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Kimara's blog

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LIKE GRANDMOTHER, LIKE GRANDDAUGHER

            When I was young, I loved going to my paternal grandmother’s house. My grandma knew how to show a kid a good time. She’d take us to wooden floored "dime stores", let us stay up with her and watch the Tonight Show, and in clement weather, we’d go to the drive-in movies. My grandma use to drive up and down the rows looking for young couples. She always parked next to a duet that seemed amorously inclined. Grandma was a first class voyeur! When the movie started, she’d often spend more of her time watching the mating ritual in the car next to us then the movie on the big screen. Through out the night she’d give us reports. “Oh, look, he put his arm around her.” “Ah, now they’re kissing.” “Oh, damn, the windows are steamed up. I can’t see anything.” Occasionally, she’d be caught in her clandestine pursuit, and the couple would move their car to a new location. She always felt cheated when that happened, as did I. If the couple next to us was entertaining enough, we’d stay for a double feature. If their activity did not properly amuse Grandma, we’d usually leave at intermission, and we’d miss the countdown featuring dancing hotdogs and other performing concessions...and the second movie. Ah, but as usual, I see that I am meandering from my intended topic!

 

            Putting aside the undivided attention she showered on us, I think the thing I enjoyed most about Grandma’s was her stashes. She had any number of collections that I could spend hours rifling through. She had an awe inspiring collection of cheap costume jewelry. As it happens, I don’t share my Grandmother’s love for jewelry. I myself wear a simple ring, beaded necklace and silver hoop earnings. Period. But as I child, I loved going through her jewelry boxes. I’d adorn myself with multiple necklaces and bracelets. I’d marvel at her ability to wear the pinching clip-on earrings for an entire evening. When I was in high school, I finally convinced her to let me pierce her ears, and it was her turn to marvel at the comfort of pierced versus clip-on earrings. Joyfully, I could even get my older brother involved in jewelry play if it became the booty of marauding pirates!

 

            But what I loved the very best, what I could totally immerse myself in, was her sewing notions. My grandmother could do anything crafty. She could sew, knit, crochet, paint and was always in tune with the latest trends in crafting. She made clothes for herself and her daughter, including my aunt’s elaborate wedding dress. In the final months of her life, as dementia robbed her of her most endearing memories, I could usually get her to reminisce about the dresses she made for her daughter, and for briefest of moments, a smile would touch her lips and her fingers moved back of forth feeling fabrics from the past. But when I was young, she was still an active crafter, and she saved everything in hopes of turning them into a future work of art. She had stacks of cloth she had collected over the years. There were bins of elastic, hooks and eyes, bias tape, ribbons and garter hooks, which I will be eternally indebted to the women’s liberation movement and technology for doing away with the garter belts and girdles! My favorite potpourri was her tin of buttons. This tin held the collective history of my father’s family’s wardrobe. No garment was discarded without being stripped of potentially useful items. She’d remove workable zippers, lace collars, and of course, buttons.

 

            The only downside to any of this was the smell. Her things smelled…well, old. As I sorted through the buttons, sorting by color or size, I was inundated with a musty, sour smell. I imagined this was the scent of an opened coffin long after the person’s remains had decomposed, leaving behind rotting fabric and disheveled hair. And no, I’m not generally a morbid individual, but her drawers and boxes, bins and tins smelled of arcane history. As I held buttons I wondered if they had been on a pair of my dad’s knickers or a roaring twenties frock worn by my grandmother. Occasionally, my grandmother would remember a button’s history, but more often than not, I was forced to fantasize over their origin.  

 

            The other day I was reorganizing my sewing room and attic closet, both of which are crammed full of arts and crafts supplies. As I was rerolling some lace, and trying to decide if I should sort cloth by size or fabric content, I realized, somewhere along the line, I had become my grandmother. I was now the nutsy “old” broad, hoarding a lifetime of acquisitions, in hopes of turning them into treasures. It was now my grandchildren that come over to sort buttons and finger the laces and trims. It won’t be long before they are ready to knit and sew and then my closets will hold untold treasures and possibilities. I don’t know exactly when I became my grandmother, but I think it was well before my first grandchild was born. Our desire to craft and create made us kindred souls long ago. Our collective ability to look at items and see potentially lovely creations made it almost impossible to throw out anything. As I look lovingly at my stashes I think, I am my grandmother’s granddaughter. The only difference…my stuff smells much better!

