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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Master List Keeps Getting Longer

My to-do list seems to get longer and longer every day with projects I want to finish.  Are you like this too?  I look around the house and think, "oh yeah, I want to get that done too" and that thought is quickly followed up with " all my spare time!"

However, for at least three weeks now, I have been inspired by the posts at New Nostalgia.

It's time to write about my Master List!  Maybe this will help keep me accountable...

Each week Amy has a feature called Anti-Procrastination Tuesday's which is meant to encourage readers to get their projects completed and then share how they did it.  You can write about your long list of goals, things you have accomplished, or how you beat procrastination.

I know what you're thinking...yes, it's taken me 3 weeks to post!  Yeah, I've been procrastinating...I guess.

I have what I call the Master List for all of my want-to-do or need-to-do tasks and projects.  It seems like we can get a lot done some days, whereas on other days absolutely nothing seems to get done.  Anyone else get what I mean? 

Ok, so on to my Master List.  My goodness, it's long!

Susan's Master List
  • Compile and complete the girl's portfolios  Yea!  I actually did this, but it was on the list and I wanted to show at least one thing accomplished, so here it is.
  • Stain the shelves in the office my sweet husband put up for me nearly two years ago.  I want to stain the wood to match the top of my desk.  That will be a long project considering the shelves are in working order and full of stuff.  But, every time I look at them I think about how they just don't match the desk.  (Can you say distraction??)
  • Reorganize the office closet.  Done!  See photos here.
  • Figure out how to incorporate exercise into my seemingly already packed days. I'm fitting it in during my morning hours.  Yes!
  • Spray paint those little candle holders I found at a garage sale a month ago (they're sitting on my patio table just begging to be beautified!)    Done! 
  • Finish H's quilt for her birthday (that's in less than two weeks!)
  • Finish putting mulch down in the flowerbeds - I have been to Lowe's twice and still didn't buy enough mulch!  Ugh, have to go back all my spare time...(wink, wink)  Done!
  • Organize this side of the attic - oh my...that's going to be interesting now that it is so very hot up there.
  • Re-do both girl's bedrooms - not necessarily painting, but organizing, cleaning out closets, purging, switching out winter for summer wardrobes, etc.  I'd like to be able to enjoy walking into those rooms.  We finally got the lofts built for the girls' rooms and everything has been reorganized.  Yippee!  Hoping to post photos soon.
  • Find a part for the coffee pot that has been sitting on my laundry room floor for months...or get rid of it!  Gone.
  • Sew a skirt for the stand on which the small fish tank now resides (it needs some aesthetic help!)
  • Get H's b-day invitations into the mail.  I actually got them into the mail 8 days before the party. 
  • Organize the front closet.  Did it!  I found some great fabric covered storage boxes at a garage sale for $10 and they work great for that shelf in the closet.  All the scarfs, hats, and gloves are now nicely and neatly contained.  It was so great to see those exact boxes at Target and discover that brand new they would have cost between $65 and $70 for all four!  LOVE garage sales!
  • Find new cushions for the glider.  Our resident squirrels tore apart one of the cushions to the point it's beyond repair.  I hope she's enjoying her nest!!  Not having too much luck here...
  • Buy bird feed and fill the feeders.  Our new hobby is watching the birds.  
  • Organize the fabric stash and what-not under my sewing desk.  Don't even know what is under there anymore!  Ahhh...organization!  Love it.  Done.
  • Get files from my laptop to the main hard drive.  Working on this today.
  • Vacuum and clean the van.  How does it get so cluttered so quickly?  I've done this twice since the original post, so that's a good thing!  
Well, that's it for now.  I know there are more for me to put up here, but I can't find my other list!  It's ok - I'll find it...eventually.  (Deep breath...sigh...)

All my best to you and yours today.  May you begin to tackle your to-do list too!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Flowers in the Bible

I have this thing for flowers...not sure why, but I just love them.  I love taking photographs of these fragile, intricate, and beautiful plants that the Lord created and put here for us to enjoy. 

As I was looking at my flower photos, I wondered - how many times is "flower" or a reference to it mentioned in the Bible?  I finally found this site that references over 100 different types of flowers mentioned in God's Word.  Love that! 

