Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jam Good!

Under the bridge, and over the dam..
Looking for berries, berries for ..JAM!
From Bruce Degen's Jamberry-love it!  Our copy is all worn out-it's been read and loved so much.
Strawberries were on sale ($1.88 a quart-remember those $4.98 days this winter?), and I realized I hadn't ever made jam with my kids.  It's super easy, tastes scrumptious, and oooo-I could give it away at Laundry Love.  It was decided.  Jam Day!

It has been too long since I've made and canned jam, but it's even easier now.  Here's your short tutorial:
Recruit a cute little girl to wash 4 quarts of strawberries.

Enlist two skilled young men to use sharp knives (not hard!)  (and add one more sound asleep on the couch..)

They just work away-I love it!  Mary Claire was hulling the strawberries, and Clay and Jacob were cutting.

And look at this oddball.  Either it has antennae...or it incorporated two baby strawberries near it? or it grew strawberry-mushrooms?  (Do we have enough hands holding it?)

Clean and boil your jars, wax seals, and screw caps.

For 6 jars of jam, you need only three ingredients: 4 cups strawberries, 4.5 Tablespoons of Pectin, and 5 cups sugar.
Bring the strawberries and pectin to boil, and it should boil hard even while being stirred.
Add the sugar all at once, and bring to hard boil again for one minute.  (I said it was easy!)

Pour into prepared jars, wipe the jars clean, put on the hot wax seals/caps, and let set for 12 hours.  The heat will suck in the air (or something like that..) and seal the jar up.  Don't tighten the screw caps all the way until they've cooled.  The lid shouldn't flex or pop up/down if it's sealed.
Voila..Fresh Strawberry Jam!  (and let the kids lick out the big pot to taste the fruit of their labor!)  We repeated the entire process again (all in under an hour), and this recipe (4 c. fruit, 4.5 T. pectin, and 5 c. sugar) actually made extra.  We made seven jars the first time (leaving a tiny bit of head room), and after the second batch, we filled three small 1/2 cup Rubbermaid containers up also.  I still had a tiny bit left, but as I was alone by then, I washed it out.  If I'd left the wax seals off, I could have put a little more in every jar, but you can't fill it too full, or they won't seal!

*I usually buy a package of Sure-Jell to make jam, but it only makes 8 (8 oz.) jars.  Instead, in the canning section, I bought the pectin powder in "bulk", and I measured out what I needed.  I can probably make at least another dozen jars with the tiny jar!*

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Luke 6:38

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Laundry Love

Do you whine about doing laundry at all hours of the day?  Hate that there is always a load in your dryer?  That you are never done?  That you forgot a load in the washer-from yesterday?  That your kids can dirty clothes faster than you can clean them?

Are you ever thankful that you have a washer and dryer at your HOUSE?  We have a small project (not thought of me, BTW) called Laundry Love.  This Saturday we are going to be there to help carry in baskets of laundry, hand out coins and detergent for the machines, and then serve a soup lunch from 10:30-12:15, and then clean up from 12:15-12:30.  I don't know what more it entails, but I don't care.  If it means running machines, I'm up for that too.  Folding?  I'm pretty darn good at it (I get lots of practice!).  I've seen the Tide commercials, and I always think that I would love (yes, really!) to wash laundry in the midst of disaster-to bring back some smell of home, and a sense of decency.

I don't know who will come (to bring their laundry), but I'm already praying for them.  How hard would it be to come?  How humbling?  I pray that we will be as Godly, welcoming, and humble as possible, since this will be hard for them too.  I'm taking Clay and Mary Claire, since they need to serve others and recognize our blessings!  I'm sure we'll come away changed, and I'm excited. : )

Go and do likewise.  (from Luke 10:25-37)

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's a Sign

I think someone decided to sell our house.  Where are we going to live?  I don't know (and he doesn't know either!).  Why are we selling?  He wants friends to come over (to look at the house?).