           

Here are a few of my "presentable" stashes. I find it extremely satisfying to just gaze at them! 

Felting Yarns.

Felting Yarn.

Flannel.

Ribbon and Trims.

Thread Collection.

Partial View of Sewing Room Closet.

Felt.

Buttons.


This is just a sampling of my "neatest" stashes! I think Grandma would be proud! What traits did you inherit from your grandmother?


THINGS I TAUGHT MY CHILDREN

       In my on going, and usually monumentally unsuccessful, attempt at getting organize, I was sorting through an archaic stack when I came upon an old steno notebook that I had been writing in back when my children were in elementary school. I remember at the time I had decided to jot down the wit and wisdoms I had taught my children. These weren't rules written on a board somewhere, but the casual lessons taught on an on going basis. Some might seem self evident…but one thing I learned very early on in parenting was…ASSUME NOTHING! The following is a list that I threw together that evening. Now, I find the list to be both amusing and nostalgic. Although not exhaustive, and there were certainly more things added to the list as the children got older, these got them through the first decade of their life! These were written in no particular order...just as they popped into my head!

 

1.            Spend some part of every day outside.

 

2.            Don’t watch television on school days.

 

3.            Do your homework before you go to bed.

 

4.            Don’t swear.

 

5.            Don’t tell dirty jokes.

 

6.            Keep change in your pockets at Christmas to throw in the Salvation Army Buckets.

 

7.            Make a point of reading biographies.

 

8.            Never share an important secret with someone who says, “You can trust me.”

 

9.            Smile a lot!

 

10.        Ask the new kid at school to eat lunch with you and your friends.

 

11.        Don’t tattle.

 

12.        Wear a helmet when you bike on the road.

 

13.        Don’t be a show off.

 

14.        Call your grandmother, often.

 

15.        Use most of your allowance to buy things for other people.

 

16.        Learn to type.

 

17.        Never be the first in your bus line.

 

18.        Cry if it hurts.

 

19.        Never talk badly about anyone.

 

20.        Never buy your teachers perfume or a coffee mug.

 

21.        Have your teacher over for lunch or dinner at least once during the school year. (After I started teaching, I revised this to NEVER invite your teacher over for lunch or dinner. If you really like them give them a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant so they can have a leisurely dinner themselves.)

 

22.        Never talk to strangers.

 

23.        Never go near parked cars.

 

24.        Be alone in your room, not on the street.

 

25.        Stop, look and listen before you cross the street.

 

26.        Never flush anything except toilet paper and your body’s waste.

 

27.        Go for comfort over style.

 

28.        Keep your ears clean.

 

29.        Never let a romantic interest come between friends.

 

30.        Don’t lie.

 

31.        It’s okay to color outside the lines.

 

32.        Learn to shot marbles.

 

33.        Learn to play an instrument, well.

 

34.        Learn to appreciate your parent’s music.

 

35.        If your neighbors can hear your music when the doors and windows are shut, it’s too loud!

 

36.        Assume nothing.

 

37.        Don’t be quick to judge.

 

38.        Hear people out.

 

39.        Unzip your pants before you try to put them on.

 

40.        Leave the toilet seat down.

 

41.        Don’t be sarcastic.

 

42.        Never use the expression, “But everyone else is”, in an argument with your parents.

 

43.        Believe in Santa Claus.

 

44.        Only ask Santa for 1 gift.

 

45.        Get a pen pal.

 

46.        Pray.

 

47.        Get a magazine subscription, and then read it cover to cover.

 

48.        Learn to bake something that doesn’t come out of a box.

 

49.        Read The Giving Tree.

 

50.        Don’t pick your nose in public.

 

51.        Every once in a while, tell your siblings you love them.

 

52.        Don’t start smoking.

 

53.        Ask your parents and grandparents to tell you stories about their childhood.

 

54.        Never stick anything metal in a toaster.

 

55.        After a shower or bath, dry off with a towel before putting on your clothes.

 

56.        Cover your mouth when you sneeze.

 

57.        Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.

