Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fireweed Jelly

I love being a hunter and gatherer!  Although hunting has been a little trickier with a baby, I was still able to do a little gathering this year (and had some saved up from last!)  For those who have visited Fairbanks at the right time of summer,you can attest to the areas prosperity of wildflowers (love this!) especially fireweed.  Shortly after moving up here I read about some locals who turned this beautiful flower into jelly and I had to give it a try.  I searched until I found (most of) a recipe, tweaked it ever so slightly and gave it a go.  Days when the temperature does't break 30 below are good for this sort of thing!

Step 1:  When the flowers are in full blossom, pick 8 cups of the flowers only (confession, I had one or two leaves that didn't get plucked out).  I then freezer bagged these and popped them into the freezer until I had a cold day at home to cook in front of the stove with quiet music playing, a fire blazing, and a sweet baby entertaining himself on the rug.  Ah...okay it didn't look exactly like that. But it was cold! =)

Then, for the jelly:

8 cups frozen fireweed blossoms
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 1/2 cups water
2 packets of Sure Jell or equivalent
5 cups of sugar
4 pint jars or equivalent, clean and lids heated*

Place frozen blossoms in a large pot over which pour the lemon juice and water.  Bring to a boil and continue for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I got worried at this point: the flowers all started turning a dingy brown color and smelling very earthy.  Not appetizing.  Hang in there.  It gets better.

Then sift into a large bowl.  Since I wanted a few petals to remain in mine, I just used a colander, but you could use something finer if you wanted.

Return liquid to pot and allow the liquid to cool just a little (near room temp).  Fynn started fussing at this point and I was in a hurry, so I used my accelerated cool method:

Then you're going to add the two packets of Sure Jell and stir until dissolved as you bring the liquid back to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute, then add sugar, and boil robustly for 10 more minutes while stirring.  Pour jelly directly into jars and seal lids.

I don't have anything big enough for a water bath for these jars, so I had my  sink half filled with the hotttest water I could, placed the jars in upside down, then poured boiling water from my tea pot over.  I promptly boiled another pot and added it as soon as it was ready.  It worked!  They sealed beautifully!

*Heating the lids:  space is precious in our cabin, so instead  of heating all of the jars, I just placed the lids in a frying pan of water over the lowest heat on the stove top.  Not correct but it worked.

I was so pleased with how it turned out!  It tastes great and has great color.  So fun!  I'm definitely going to have to do this again!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This is truly a small world we live in!  I was doing my grocery shopping in town and ran into a familiar face.  Now we've been here long enough that that is not terribly uncommon, but this face didn't quite belong.  It was a face from the past: Nurse Theresa.  When I was in high school I worked as a CNA at a local assisted living facility specializing in dementia.  One of the nurses there was an inspiration, Theresa put compassion before the schedule and kindness before hastiness.  She was one of the people who really encouraged me to get my nursing degree and believed that I would make a good nurse.  She was a Christian and a poet and I still have one of the poems she wrote as a bookmark in my Bible.
And now, 10 years later, I run into her at the grocery store!  She had moved to southern Alaska and gotten married and was just in Fairbanks for a class her husband had to take!  We talked about our lives in general, but I am kicking myself now that I didn't tell her what an inspiration she had been to me!  So if ever Nurse Theresa happens across this page: thank you!

I have been unsuccessful in finding my favorite tea at the store for months now and came to discover why.  Good Earth changed their packaging!  Now my frustrations have ended! =)  They can't do that to me, I shop by color and design, not actual words, silly people.

Fynn's doing better in the car and pushed another pearly white out today(3rd, bottom right).  He's still not crawling forward, but manages to scoot around quite effectively despite that fact.  I catch myself saying, "how'd you get over there?" frequently these days.  I just got to playing with one of his (sort of goofy) photos today...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grandma's visit...

I love living in Fairbanks.  But the biggest downside is being so far away from family.  We are blessed with amazing extended family that we love dearly and miss greatly.  Technically, Washington is the closest state (even if it is a 5 day drive and you have to travel out of the country!=), but it is so expensive to get there!  Well, Dad got Mom a plane ticket for her Christmas present and we got to keep her for a week!  Fynn (and Clancey and Keagan and Keira) were in heaven and got spoiled rotten!  It was so much fun!

We didn't do a lot more than just spend time with each other, but that was more than enough.  Lots of peek-a-boo, playing with the critters, practicing crawling and walking, and the regular errands.   Fynn did cut his first teeth this week though too!  He popped out both of his front top teeth on Saturday!