My hope is that you enjoy the photos of the flowers this morning.  But, most of all, I pray that your praise and worship time this morning will be a blessed time for you and yours.

Matthew 6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 

1 Kings 6:35 And he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers: and covered them with gold fitted upon the carved work.
Song of Solomon 2:1 I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
All my best to you this Sunday morning,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Humbled and Blessed by My Daughters

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to please you?  A day when you're just plain cranky and aren't even sure why you feel that way? 

That was yesterday for me.  It could have been because I quit caffeine this week.  Or, it could be the little piles of stuff in seemingly every room of the house that represent tasks or projects that I just can't seem to get to or even have the motivation to complete.  At any rate, I was cranky.  Nothing I did seemed to squelch the feeling of anxiety welling up in me.  I finally left the house so I could escape the reminders of everything I needed to accomplish, thinking that would help me get some new perspective. 

Well, I can say I have a new perspective alright!  I desperately need summer clothes, so I visited two stores and tried on a few things.  Ok, that did not help.  (I'm never eating again.) 

I returned home, even more cranky than before, and tried to tackle one room of the house - the kitchen.  As I was doing that, my girls came in and gave me hugs.  Just quiet, sweet hugs.  As if they knew I was having "one of those days". 

Shortly after that, Julie came to me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers that she picked from the flowerbeds along our driveway.  It blessed me that she would think of doing something so sweet for me despite my horrible countenance and attitude.  The next thing I know, Heather brought me a whole passel of rose blooms! 

Isn't it amazing how our children can be so forgiving?  I am so thankful and so humbled that they have such tender hearts toward me.  I am so undeserving of their love and devotion and yet they continue to give it to me...and bless me so much.  Forgiveness...sweet forgiveness....that is what came to mind as I looked at those beautiful flowers and hugged on my girls.  I pray that the Lord will work a heart of forgiveness in me...

I loved walking into the kitchen this morning to see these beautiful flowers right next to the coffee pot.

Have you had an experience when you were humbled by an act of someone else?

All my best to you today,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

10 Ways to Simplify a Busy Gal's Life

Good Sunday Morning Ladies,  I have been thinking a lot lately about how busy women trying to "do it all" could simplify their life a bit more.  I know I continue to explore new ways to simplify my life which seems to spiral out of control sometimes.  I thought I'd share 10 ways I've simplified this busy household of ours and I am hoping you'll share your ideas for simplifying too. 

This is my first time using Linky Tools.  I hope it goes well!