 

58.        Flush

 

59.        Share your lunch with someone who forgot theirs.

 

60.        Feed your pets.

 

61.        Don’t put dirty socks and underwear on a clean body.

 

62.        Change your socks and underwear daily.

 

63.        Don’t watch anything on television or at the movies you would feel embarrassed watching with God.

 

64.        Don’t abuse your phone privileges.

 

65.        Never make your parents breakfast in bed. (Disastrous memories surface!)

 

66.        Occasionally, clean something without being told to.

 

67.        Don’t forget your prayers.

 

68.        Never take drugs.

 

69.        Never Take Drugs.

 

70.        NEVER TAKE DRUGS.

 

71.        Memorize your locker combination.

 

72.        Don’t throw ice balls.

 

73.        Never cancel plans to wait for a phone call.

 

74.        Don’t change your plans with someone because something better came up.

 

75.        Be courteous to adults.

 

76.        Get to know your friends’ parents.

 

77.        Don’t be rude.

 

78.        Be curious. Question everything.

 

79.        Always accept sincere apologies.

 

80.        Don’t wear socks with holes in them.

 

81.        Mend holes in socks.

 

82.        Find something good in everyone.

 

83.        There are many things in this world worth fighting for. Choose your battles wisely.

 

84.        Remind your parents to recycle. It’s your future they’re protecting.

 

85.        Recycle and reuse.

 

86.        Don’t be wasteful.

 

87.        Set good examples for your parents.

 

88.        Learn to dance.

 

89.        Learn the difference between “I need” and “I want”.

 

90.        Learn to control your wants.

 

91.        Don’t ask your parents to buy you something you wouldn’t be willing to spend your own money on.

 

92.        Read something out loud daily.

 

93.        Never take food for granted.

 

94.        Never take your home for granted.

 

95.        Never take your education for granted.

 

96.        Never take your parents for granted.

 

97.        Never take your country for granted.

 

98.        Always sing the National Anthem even if you can’t hit the high notes.

 

99.        Stand at attention and cover your heart for the Pledge Allegiance.

 

100.    Have fun!

 

101.    Memorize poems you love.

 

102.    Keep hope in your heart.

 

103.    Dare to dream for more than you thing possible, then make it happen.

 

104.    Never run with scissors.

 

105.    Don’t put your tongue on cold metal.

 

106.    No matter how bad your day was, home will make it better.

 

107.    Lie on your back, look up at the stars, and feel the earth turn.

 

108.    Brush your teeth twice a day or three times a day if you ate something disgusting.

 

109.    Use toothpaste on your toothbrush.

 

110.    Brush for at least 2 minutes.

 

111.    Acknowledge who you are when you make phone calls. Don’t assume everyone knows your voice.

 

112.    If you take a message, give a message.

 

113.    Never ease drop on another phone.

 

114.    Return library books on time.

 

115.    Return things you borrow in the same condition or better.

 

116.    Only loan things that you’re willing to never see again.

 

117.    Never use rubber cement to glue anything to your body. (A lesson my youngest and I learned the hard way.)

 

118.    Have friends of the opposite sex.

 

119.    Tell your parents everything another adult tells you not to tell your parents.

 

120.    Make your bed daily.

 

121.    Turn your socks right side out before throwing them into the laundry.

 

122.    When given the chance, sleep in.

 

123.    Every once in a while, get up before everyone else and enjoy the quiet of the morning.

 

124.    Take some time everyday to be alone with your thoughts.

 

125.    Never call 900 numbers.

 

126.    You don’t have to like all foods, but be adventurous enough to try everything at least once.

 

127.    Ask for help when you need it.

 

128.    Don’t ask for help if you can do it yourself.

 

129.    Offer to help when you can.

 

130.    Don’t write anything in a note that you’re not willing to have the whole school know about it.

 

131.    Be generous with your hugs.

 

132.    Stick up for those who can’t defend themselves.

 

133.    Use public restrooms only when you absolutely have to. (Personal repulsion!)

 

134.    Never tell someone they deserved what they got, even if they did.

 

135.    Use eating utensils in public.

 

136.    When in doubt, talk to your parents.

 

137.    Find out when your teacher’s birthday is and do something nice for him or her.

 

138.    Learn all three verses to Silent Night.

 

139.    Don’t litter.

 

140.    When possible, pick up litter and throw it away.

 

141.    Take the advice of your parents over your peers.

 

142.    Grow up but not away from your family.

 

143.    Use deodorant if you need it.

 

144.    Don’t squeeze pimples.

 

145.    If you’re doing something you don’t want your parents to find out about, chances are you shouldn’t be doing it.

 

146.    Learn to see the insides of people, not just the outsides.

 

147.    There’s no shame in failure if you tried your best.

 

148.    Laugh a lot!

 

149.    Learn to be a good listener.

 

150.    Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t say in front of them.