Also, with Gramma babysitting, I was finally able to complete a project that Josh had asked for years ago: a firewood carrier.  I had already got the material, but just had to put it together.  I just eyeballed this one, but thought I'd share it, in case anyone just needed the idea.

about 2 yards of duck cloth
2.5 yards heavy ribbon (mine was a hemp weave)
sturdy thread

First trial by error: set your machiene's tension all the way up!  We're dealing with super thick fabric here and it took me many broken threads before I realized what I needed to do.  Okay, so I tucked all the corners like so: 

and sewed the outside of all but one side, flipped it so the seams were inside, then finished the last side.  Again, I just eyeballed this, so the angles can be what ever you want.  You just want the two ends to be about the length of your logs.

Next I pinned the ribbon in place like so: 
Then sew down really good!  It's going to be carrying a lot of weight as you'll only have to make one log fun instead of 5!  Happy snuggles in front of the fire!

Monday, January 16, 2012

From Grandmothers House She Came!

Grandma's here!  And boy did she get a surprise when she arrived.  As I mentioned before, our heater went out, no one would be able to deliver until the next week, and the weather started to dip to 40 below again!  So life was fine in the room with the stove, but the rest of the house was staying pretty chilly!  Here's the whole household in front of the stove: 

And then Fynn stole his Poppa's hat when he got home.  The little laddie's really into hats right now.  He'll start giggling when you put one one!

So it was cold, but clear at our house.  We had to drop into town to get some new work boots for Josh and immediately were engulfed in the ice fog.  Here's some of the sun right about noon time, as high as it gets in the sky these days.

And then just cute little Fynn ready for church.  More of him and Gramma Laine to come!

Chilly days like this are perfect soup days.  Hitch: Josh doesn't eat soup.  Solution: Mom and I call it "chowder" and gang up on him!  Hee hee!  I had experimented with this before and this is more or less what I came up with:

Loaded Cheesy Chowder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
    1 cup diced onion
    2 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
    1 1/2 cups cooked sausage
    3 cups chicken broth
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
    1 cup velveta cheese or similar
    1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion in butter until softened. Stir in potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
    2.  Stir in cheese(allow to melt), cream, sausage, dill, pepper, salt and cayenne. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 minutes
    3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Fun Finds: How to Be a Dad

When we woke up this morning it was 45 degrees in the house (and -25 outside!)  At some point in the night we had run out of heating fuel, and now the soonest anyone will be able to deliver is Tuesday.  I thank God for the wood stove and hot tea! 

So funny!  You've got to check out every post here: http://www.howtobeadad.com/
Types of Poopy Diaper Loads Baby Poop

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baby Sign Language

I've decided to try to teach Fynn some of the basics of Sign Language as I've heard of so many benifits (the most appealing being less frustration on the baby's part as they can often sign before they can speak English).The thing is, I know none at all.  So we're learning together.  I just found this video of the basics to  a tune:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baby Food

We had a yummy smelling kitchen this morning as yams, apples, and pears were separately boiled, then purred into a smooth goop.  Okay, that might not sound so appetizing to you or me, but it's enough for Fynn to get excited about!  I'm not a perfect natural mom, I often feed him store-bought baby food, but I like to make my own when I can.  Especially the fruits; Fynn will barely touch the store-bought fruits but if I make them myself, he gobbles them down.  It's fun for a breakfast treat on occasion.

This hardly calls for a recipe it's so simple, just basically take fruit or veggie of choice, boil if it's hard, then pop in the blender and puree until smooth.  I even leave the skins on some things like the pears (after washing, of course).The real question that kept raising it's head was what to feed him and when.  I found one great page just by blindly bumbling through Pintrest (Homemade Baby Food) and another link a public health nurse friend of mine sent me (Infant Feeding Guide.)  Both were so helpful and really lay things out clearly and are worth checking out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Love, Tears and Gyros