This morning, Ethan made a sign (all on his own!) (he's learned that writing conveys messages!) (and that he can write!) (and that people read his messages!).  He brought Ches a long 5-foot section of clear packing tape, and asked him to straighten it out (ha!), and that he needed some tape to put up a sign.  We asked where, gave him some tape, and he posted this in the front door window for all to see.  We are really lucky that no one knows what it says!  When we got back from our school tour (tell you more later!), I stopped in the driveway and told him that I saw a sign on the door that said our House was For Sale!  He giggled, laughed and said now we'd have a Sign Party!
It says, "bump-something-zig-zag-4-zig-zag"
Umm..I don't know where this came from, and after asking the kids we still don't know.  ..Maybe it's from the realtors' signs around our area with balloons attached to them on open house days?  ..Maybe I watched too much HGTV yesterday, and he saw all the people come to the house with the sign?  Either way, we have a Sign.

So, Ethan is not attending his old school at our church anymore.  It's a long story, but he's lost his second teacher this year (and I totally support her), so we pulled him out.  He's been in Sonshine School, a Mother's Day Out program (he was in it the two years before preschool).  He likes his teacher (she has red hair and her favorite color is green..really, it's a dream!), and he has fun.  I've already committed to the rest of the year (well, two short months), so I wanted somewhere for him to finish the year, school-wise.

We toured the Montessori school today, and he liked it.  I filled out all the paperwork while the bigger kids were at the dentist (no cavities!) this afternoon.  There was a lot!  You have to have it notorized (!), and pay the first and last month's tuition (umm..April and May?), a registration fee, a volunteer fee (?), and have current immunization records, etc.  I had no idea.  We even signed two releases for Ethan to be in pictures, videos, or advertising.  I thought the old school was extensive at 9 pages!

We did like that the school had so much light (windows all along three walls!), live plants, live animals, a garden out back along with a chicken coop (chickens to come..), and it was oh-so-neat with all its shelves of manipulatives.  I know that's a Montessori trait, but love it.  Ethan liked it too, so we'll jump through hoops, I guess.  Lots of paper hoops.  Notorized paper hoops.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

High Maintenance

We had a lovely high blood sugar today.  It just ruins an afternoon/evening/dinner/snack. She was so high (543), she wasn't hungry (even though she had a correction, and insulin for her meal about 30 minutes before we ate).  The scariest was when she didn't eat it.  I was worried that she'd drop incredibly low, having about 4 units of active insulin on board!  (a lot for her size).

She never ate, and was still 324 about an hour and a half later.  She didn't want to eat her snack either.  I don't really think you should eat that high (totally against recommendations to eat over 240, BTW!), but I was worried about her having no food in her tummy, waking up hungry in the night, and having no protein to counteract all the active insulin (and it's new-she has a new site and new insulin).  I'll have to keep watching her until she drops into normal range, then drop her to 83% to make it through the night.  I'll still worry.  That's why I'm glad she goes to bed before us-I'll stay up till midnight (or later..) checking and rechecking.  Yep, my extra child sure is high-maintenance.

Speaking of..Ches said he thought she was going to be higher-maintenance than me tonight.  Ha!  I could require SO much more!  I think I've even gone down-I don't get my nails done anymore, much less even paint them.  We've been looking at old pictures on the iPad for the last three days, and I ALWAYS had my nails done.  I had forgotten how much time it took.  Now, I'm au-naturale.

So, let's get to the fun.  More shopping.  I am always looking for a new (little) bag for Mary Claire to carry her meter.  I don't want an adult-size bag, and it really needs a handle, preferably a cross-body bag.  Also, I like pockets to keep it organized.  I need at least two: one for alcohol pads, and one for those little blue lancets.  Zippers are AweSomE!  Here are a few of our old ones:
Her current purse (from Justice)-love the pockets! (and she loves the sequins!)

And her old ones.. (gotta love Osh Kosh's pocket purses!)
More pockets..but in purple satin!

..she's worn this pink satin one out!

This is the summer nautical version!

One of her sweet friends got her this for her meter (for her birthday)-love it! (She also wore this one out..they only last about a month or two)

And these are Liz bags for the winter.. : )  They have inside zippers, so they made the cut.  I don't think we've used the green yet.

We already used this one too.  Inside zipper, but had to put the alcohol pads in a ziploc.  Not the best.

This is new, a Dooney look-alike, but we never did use it!

This is new too, and recycled!