 

151.    Never get in a car with someone who’s been drinking.

 

152.    Apply Vaseline to your eyebrows before blowing record breaking bubbles.

 

153.    Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.

 

154.    When filling a bathtub, you need to account for body mass.

 

155.    Abhor violence.

 

156.    On very hot days, lick your ice cream cones quickly.

 

157.    Learn the difference between sympathy and empathy.

 

158.    Be empathetic.

 

159.    Eventually, your mother will look under your bed.

 

160.    Be honest.

 

161.    Don’t cheat.

 

162.    Learn some really funny clean jokes.

 

163.    Throw up in toilets.

 

164.    Hold hands in a crowd.

 

165.    When you’re out in a crowd, always have a place to meet in case you get separated.

 

166.    Remember where your mom parks the car at the mall.

 

 

            Reading over these I realize how many things I had left out, and in all actuality, how little things have changed over the years. Oh, sure, today there are more video games and the internet. There are now cell phones and GPS. As a parent we have to prepare our children for an ever changing world. But all in all, kids are kids, and words of wisdom like, “Don’t stick anything up your nose!” are as true today as ever!

 

If you have children, what are some of the special things you’ve taught your children? If you’re not a parent, what are some of the most interesting things you felt your parents taught you?

 

 

JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Anyone that has been with me since the birth of One Generation to Another knows that I have a tendency…tendency, that’s such a lovely word, so polite, so laid back…to get slightly carried away with the Holidays. Perhaps a more accurate statement, less sugar coated, would be to say I become an obsessive, raving lunatic…but in a nice way! Although we can all get a bit stressed…so much to do, so expensive, so disruptive…the benefits are a feeling of peace, good will, and a chance to relive our childhood. Not a bad trade off!

 

            The secret to minimizing the stress of the holidays is to confront them well in advance! Just like a general leading his army into battle, having the right equipment, a well thought out plan, and cooperative soldiers will make the difference between success and failure. Although my family FORBIDS me from ushering in the Christmas season until the day after Halloween, my preparations are truly year long. It’s never too early to start planning for the Holidays, and the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do later, giving you more time to relax and appreciate the season. Below is my list of 10 things you can start doing now to make the coming Christmas Season truly a blessing.

 

1.      Get your family involved. Anyone given the opportunity to help plan an event is much more likely to embrace it and participate.

 

2.      Defray the costs of Christmas. If you start buying or making gifts now your expenses in December will be mainly perishables like food and evergreen products! There are some gifts you will want to wait to purchase, especially for your children, because their interests and desires can change a million times between now and them, however, you can still begin to squirrel away knitted socks, a retro game, or stocking stuffers.

 

3.      Make your Christmas list now. Who do you want to give gifts to? Remember the less obvious like a child’s teacher, your mailman, or the annual gift swap at work. If you already have ideas, jot them down. Keep this list handy and as you come across the perfect gift, buy it. For example, your father may be a Civil War enthusiast. The next time you are at your favorite bookstore, check through the discount books. You can often find very expensive books for dollars. If you give yourself several months and regularly check out the weekly specials, chances are you’ll come across something appropriate and appreciated.

 

4.      Think green and reuse or repurpose! Okay, on the surface, it might sound tacky to give someone something that has been used, but in an effort to become responsible and conscientious consumers, I don’t think we should overlook this option. With a fresh coat of paint and a few funky flower decals you could turn a garage sale find into the perfect end table for your college bound niece. A stack of used detective stories purchased at your local library’s annual sale will please your grandfather as much as new books would. Visit your town’s Goodwill or Salvation Army. If you kinda squint your eyes and allow your creative juices to flow, you can come up with “swell” ideas. A stack of sweaters can be cut up and turned into throw pillows for your children’s reading corner. That case of diner coffee mugs can be filled with hot chocolate mix for token visitor gifts. Rifle through the stack of linens. You might find a table cloth or apron to add to your sister’s vintage linen collection. The possibilities are limitless and affordable.