Josh and I caught ourselves dancing in the nursery to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" yesterday!  Ah, how sweet love is!  We giggle often at how much our lives have changed and just how much we love being a family of three.
I often fret about my parenting skills, both presently and for the future.  I so want good things for my baby!  I pray every night for his protection, character, and future as well as daily blessings and that Josh and I would be the best parents we possibly can be for him.  One of the most controversial topics in my heart is the matter of sleep and crying.  Before I get into this, let me say that I realize every baby and parent, and circumstances are unique, but I just want to pose an alternate perspective.
It seems the popular thing to do is to lay your baby down for a nap and allow him to cry himself to sleep.  I have had numerous well-trusted friends and acquaintances tell me that this was the only way to do it if you want to keep your sanity and for the well-being of your child.  Really, if you love them, you'll let them cry.  I also read several books on the matter including Baby Wise.  They all seemed to rub me the wrong way and I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that this was not right for us.
So I went with my gut and always responded to my baby's cries and tried to comfort him.  Obviously he still cries, but I want him to know that I am there with him and won't ignore him.  I am extremely blessed to have a very minimal work schedule, so I actually enjoy getting up to check on my little guy.  He's had his phases of sleep difficulties, but generally sleeps pretty good.  Nothing to make me feel like I'm loosing my mind.
Then last week I found an article confirming my gut feelings in Psychology Today (you can read this great article here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out).   There's a gajillion references and resources with it.  Here's a couple quotes:
" giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later"
"Babies grow from being held. Their bodies get dysregulated when they are physically separated from caregivers."
"(When allowed to cry) neurons die...Disordered stress reactivity can be established as a pattern for life...trust is undermined...(and) caregiver sensitivity may be harmed."
"caregiver responsiveness is related to intelligence, empathy, lack of aggression ordepressionself-regulation, social competence"
Will I do things differently with subsequent children?  Probably to a degree, but it is important to me that my babies know that I will be with them through whatever they're going through.

Okay, off the soap box.  How about Gyros?  I think Josh introduced me to these first at a little hole-in-the wall place on the way to Whidbey Island.  So amazing!  I don't know how to get the lamb the right consistency, but we found that they still taste good with chicken or moose!  Here's how we do it:

·         8 oz plain yogurt
·         1/3 c chopped seeded cucumber
·         2 tbsp finely chopped onion
·         1 garlic clove
·         1 tsp sugar
Combine ingredients and refrigerate.

1 lb. Chicken breasts
Italian seasoning
Pita (4)
Diced roma tomato
feta cheese

Finely chop chicken, smother in seasonings (I use dried basil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, onion,and thyme) and cook.  Place on warmed pita, cover with remaining toppings, fold and enjoy!  So easy, SO good!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coal Mine

Josh got sent out to the Usabeli coal mines today.  All I can think of is this song:

Some girls like them gussied up
Wearing all that smelly stuff...
Don't want no white-collared man
Me, I like them calloused hands
...Sara Evans

Friday Fun Finds:

Re blogged from http://themanyadventuresofsarah.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Beginning/ Ham and Cheese Bread bowl

I love the fresh feeling of a new year!  While I'm not one for once a year resolutions, I think it is always wise to be evaluating myself frequently to acknowledge the changes that have occurred as well as the areas in which I will strive to improve.   So this year I've learned a great many things: how to change the exciting diapers, how to make a baby laugh, how to bake baby hats, and how to do a great many things one-handed. I've begun to learn how to be a wife and momma, but I think that's going to be a lifelong lesson.  Leading in to one of my biggest constant goals, to be a better wife and mother as well as daughter, friend, co-worker, etc.  What a blessing it would be for me to be a blessing to others!  Still more important to me, though is to improve my relationship with God, more consistently in prayer and His Word.  Then, of course, there's the less important things like weight loss, finishing Josh's painting for the stairwell, and about a gazillion other projects around the house.

Here's just some photos of our Christmas to New Years' week:  We found Mello Yello at the store the other day (I hadn't seen these in forever!), Fynn playing with his buddy Evan as we made Laura's wedding reception cards, and just a few of adorable little Fynn!

Finally, we have me trying out my new hefty tripod that Dad sent me for Christmas!  This is what I look like to run out to feed the chickens.  See we've had a bit of a cold snap and it's been hanging out between 30-40 degrees below zero.  It's just like a slap in the face when you walk out the door.  And so dry!  My hands and nose just start cracking and bleeding every now and then. Fynn seems to like the cold, he's had a couple bloody boogers, too, so I only have him out (WELL bundled) between the house and pre-warmed car.  Oh, and that's a headlamp on my hat seeing as it's almost always dark right now.  
So, our New Years  consisted of some family time at home.  Really nice, actually.  Josh woke me up at midnight to say happy new year.  But we did have a special dinner: sweet potatoes and rice for Fynn, and Mom's sourdough, ham and cheese bread bowl with iced tea for Josh and I; it's tradition.

Hollow out a sourdough loaf and save the innards for later.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 c. mayo with 8 oz Colby cheese, 8 oz. parmigiana, 1 cup diced ham (we used Christmas leftovers) 2 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 c. chopped green onions.  Press into bread bowl and cook for 1 hour.

Well, Fynn's not exactly crawling, but he seems to wiggle where he wants to go and he's getting mighty close to the computer cords, so: signing off for now!