10 Ways This Busy Gal Attempts to Simplify Life

  1. Delegate some of the chores - our daughters will be 8 and 11 this summer, so they are very capable of lending a helping hand around the house.  We've given them a list of chores to do each day and when they are completed in a timely manner, the house is much more organized and clean.  On the days I have to push a bit more...well...ok, not so simplified, but it's a work in progress.
  2. De-Clutter - I feel like I do this on a regular basis!  It's so freeing however and so I will continue to do so.  I just cleaned the office closet a few weeks ago and now it is a joy to get in there and find what I need at a glance.  Take the time to clean out that stack of magazines, re-organize your kitchen cabinets and pantry and anything else that seems to be staring at you...taunting you...and you'll feel a lot better!  If you want more tips on de-cluttering, visit my friend Denise for more tips to de-clutter your home.
  3. Get out of debt - this is so crucial to simplifying life and we just discovered for ourselves the real truth of this concept.  Last November, we made the commitment to get out of credit card debt.  We knew it would be a difficult thing to do, but we were tired of making those huge payments on something we would never really enjoy.  Long story short, the Lord has provided in various ways in the last several months and we will pay off the credit card in full this coming week.  Yes!  Nothing relieves stress over finances like the knowledge that you're living within your means.  There are so many great resources out there to help you learn how to be free of debt.  We like Dave Ramsey and we have heard other people talk about how Crown Financial Ministries has helped them become financially free.  
  4. It's acceptable to say "no" - busy women, especially moms I know, seem to say yes to every opportunity that comes their way and then they end up so stressed and harried and pulled in every direction that their life is suddenly out of control.  This can lead to extreme unhappiness and discord in the home, which doesn't serve any good purpose.  Say "no" now and then.  Be realistic about what you personally can handle each day, each week, and each month.  You need to know and understand your own boundaries so you can be effective in whatever ministry the Lord has for you right now.  If you're like me, my ministry right now is my husband, children, loved ones and friends.  Yes, that is a ministry!  Don't let anyone tell you that if you're not toiling here, there, and everywhere that you're not serving the Lord and the body of Christ.  But, I digress..that's another post at some later date.  Say "no" now and then.  It's okay!
  5. Focus on healthy relationships - nothing can make your life more difficult and stressful than toxic relationships.  Focus on the relationships with people who edify you, support you, and love you for who you are right now, today.  Foster those relationships with people who desire to help you become a more godly woman, a better mom, friend, daughter, wife, and person.  You can be a blessing to another person in this way too!  It's a wonderful blessing to have people in your life who are encouraging you to become who the Lord wants you to be (according to His Word).
  6. Slow down and sit awhile - instead of scrubbing the bathroom yet another time this week, sit down and play a game with your children or curl up with your favorite magazine for a few minutes.  Take time for devotions - a simple time of reading God's Word and praying.  Busy gals simply need to slow down and sit awhile now and then!  I know what you're thinking - "oh, but the guilt!"  I am the first one to raise a hand to acknowledge that I should heed this tidbit of advice more than anyone.  It's ok to sit now and then and just watch your children play.  It's ok to sit with your husband and chat with him about...well...anything that is on your heart.  My favorite lately - watching the birds at the feeder.  Love that.  Give it a try today and let me know how it went, ok?
  7. Have an "unplugged weekend" - my sister gave me this idea a while ago.  They spend a weekend now and then unplugged from all the trappings of technology - computer, headphones and music gadgets, etc.  They even curb their cell phone time to a base minimum, if anything.  It's a time of reconnecting with each other and taking the time to enjoy simple things together.  Many of us are "overconnected" and need a break from all of the technology, even if these things make our lives easier in some ways.  
  8. Make the bed each morning - this is one thing I strive to do every single day and for whatever reason, it tends to make me feel less stressed.  Our bedroom is the one room of the house I try to keep uncluttered and tidy every day.  I don't always succeed, but when I do, it's a haven for those times during the day I need to escape.  So, choose that one thing that makes you feel like you have a teeny bit of control each morning and do it!
  9. Make a cleaning schedule and stick to it - a cleaning schedule has been a blessing to me.  I have to allow myself a bit of leeway sometimes if something unexpected comes up, but otherwise I like knowing what needs to be done that day.  Once it's done, I know I'm on track for the week.  
  10. Pursue a passion - do you have a hobby you love?  Take the time to indulge in it when you can!  Piecing quilts is one of my favorite hobbies and helps to relieve stress, so I go back to my sewing table now and then and just work with fabric.  It does wonders for me!  Do you love pottery, sewing, scrapbooking, or photography?  Make time for whatever it is you love to do.  
 I'd love to hear how you simplify your life!  In looking at this list, it doesn't scream "simplicity", but you get the idea, right?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Here's how to add your link:  write a post about simplifying your life and post it on your blog.  Then return here to add your link at the bottom of the page. 

All my best to you on this Sunday morning,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Airing "Dirty" Laundry - Not What You Think

Good Saturday Morning!  I hope this morning finds you refreshed and ready to enjoy a nice weekend doing whatever it is you do with friends or family.  Me - I'm going to be working our homeschool co-op's HUGE curriculum sale today.  We set up yesterday and it is amazing to me how much stuff is there!  It's always fun to shop, but even more fun to fellowship with some wonderful Christian women. 

I'm linking up today with Susie B. Homemaker's Weekend Wind Down.  This weekend's topic is one every woman can relate to I think - laundry!  It's always interesting to see what techniques people use to get the grass stains or chocolate (my personal favorite) out of the clothing.

For this Weekend Wind Down, there were 4 questions to answer.