 

5.      Use the summer’s bounty to make edible gifts for family and friends. What do you get for Grandma who’s gotten everything and likes nothing? A basket filled with 6 jars of jam you made this summer. And what about your 3 brother-in-laws? Lift their spirits with a little spirit. Try making this Kahlua recipe. Start now. The longer it sits, the better it gets! Pick up some bottles with corks from Pier One or Amazon, and wah-la, a totally unusual and appreciated gift! (Getting closer to Christmas I will have a blog with more Gifts from the Kitchen.) Use the summer to make canned edible gifts for teachers and bus drivers, next door neighbors and friends, using garden produce. Trust me, as a teacher the best gifts I ever received were food. It was always useful, especially at the holidays.

 

KAHLUA

 

This was something my dad made every year. He’d print up labels, and it was HIS gift to the men in the family. He felt really good about doing it, too! Perhaps all the DHs and BFs out there may want to give it a try!

 

Ingredients

2 cups boiling water

3 cups sugar

1/3 cup instant coffee (NOT freezed dried)

1 fifth of vodka

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (very important not to use imitation vanilla)

 

Directions

Combine boiling water, sugar and instant coffee. Allow to cool. Add vodka and vanilla. Put mixture into big bottle (at least 1/2 gallon jug) and set aside for 30 days. Shake the bottle each day. Keep tightly closed. When ready, pour into clean bottles and cork.

 

Note 

It has been our experience that the longer the Kahlua sits, the mellower it becomes. We’ve had some after 12 years and it was out of this world yummy!

 

6.      As a child I had dreams of making a construction paper chain that wrapped the whole room. I always ran out of steam and enthusiasm before I rounded the first corner. Children can burn out on any activity, especially if there’s a lot to do. Put together a Christmas craft box. On rainy summer days when you’re forced inside, think winter! Pull out the Christmas box and work on favorite projects. (You can even get really crazy and throw on a Christmas CD! I won't tell if you won't tell!) Also, over the summer is a good time for children to make gifts. Remember the old fashioned looms that you made potholders on? My mom still uses some that my children made years ago! Go through children’s craft books and magazines and have children pick out projects they would like to make.

 

7.      Start a nature collection of things you might want to use around the holidays. This is a great time to gather pinecones to be used in wreathes, Christmas ornaments, or when covered with peanut butter, corn meal and sunflower seeds, a perfect Christmas gift for our backyard bird friends. Acorns and seedpods, pressed flowers and lavender sprigs, or if you live by the ocean, shells and sea glass, can all be tucked away to make marvelous and personal Christmas gifts.

 

8.      Begin knitting and sewing projects. If you knit, felted bowls are very popular today and knit up quick, as do mittens and slippers. Make an assortment of mittens in different sizes and throw them in a basket. They will look charming in your room and you can nab a pair when you need a last minute gift. Do the same thing with socks. Aprons have come back into style with a vengeance. Grab a cup of coffee and go to Google and type in “free apron patterns”. You can spend an afternoon going through hundreds of apron ideas. I’m sure there are many people on your Christmas list that would love a homemade apron!

 

9.      Make you own Christmas cards. This is a wonderful way of telling your friends and families that they are special. Kids can make their own. Decide on whether you wish to stamp, scrapbook, or paint your cards. Because you are not rushed, you can really put some effort into making beautiful cards. Then tuck them away, somewhere you won’t forget about them, and pull them out in December when you’re ready to mail them out.

 

10. Do a little research now and come up with a service project to do with your family for the Holidays. At Christmas the well known charities receive much attention and assistance. Try to find something you can do that often gets overlooked. Perhaps you have a lonely elderly neighbor or know a family in town that has a father stationed in the Middle East. Start planning ways that you can brighten their Holiday. When Christmas rolls around, you’ll be well prepared. You might even decide to start now. Why wait for Christmas? 

 

Christmas is too wonderful a time of year to be confined to 2 – 4 weeks in December. To truly embrace the meaning and importance of Christmas, we should think and act Christmas 365 days a year! So, here’s a little summer HO! HO! HO! Times awastin’. After all, Christmas is just around the corner!


Do you have a suggestion on how to prepare for Christmas in July? Please share!


