deputy: (eye’s rolling) “No. Do you ever leave your doors unlocked?”

I must have made a funny face (I’m no poker player), because he does this exasperated eye roll with a “you leave your doors unlocked” – more of an accusation this time.

Me: “well the back door to the laundry room, but there are 3 big dogs in there, so I highly doubt he made it in”.

Deputy: “We have reason to believe he is hiding in your house, would you like us to check it?”

Now this seems to be a pretty big leap, but given hubby was going to be working out of town and I would be coming home alone with a 5 year old in tow……

Me: “well, alright, I should at least lock the door, your welcome to do a walk through”.

I go in real quick, and my inner bad ass is going I’ll  just check the rooms myself real quick – if I let the dogs out its going to be this big stop harassing the deputies (there are 2 now), don’t lick, don’t knock them over, yada yada yada. At the same time my brain quickly touches on that I have a pistol hidden nearby, but the deputy is standing right there and that seems inappropriate. I figure if there is a bad guy, one scream and the Great Dane eats the bad guy and cops come running in. I say “I’ll just peak in and lock the back door real quick”. I failed to mention that the laundry room leads to more of the house.

Me: (as I come back) “Well, I locked the door, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone hiding in the back bedroom or bathroom, or anything”.

Deputy: (serious eye roll) “you checked the rooms yourself?”

Me: “yes, their clear, however, you are welcome to check around the property outside, I don’t think anyone would hide in the chicken coop, but feel free to check around”. My mind touches on the hidden pistol again, but that still seems weird to get out with the deputy standing there, plus I’m sure picking up a gun while in the presence of the deputy would definitely slow down my progress of getting to work.

At this point, the local farmers are pulling into my driveway and I’m still going, I’m totally going to be late. I do a quick introduction, and everyone was nice enough to move trucks for me. I called the gal down the road and let her know what I was told – “stay in side, bald white bad guy hiding in the corn field”. Turns out she knew too. So I tell hubby, who is now not so happy being away, but gets the full story from the other neighbor after I hung up.

So here’s the outline:

Turns out the neighbors son was moving out and the night before had loaded up his guns, TV, and misc stuff in his truck. The next morning he goes to leave, and this guy is steeling the stuff in his truck. So the neighbor’s son takes off chasing the guy on foot into the cornfield boarding our property. After losing track of him the neighbor goes back to his house and finds 3 guys in a car have arrived and are trying to take off with his stuff. Deputies arrive about this time and chase the 3 guys in the car, who in turn roll their car. Deputies found a bunch of master keys, slim jims, and other paraphernalia. Those bad guys get arrested (guess they also punched the ignition on another vehicle in the area).

Later in the afternoon I hear from my neighbor’s dad (whom I work with) that they caught the bald guy. Turns out the irrigation district worker was going by and stopped to ask what all the commotion was about, so my neighbor tells the story. Irrigation guy goes “no way, a guy matching that description just walked out of the corn field and is walking down the road right now!” so my neighbor drives down to see if he is still there and calls one of the city officers directly. My neighbor gets flagged down by bad guy who asks to borrow his cell charger! Needless to say, neighbor says no, and the city cop arrives and detains bad guy until deputies arrive.

So there is the craziness of yesterday morning. Lesson learned: locks doors, and perhaps leave dogs out.