1.  Do you use liquid or powder laundry detergent, what brand?
We don't use any laundry detergent (did I just hear an almost audible gasp in blog-land?!)  We use Laundry Pure by Ecoquest International which utilizes oxygen and silver ionization to clean the clothes.  It sanitizes and smells fantastic.  We have saved a lot of money on laundry detergent over the last several years!

    2.  Do you pre-treat, if so what's your stain remover of choice?
I do pre-treat.  What mom of little ones doesn't?  Oxy-Clean is my stain fighter of choice.  Love that stuff.

    3.  Where is your laundry room located?
We live in a small home of about 1,400 square feet, so ours is located right inside the front door to the right of the foyer.  It's nice because it's centrally located, but someday, if ever given a choice, I'd love to have the laundry in the bathroom.

    4.  How many loads of laundry would you say you do a week?
Oh my...I'd say at least 7-8.  Some are small loads, but we do at least 5 significant-sized loads each week.  Our girls do the sorting now which makes my job so much easier - just toss it in and go!

I won't be doing laundry today, but Monday will come 'round again.

All my best to you today,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I'm linking to Harrigan Howdy's Recipe Share Party!  Hope you'll join us for some terrific recipes!

I discovered this sugar cookie recipe in one of my tried and true recipe books, The ABC’s of Recipes with P. Buckley Moss, produced in 1995 by the Springfield Ohio Star Chapter.  Sue Hunt submitted this recipe titled "Old Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies".  I did adapt the directions for making the cookies into my own "voice".

These cookies aren’t as sugary as most sugar cookies, but instead have a “light” flavor with a bit of cinnamon on top.  They’ve always been a big hit with family and friends.  Perhaps you’ll add this sugar cookie recipe to your cookbook!

Ingredients for Sugar Cookies
  • ½ cup margarine or butter (butter is better!)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-cup dairy sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the mixing bowl, cream butter to consistency of mayonnaise.

Add sugar gradually while continuing to cream.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla to the mixture and beat until it becomes light and fluffy.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix and sift flour, salt, baking powder and soda.  Add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream.  Begin and end with dry ingredients.

Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet.  I use either the wrappers from my butter sticks or canola oil spray to grease my cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with either straight sugar or a combination of cinnamon and sugar.  Cinnamon sugar is easily put together if you have both ingredients on hand.  Use a shaker or simply your fingers to put a little on the top of each sugar cookie.

Bake the cookies at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes.  Every oven varies, so it may be wise to check your oven at 9 minutes.

I found that this sugar cookie recipe did best when baked for 10 minutes.  The cookies should be soft, and slightly browned, but not too dark or they’ll be on the crunchy side.

Allow the cookies to cool before eating with a tall, cold glass of milk or, my favorite beverage of choice, a hot cup of coffee.

All my best to you! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Me and My Sweets

Now and then, when I have time to sit and think (seriously, who has time for that??), I sometimes think on all of the reasons I am so very blessed by my hubby.  We met in college way back in 1986.  I dated his roommate for about a month, but during that entire time, Jeff and I were the ones sitting on the green talking for hours.  He and I seemed to "click" but I didn't think he liked me like that.  But, finally, one spring evening we figured out that we did like each other!  We were both out that night and ended up getting burritos at the Burrito Buggy and sitting in front of my dorm until nearly 4:30 guessed it...talking.  We talked about everything it seemed, but then we had been doing that as friends too.  We began dating in 1987 and dated throughout college. 

I'll make a very long story as short as possible.  I graduated a few months before Jeff, so I was working my first job a few days after my last class on campus.  We broke up just a few short months after that.  I literally thought  my heart was going to break in two, but I was the one who asked for the break up because I wasn't sure about marriage at all.  On the day Jeff and I saw each other for the last time (for a while), he told me he would always be "there" for me, if I ever needed him.  The Lord knew that I would...within about a year and a half... I would definitely need Jeff. 