 

WRITING YOUR OWN EULOGY

          Okay, I know, I know…none of my “young” readers wants to think about anything as morose as their own death. Don’t blame you! But I would like to throw something out there for your consideration. Recently, I went to a memorial service for my friend’s father. (BTW this is my “pew sliding” friend, and I’m afraid her father went to his grave fearing I would somehow corrupt his daughter! I’m hoping that from his lofty aerial view he can now see I really am a decent person!) Anyway, after the service I kept telling everyone it was the nicest memorial I have ever been to. Finally, my daughter challenged me. “Exactly what makes a memorial service so great?” I thought about it then answered, “When it was over, I wished I had known him better.”

 

            At the service a number of people got up and spoke about the man including his daughter and his best friend.  He was portrayed as a loving family man, an honest businessman, and generous to a fault. He was an articulate and prolific letter writer, and enjoyed reading, music and gardening. But the most endearing and awe inspiring theme was not how dearly he was loved, but how universally he was respected. He did far more in this world than simply take up space…he made a difference!

 

            On my drive home I began to think about my own eulogy. If I were to leave this world tomorrow, what would people say about me? Have I accomplished, or am I at least on the road to accomplishing, the things I hold personally significant? I decided to sit down and write my own eulogy…what I would like to have said about me, in the distant future, when I’m gone.

 

My Idyllic Eulogy

            Kim was many things; a loving wife, mother and grandmother, a beloved daughter and a cherished sister. Although her circle of friends was not large, it was meaningful, and she tried her best never to let anyone down. Her greatest joy came from helping those she loved, but she continually sought to help others; sometimes monetarily, sometimes through labor, and more often than not, with a smile and kind words.

            Kim was a free spirit, unshackled by mores and trends. She danced to her own drummer and encouraged others to do the same. She went through her life with a lopsided ponytail and an overall strap sliding down her shoulder, but she never left the house without a smile. Her creativity was seen in her gardens, her cooking, her crafts and her writing. She leaves behind a series of children’s books that will be endeared by youngsters for generations to come.

            When asked what was the most important thing in her life she’d quickly respond, “My family.” And it was. She spent her life creating a home where family and friends felt welcomed and eagerly shared her expertise with others. Although she will be missed, she will long be remembered. Her life long motto was, “Life is Good”. Let’s all remember that for her today.

 

            So, Tim just walked into the room to see me typing and bawling. When he asked me what I was crying about, I had to admit it was my eulogy. I am such a sap! Geeze! Anyway, when reading over my eulogy, I see there are many things I’ve already accomplished. (I’ve got the whole lop sided ponytail thing down pat!) But there are other things I’ve yet to accomplish. (I haven’t written the series of children’s books, and I do need to become more involved in social outreach.) But, I’m willing to admit, I’m a work in progress so I’ll keep trying! When it’s over I would like others to be able to say, “She did far more in this world than simply take up space…she made a difference!”

 

The truth is that we spend every day of our lives writing our eulogies. How’s yours coming?

           

 

WE BE JAMMIN'

          My mother tells the story that when she was growing up she use to trade her homemade bread sandwiches with the "city kids" for their store bought bread sandwiches. She loved Wonder Bread's fine texture and softness whereas the city kids longed for the hard crusts and hearty consistency of homemade bread. When my mom go married, she also got citified...at least for a while. My earliest memory of jams and jellies was Welches Grape Jelly. I can remember how this gelatinous substance wiggled in the middle of your bread until you managed to moosh it hard enough to spread the jelly, but, whenever we went to Bushia's house, our usual snack was homemade bread and jam. She covered her jams with paraffin wax, and I can still see her prying out the wax disc to reveal the fragrant and glistening jam below. Welches could not hold a candle to Bushia's jam. I remember one day I told her how delicious I thought her strawberry jam was. She picked up the mason jar and looked at it. "It's very pretty", she said. At the time I thought that a rather strange comment to make about jam, but after making my own, I understand exactly how she felt.

 

          I'm sure this appreciation for the aesthetic quality of jam began a long time ago. In Colonial times life must have seemed dreadfully bleak and colorless. Small windows on houses helped conserve energy but did little to bring light, thus color, indoors. To save precious resources, minimal artificial lighting was used. In keeping with conservative religious practices and lacking vibrant dyes, clothing was fashionably drab. So, what was a poor homemaker to do to bring some color into her life? Put up preserves.