And this is the one I switched to tonight.  I've been stalking Vera Bradley's website, and I can't decide which one to get!  And I had this one in my stash.  I really liked it, but it doesn't have a long strap/handle.

This is the super-organized inside.

And look at this fold-out double zipper flap! (I put glucose tabs in the first, and lancets in the bottom one.  And there are two pockets in the back-one for alcohol pads, and one for trash or the lancette (she calls it the "poker")
Here are the ones I *heart* and can't decide on right now.  (And Totally Turquoise and Imperial Toile are 50% off today only! and it's so close to midnight!): The Mini Hipster, the Lizzy, and the Little Hip Bag.  Decisions, decisions.  I don't want it too big, it needs pockets for stuff, and a long handle.  I went back up to check her after she was 55 (finally down, now we are on the ride up again...), gave her a yogurt drink, and talked meter bags.  She couldn't decide on a Vera fabric/style without seeing them, so I let it go.  She knows Vera almost better than me-she said there will be another sale and more colors available tomorrow.  Smart girl-that yogurt drink is getting her brain cells going again.

Love her, hate diabetes.  Wish I didn't have to find the perfect bag, wish she didn't need one, wish she didn't know about pockets and zippers, handles and fabrics.  But, I think maybe it made her the absolutely sweet girl she is.  Really. (even if she is high-maintenance.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011


My son taught me a new game this evening: Stratego.  I didn't even know Ches had taught him!  He tried to explain it to me (while I was making a cake), but I had to just play.  Have you ever played?  It's kinda like Battleship meets Chess.  You have to capture they other players' flag.  And there are all these ranks of men-and long story short..we both lost our number 8 men (the miners), the only ones who can dismantle bombs, and our bombs were surrounding our we both lost/won.  I don't like to lose, so it was perfect. ; )

I used a recipe that I got for a chocolate cake at least 12-15 years ago.  The good thing is it tasted fine-it was so rich I couldn't finish my small piece.  Seriously, and I *love* sugar and chocolate.  I think it was the frosting.  It was homemade with butter, Hershey's cocoa, milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  I don't guess I ever used this recipe, because it was completely foreign, and didn't behave like my mom's chocolate frosting-pourable.  It was so thick (think THiCK buttercream!), I was having to wipe it on the cake, then it'd get soft on the warm cake.  I'd have to check with my friend now to make sure there wasn't supposed to be more butter (1 cup instead of 1 stick?), but I'll use another next time, thanks.  Although the kids loved the moist cake with super-thick frosting!

I'm almost done with this crazy tax stuff.  I've been reconciling every statement for the past year on my checking account, I thought it was done, but I'm finding transactions missing!  I'll be so thankful when the exam of our finances is done.

Ches is beginning to swell.  At first, I was super-worried, but he said forehead swelling was common for the first 3-5 days.  I'm trying not to freak out.  Then, as the day wore on...he began to get a wider nose bridge, and a bag on the right side of his face..and now his eye is all under a puffy cliff-hanger of an eyebrow.  I keep remembering the Elephant Man.( you remember that movie with Cher?)  By evening, I couldn't help laughing, and I think it lightened our tension (the stress that was keeping us on the edge of an ER visit).  Now, he's trying to name what he looks like, and it's really swollen.  I think he may not go to church tomorrow, but he asked if I'd come by and get him afterward to go out to eat.  Haha : )  I can't take a picture of wouldn't be nice.  And we don't really want to remember.  I'm just praying it was worth it for him.  I SO hope it'll pay off and he'll be happy with his hair.  He'll still have to go back again (maybe, after this!), but at least we'll know what to expect.

I'm tired again, so I have to get some sleep.  Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite!  Hugs and good hair wishes! : )


Girls Day

We are safely home. : )  Yesterday we toured the Apple store (I sat in the van and photographed my fave--Pottery Barn:
Doesn't it fit right in?
Then the kids couldn't wait to get to the Moon River Marble Company!  (They kept calling it a "factory" and we were told we'd see a marble-making demonstration!)  So..when we came upon it, and it was a little gray building, with a gravel parking lot, with only about 10 spaces, I was deeply disappointed we'd driven out of our way-into Kansas-to see this.