I ended up getting engaged to a guy I dated for a short time in college during my freshman year.  It wasn't a good decision to say the least.  I was so miserable I called Jeff one night out of desperation.  I was ready to end my life...just couldn't figure out how to do it without causing myself physical pain.  Geez...yes, I know.   So, I picked up the phone and called Jeff.  He was actually home!  Now, you need to understand why that is so important.  After Jeff and I broke up, he was actively involved in his singles group at church.  He was studying God's Word every night for a few hours and didn't watch any television for two years.  He spent many evenings out with the group for Bible study or service projects, so the fact that on the night I called and needed to chat and he was home - this was no coincidence.  God is good!

We talked for a few hours that night.  I realized about halfway through the conversation that Jeff was somehow a really good way.  I thought I knew everything about this man, but couldn't put a finger on what was different about him since we had dated in college.  All I knew was that I wanted what he had in his life. 

Jeff came alongside me as a friend.  He spent so much time with me listening to my pain and my confusion about my life.  I was drinking heavily at that point several times a week.  I was caustic and very unhappy.  How Jeff put up with me...ugh.  He helped my parents move me out of my ex-fiancee's apartment and sat with me on the steps while I sobbed and wondered how my life had become so empty and meaningless.  I was a "good" girl and couldn't believe I had allowed myself to sink to this level.  Jeff never judged.  He sat with me and was quiet.  When I was finally ready to get into the car and drive home to my parents' house, he hugged me and promised we would stay in touch.  He told me he was praying for me

That was the summer of 1993.

I visited Jeff on weekends whenever possible and sometimes he would travel up to see me at Mom and Dad's.  He took me to church with him on the weekends I visited him.  I was certain that someone was going to hit me over the head with a Bible and know just by looking at me that I was no good and I didn't belong there.  But, no, instead, everyone I met was so kind and genuine and that really spoke to my heart. 

One night in Jeff's mom's house, we were sitting on the living room floor talking.  I expressed that I just didn't understand why he got out of bed in the morning.  Really, what was the point?  I was at probably the lowest point I could be, physically and emotionally and most certainly spiritually.  I still entertained thoughts of ending my life, but deep down I really didn't want to, you know? 

Jeff sat with me that evening and shared Christ with me.  He just calmly and slowly explained that Jesus had died for my sins and that He loved me and wanted to save me.  He walked me through the gospel step by step and answered every question I had.  I was sure that it was a trap or trick and I told him as much.  Every guy wanted something...and I was sure that Jesus wasn't any different.  But, Jeff assured me that Jesus Christ was different.  Salvation was a gift with no strings attached. 

I went to sleep that night after praying for Jesus to save me.  I desperately wanted to believe that the Lord loved me, despite how awful I had become.  I slept through the night in one spot that night.  That's significant to me because for many months, I had tossed and turned and had dreams that wouldn't allow me to sleep through the night.  That next morning when I woke up, I knew I was saved!  I knew it in my heart and my mind! 

Ok, I know that I said I would make it short...sorry!  Really though, this is the short version!

The rest of the story in very abbreviated terms:
·    I accepted Christ in November 1993
·    Jeff and I began dating in January 1994
·    We were engaged in June 1994
·    Married in January 1995

Jeff is my Sweets.  He is my best friend.  Jeff is an amazing husband and father.  The Lord gave us something precious when He gave Jeff the opportunity to lead me to Christ.  I am so thankful for that gift!  I am thankful for this man the Lord has lent to me for a time.  He is everything I've ever wanted and didn't know I needed. 

This photo was taken this past Sunday on Mother's Day.  I would love to post photos of us when we were in college and dating, but that would involve figuring out the scanner!  Maybe someday.

Do you have interesting memories of your dating relationship with your husband?  Testimonies?  I'd love to hear them! 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Homemade Blueberry Jam Recipe

It won't be long before jam-making season is upon us.  It's a busy time in our house, but a welcome one as we cook and can fresh fruit into jam that will line our pantry shelves with oh-so-fruity goodness.  I thought I'd share with you one of the jam recipes I use regularly.  It's from the Sure-Jell pectin insert and has worked well for me the last several years.

I'm surprised every year that we have enough blueberries to make jam because I find myself popping them into my mouth every chance I get!  They're so delicious fresh, but jam is the perfect way to savor that freshness throughout the cold months when summer seems far, far away.