 

            Okay, I know the primary reason for canning ISN’T to inundate a household with color…that’s just a lovely perk. There are few household tasks that I perform that bring me as much satisfaction as canning. When I CAN, I feel like I’m doing right by my family…giving them my very best. All right, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but I do so love saying, “I’m putting up strawberries today.” I feel like Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffin Show. (I can only hope you youngin’s got a healthy does of Aunt Bea on late night reruns!) The woman was incredible; a spinster lady that came to live with her nephew and his son. This woman could clean, bake, can, and iron a shirt in a dress and apron and actually smile! But I digress…

 

            If you have never canned, it’s hard to share the pride and satisfaction you get at the end of a long and tiring day, when you stand back, and look at rows of colorful fruits or vegetables, vibrating with color and luster, tightly packed away inside pristine jars. I especially love to look at the jams and jellies that we put up. As the season progresses, and we can more and more jams, the colors are disarming!  Yellows and golds from peaches and apricots. Reds and purples from berries and plums. There are even shades of green from mint jellies that will enhance that leg of lamb. To me they glimmer like the most precious jewels. Tie a piece of cloth on the top and you have a delicious photo op and the perfect Christmas token gift! I usually store my jams and jellies in open cupboards to truly partake of their beauty. Simple minds, simple pleasures, I suppose!

 

            So, you’ve never canned, and you’re thinking, "I want a piece of this Nirvana Kim’s talking about, how do I get started?" I won’t lie to you, getting ready to can takes a bit of forethought and some special equipment, although it isn’t expensive and you have to be ready to dedicate some uninterrupted time once you get started. To get the low down on how to actually make the jams, there’s a well written “how to” at http://www.pickyourown.org/jam.htm. Well worth reading over before you decide to become a canner! Also, Sure Jell has a helpful site, including videos. http://www.kraftfoods.com/surejell/sj_index.html After looking over these sites, if you’re still with me, get ready for a great experience!

 

            Join me on a typical “Jammin’ Day”. You arise bright and early…well, at least bright, and know that something magical is going to happen today. You head out to your favorite Pick Your Own farm and start gathering the bounty. We have our own garden, with raspberries and strawberries, but never get enough of a crop to can. Still, we pick a few of our meager berries and throw them into the farm batch, then we can honestly, and proudly say, “We made the jam with some of the berries out of our garden!” (Refer back to the simple minds comment made earlier!) Depending on the weather, bugs and crop, your picking experience can be easy peasy or a little more challenging. Children love to be a part of this. When we went strawberry picking this year my 5 year old grandson was extremely helpful, my 3 year old granddaughter was helpful in the beginning then proceeded to sit and partake of the bounty.

 As for my 21 month old granddaughter, she was quite content to watch the process from her mommy’s back!

 

            After you pick the fruit and get them home it’s time to prepare the fruit. You need to clean and get rid of stems, seeds and skins. I find strawberries to be the most time consuming because you need to hull them individually.

At this point the day is beginning to wear on you. You begin to wonder if you can store the fruit for a couple of days and get back to it when you’re feeling more enthusiastic, BUT you know for the best jam you need to can quickly, so you wolf down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and meet the challenge head on. After you’ve made several batches of jam, syrup and preserves, you stand back and admire your day’s work…or in my case…you lean against the counter, holding the small of your back, and wonder what Aunt Bea drank to give her boundless energy!

 But it’s an extremely gratifying experience, and once you eat homemade jam, you’ll never go back!

 

Generally, we use the recipes found on the Sure Jell box. Sure Jell is natural pectin used to help jams and jellies, well, gel! Occasionally, we come across another recipe that we use. We have a new Mint Jelly recipe which we’ve never tried, but we have a bumper crop of mint so I think we’ll try this new one out. So, do tell. Are you a canner, a canner what-to-be, or perfectly content with the Welshes Grape Jelly you grew up with?

 

MINT JELLY

 

Ingredients

2 cups minced mint leaves

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups concentrated apple juice

Green food coloring

 

Directions

Wash and mince mint leaves to equal 2 cups. Add water and sugar, let stand several hours. Heat to boiling and strain.

Color 4 cups concentrated apple juice with green food coloring. Cook and when nearly to jellying point add 1 to 2 tablespoon of mint juice. Finish cooking, skim, pour into sterile glasses and seal.