Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My house smells amazing. Yours could, too!

It's almost been a century since I last blogged. I extend many deepest apologies and a delicious crockpot apple butter recipe to my three loyal readers.

I always have big plans with my blog that I can never live up to but maybe when I'm an empty-nester I will become an avid blogger and then, theoretically, I will also have wisdom and life experience to bring to my writing. Bonus! Right now it's hard to balance all the things I want to do and learn and be and sync them with my schedule--three kids, third trimester pregnancy, husband in law school, etc. Excuses, excuses, I know.

I have, like usual, bitten off more than I can chew or rather, picked more than I can chew. I have pounds of peaches and apples. I actually just finished making raisins and fruit juice concentrate from Concord grapes. The bounty of summer is too irresistable, especially when it comes in the form of free picking. I am thankful for so many friends who have fruit bearing trees, or have the green thumb in the garden that I lack (also on the list of things to learn). Since I picked more than I can chew before the fruit flies devour it, I decided to can. I mean, why not? I have nothing else going on...oh wait, see life responsibilities mentioned above. I think I may need psychological help for my endless plate piling ways but since that will never happen, a friend and I tackled apple pie filling yesterday and I came home with 6 quarts. Yum.

But, I've still got a load of peaches and apples left. Don't worry, I 've got plans for them. I'm following a recipe for the canned peaches and pie filling and then freezing the rest for smoothies. If I can get the stinking peels off the peaches, I'll also try to make peach honey just for kicks and giggles. Apple butter is currently stewing in my crockpot from a family recipe which I'm happily sharing below because it's delicious and easy and makes your house smell so divine.  Here's the icing on the cake--the jars seal themselves without a waterbath and in my un-air conditioned basement, with summer still lingering, and my little butternut squash sized incubator keeping my temperature 10 degrees higher than everyone elses, that is a match made in heaven.

Speaking of heaven, here's the impossibly easy apple butter recipe. The most time consuming part is chopping the apples which I'm not even peeling this time. So there.

I suggest you sit down with a friend while you chop (makes it more fun) and make the summer last a little into Fall or usher Fall in a little early with this scrumptiously spicy apple butter--whatever you need. It's just about perfect for anything--on biscuits, toast, in a PBJ, mixed into cake or any other idea that crosses your mind.

Mama's Slow Cooked Apple Butter 
Makes 3-4 pint jars but it depends on how exact you are with your apples!

4 quarts apples, peeled and chopped (golden and gala are suggested but use whatever you have or picked from your friend's tree!)
2 3/4 cups brown sugar
2 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Pour prepared apples into slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients. Drizzle over apples.

Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, stirring well with a large spoon once every hour or so. Or, just when you think of it. Reduce heat to low, and cook 10-12 hours until butter becomes thick and dark in color.  Stir occasionally with strong wire wisk for smooth butter. Pour into hot, sterilized jars (you can keep your jars hot in the oven), wipe off jar rims with clean cloth, apply lids and rings and cover with a towel. The heat from the apple butter will seal the jars as they cool. Yessssss! (You'll know they've sealed when you touch the top and find it's flat and doesn't give at all when you push down on it. If some don't seal, just refrigerate and eat soon! Darn...)

**If you want a smoother apple butter, puree in your blender, food process or use a hand immersion blender if you're lucky to have one of those (I want one!). You will need to pour back in the crockpot to thicken further, and heat back up for the proper seal.  Then, open and eat and share at will.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life is so....

....fragile: delicate, beautiful, tender and easily broken.

It comes and goes faster than lash touches lash. 

There's nothing like the death of a life to remind us of it's beautiful delicacy. We look back to treasure what we took for granted when it was displayed, almost forgotten, in it's glass case. 

Recently, another little one has left this world before it ever left it's mother's womb and I am reminded of the aftermath of loss. Having been there, I know, at least for me, what it was like. The numbness, the pain, the questions, the lids full of tears and the heart torn in two.

Miscarriage. The word alone seems to insinuate fault in the carrier. But we all know, that little life, it's not in our hands. So, when your friend, sister or acquaintance loses their baby early, what do you do? How can you help them heal? I have been thinking on this post for a while and here's my list of what was helpful to me as I was blessed with amazing friends and family who swooped in to love on me in my time of tragedy.

1. Pray for them. Never underestimate the blessing of this unseen task.  Pray for healing on multiple levels, grace to keep hoping in the midst of unexplainable tragedy, surreal joy and thanksgiving even in this kind of circumstance.

2. Bring an iron-rich meal.  It's possible there was significant blood loss for the mom. Making an iron-rich meal for them to help with energy and to build back up their iron stores. Iron washed down with Vitamin C makes for the perfect absorption. Spaghetti with meat sauce is easy, comforting and brimming with iron and vitamin C,  especially if you throw some sauteed greens in the mix.

3. Offer to care for her children. Pick them up and bring them home. Feed as needed. 

4. Share your story, if you have one. So often miscarriage is kept mute. We all know burdens are lightened when shared. I was so surprised to learn how many women around me had experienced the early loss of a child. Their empathy and words of wisdom about what the coming days held was invaluable to me.

5. Do their laundry. The grind doesn't pause in loss and if there are other children in the family, you can be sure the load of laundry is building. Pick up the laundry and bring it back---clean and folded. Bliss for any mom at any time, right?!?!

6. Be in touch. Call, email or send them a note. They may not respond but it helps to know that others are thinking of you and mourning with you. It confirms that there was a real loss,  and a real reason to grieve.

How do you help your sister ('cause we're all sisters, whether by blood or not...) in their time of need?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Ode to January & a Welcome to the New Year

Why, hello there, January. You arrived typically as you always do--right after the tornado of the Christmas season. Thanks for being predictable and undemanding. There's comfort in those qualities.

I'll be honest, 2011 was a challenging year. I'm more than happy to welcome in 2012. There's just something about the change of the year that offers so much hope for other things. You're right. It's just a culturally ingrained phenomena but all the same...

....there's change a 'comin'.

For me. For you. For all us.

And...(shocking statement coming; I mean, you might want to sit down) I've got plans.

I plan to be a more attentive, intentional and joyful mother.

I plan to be a more prayerful and supportive wife.

I plan to blog more. (pray for me!)

I plan to be on my computer less. (this is a challenging when you consider my 'blog more plan'...)

I plan to listen better.

I plan to call my mom and dad more regularly. (love you guys!)

I plan to fail and keep going.

How do you handle the New Year?

Happy February's Eve,