It's a chalkboard.
The bonus is there were train tracks just about 20-30 feet away from us, and the two times the train came through, we could FeeL it, and the boys ran outside to see it!  I was so worried after Ethan told me he'd "lay down flat, arms down, and let it go right over him!"  A mother's nightmare!  And he's awful adventurous..
To give them credit, we did see a marble-making demonstration.
A lady clearly explained how they weren't a factory.  The marbles they sell by the bag or by the tube are from a factory: machine-made.  The only ones that are human-made at that location (or shipped in by other glass artists) are in a case at the back, and run from $30-$1600.  Guess which ones we bought?  Yep: the machine-made ones! : )  (I should mention it was generally a big toy store-tons of games, dolls, girl-stuff, and...squirrel underpants.  Really.  They had boy and girl underpants, and for the life of me I don't know why I didn't take a picture!)

Sorry I didn't post last night, I was so exhausted!  I was busy trying to get my checking account reconciled (by hand!) since my Quicken software downloads from my bank online, but I realized there were chunks of time missing (and pages worth of transactions missing!).  Now, since tax-time is looming, and we have to turn in our paperwork, it's become increasingly important!  Our tax guy never finishes them till April 15th, so I'm not freaking out..yet.

..and Today Mary Claire and I had a girls' day out. (while Ches took Clay fishing!) We started at church working on envelopes together, and giving some medicine to a friend's mom and the ends of our insulin pens to another friend (we are not dealers-no money is exchanged!) (Hahaha!).  I forgot to take into account that it was spring break, (other envelope workers are gone) and that it would take longer.  Lucky I had Mary Claire to help! : )  We whizzed right through them in about an hour, then headed for the library-she was so excited.

We toured, found new fiction, got Clay some heavy-duty fiction-a couple new ones (one about a train and this one!), and got Ethan some picture books: LMNO Peas, Too Purpley, How to Teach a Slug to Read, Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake, and The Wonderful Book.  I love that they set up the newest books in a special section-they are almost all new to us!  Not that I don't love some favorite authors.  One of the picture books Mary Claire chose was Ponyella (by Laura Numeroff!), it was a spin-off of Cinderella, but with horses-so cute!  What a good class assignment: choose a fairy tale, and change the characters to write a new story with animals, talking foods, etc.  It was cute, and I loved the vocabulary and how they changed up all the magical fun!  (She also got this, this, two of these, and this.)  We got so many books, we had to buy an extra bag on the way out!  Waiting for the elevator...

And then as we were driving away, I noticed these beautiful flowers..
..and thought if there were little bits here and there at the library..the Square must be so much better!  We drove on up the hill, and I was right.  They haven't peaked quite yet, but beautiful!  I needed some colorful happy.  Enjoy:

Tulips...Spring is coming!

Don't you love this tree just full of big, fluffy white blooms?

so much color!
Then a trip to Mom's to help her get ready for her trip..and she's off!  Then we met Ches and the boys at the movies.  We saw Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules!  I have to say I liked it at least twice as much as Rango.  I forgot to tell you much about that (but they used the words h*ll and d*mn-I wasn't happy!)  We are talking about an animated cartoon, and not during a busy scene where they'd be glossed over-it was loud and clear.  Disappointed me big-time.  BUT-I laughed my head off at the Wimpy Kid!  I mean, the whole thing was fun-the parents, the kids, friends (and enemies), the talent show, the party at their house (with no alcohol, but tons of fun)..ahh, it was great.  I think I saw myself in the mom, and the older brother Roderick tells his mom, "but I showered yesterday!" and we looooked at Clay!  You should see it.  Funny stuff.

Then we had dinner out, took some library books in with us and read..just fun!  I loved that the boys liked what we got them.  Then, more shopping..I had to use a Gymboree rewards certificate before tomorrow (and found the cutest brown zebra dress that just came out yesterday, and would go SO well with that dress I got in Florida from J.Crew!) (even for Easter, but Gymboree wouldn't count it for the Easter Dresses 30% off-sadness.)  I'll have to wait for Gymbucks time since I have to save something to buy then! : )
Finally, Wal-Mart and Home.  Long, sweet day with my girl (and boys).  So thankful for time with them this week.  We still have two days...what should we do?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Let's see...Kaleidoscope for art, Crown Center and Hallmark Visitor's Center to get our passports stamped, lunch at Crayola Cafe, the skywalk over to Union Station for trains (big and small), some American Girl fun, little shopping, dinner, and Rango!  Busy day, and we are T-i-R-E-D!
As we went into Kaleidoscope.

This is the door-it's a big cutout, and the doorway is the same shape-cool!

Jenifer helping Mary Claire make cards!

The rectangles on the table are magnets!  The paint lids made big art sculptures!

I loved all these cute little art-making stations.  This one was cardstock, bugs, puzzle pieces, markers, and tape.

I think this was a menu-making station. There were cardstock covers with thinner paper inserts, and they were already pre-punched and creased for folding!

I loved this table-all the marker holders were cute wood replicas: peanut butter, Ketchup, Cheese Balls, etc.  There was also this big umbrella over the cart with hanging lights and bugs-adorable!

Check out this Cute Couch!

In the dark room with black lights, and wax-painting!  It was melted crayons at the perfect heat-melty, but not hot enough to burn your skin.

I did love this couch!

Thanks, Jen, for coming with us-it was awesome!!

Clay is using the phone..

Check out this frog-tacular idea for a donated book drop!

And then we went to the Hallmark Vistor's Center to take the tour.  Here, you could push a button, it would make you a bow, put a sticky back on it, and deposit it at the bottom!

I loved these!  I won't show you aLL of them, but had employees decorate ceramic crowns for their 100th birthday last year-they were SO creative! : )

Ethan's favorite was the rocket crown-it's upside down as the stand!

And he liked the gingerbread one too!

and this is their 100th birthday cake made of 100 cards-10 from each decade over the years.

Then we had lunch at the Crayola Cafe.  I DO love color!  And everything was color-related: the menu, the placemats and napkins, the cups, everything!

Clay was ducking the picture, but I got him!

I'm so thankful she'll still let me get a picture!  Our waiter asked us who had diabetes, and he did too!  We talked all about her pump, and he wants one-used to weigh 300 lbs, and can get one after one more year of keeping the weight off!  He's excited.

Thrilled Mary Claire traded cups with him-he *loves* green!

and a sentimental (for me) picture with the kids at the Crayola store next to the colors.

Then..across the skybridge to Union STation!

I'm a sucker for architecture.

Guess what was going on?  A science fair!  These kids did some great projects-we actually stopped by lots of them to learn!

More Experiments..

A huge model train!

..then we found the huge section of model trains-and they all loved them!

Sweet kids.

They had James!

Jenifer did the best rubbings, and made the kids some to take home.

And the kids played with legos.

And then..he got to see a REAL train!

This is the Cathedral in KC-but it was closed. : (  I'd really wanted to see the picture of Mary with the swirly tummy!

American Girl!

She and Megan shopped and shopped...

I took extra pictures of the things she loved...Christmas isn't that far away!

She wanted the $85 bed, but I'm just sure I can make it. : )

And yes, Ches did okay.  He looks the same, but his head has some blood and scars.  He has to put on medicated gauze 2x day, use a copper-spray every 30 minutes (all of these medications have been used with burn victims and speed wound healing), take some steroids, and can wash his hair on Friday.  I haven't taken any pictures, and I don't plan to.  There are some things you don't want to remember.  (I distinctly remember not taking pictures of Mary Claire in the hospital when she was diagnosed.  Same thing.)  I had meant to, but no.  He's okay, can't do anything strenuous for a week (that would include riding his bike to work!) and needs to wear button-down shirts to avoid friction on his head.

Prayers would be appreciated for his healing.  The good news is that he's fine (and was under budget by $5000).  The bad news is that they didn't transfer as many follicles as they were supposed to-only about 2200.  He'll have to go back in at around six months to a year to finish.  He was okay with it-he was tired, and it took until 3pm (and he left at 6:30 this morning-it was two blocks away!).  Long enough.  Bless his heart-it was a lot to take, and I couldn't have done it.  I'm praying for him to be satisfied with it and to heal quickly.  Praying for your loved ones to be safe and healthy also. : )