  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, crushed - you'll need about 3 pints of fresh blueberries to yield 4 cups crushed
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 box store bought pectin or 1/3 cup bulk pectin
  • Canning jars with lids and bands
  • Water bath canner with rack and lid
  • Jar lifter
  • Funnel with wide mouth and insert
  • Large bowl
  • Potato masher
  • Measuring cup with a spout
  • 6-8 quart stockpot
  • Small saucepan with water
  • Stirring spoon
  • Pincers
  • Ladle
  • Clean dishtowel
  • Oven mitts
  • Apron - I always wear one because the berry juice stains
You’ll be processing your jam in a water bath canner, fill the canner with water to the top “line”, cover it with the lid, and place on the stove to begin heating.  Due to the amount of water that needs to be brought to a boil, this takes a bit of time and should be started first.  However, every stove varies, so keep an eye on the water so it doesn’t come to a boil for too long before you’re ready to process the jam.  It’s important that there is enough water to cover the jars as they process. 

Next, wash all of your jelly jars and bands either by hand or in the dishwasher.  I prefer the dishwasher because of the high heat that is generated, but if you don’t have a dishwasher, simply use hot soapy water to wash your jars.  Rinse thoroughly and either allow them to air dry or dry them by hand.

NOTE:  Don’t put your lids in the dishwasher because the heat will render them unusable (they won’t seal on the jars).  Once the jars are clean and dry, place them upright in a deep pan.

Once your jars are clean, dry, and in a deep pan, place them into your cold oven.  Next, turn your oven temperature to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  This way, the jars and the oven heat up at the same time at relatively the same rate.  Your jars will be sanitized by the time the blueberry jam is ready to be ladled into the hot jars.

While your jars are sanitizing in the oven, prepare your fresh blueberries.  Make sure you weed out any blueberries that may be "squishy".  Wash the blueberries and remove any stems.  Crush the blueberries in a large bowl using a potato masher.  Avoid using a food processor to crush your berries.  Jam is supposed to have bits and pieces of fruit in it.  If the berries are pureed, the jam just won't be the same.  However, if you feel you absolutely need to use a food processor, simply use the "pulse" option.  You'll need 4 cups of blueberries for one batch of jam.

Fill a small saucepan ½ full with water.  Bring the water to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a lower setting (like simmer) and place the lids (not the bands) into the water and cover. Allow the lids to sit in the hot water until you are ready to seal the jars.

Measure 4 cups of sugar into a large bowl.  Set aside.  You’ll be adding all of your sugar at once, so it needs to be ready before it’s time to add it to the boiling blueberry jam mixture.

Place your crushed blueberries into the large sauce pot.  Add the pectin.  Also add ½ teaspoon butter or margarine to help keep the mixture from foaming and boiling over during the boiling process.  This is a little trick my Momma shared with me and it really does work!  How do I know?  I've forgotten it sometimes and guess what happens?  

Bring the entire blueberry jam mixture to a full rolling boil.  A rolling boil means that the mixture continues to boil even when it is stirred.  Stir the mixture constantly for one full minute.As soon as the rolling boil is achieved and the mixture has boiled for one minute, pour the entire 4 cups of sugar into the sauce pot with the blueberries and pectin.

Return the mixture to a rolling boil and allow the mixture to remain at the rolling boil for one full minute.  Continue to stir so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the sauce pot.

After one full minute at a rolling boil, remove the blueberry jam mixture from the heat.  Using a large spoon, skim any foam from the top.

It's time to fill your jars with deliciously sweet blueberry jam.  Remove your heated jars from the oven using oven mitts.  It's important to fill and seal the jars as quickly as possible.

Insert the wide mouth funnel into the first jelly jar.  Using the ladle, fill the jar to 1/4 inch from the top of the jar mouth.  Wipe the jar rim and thread completely.  Cover the jar quickly with a flat lid, using the heated lids in the saucepan.  Screw the bands on tightly.

At this point, (hopefully), the water in the water bath canner is boiling nicely.  Lower the jars of jam into the water carefully using a jar lifter.  Once the water bath canner is full, process the blueberry jam for 15 minutes.   
*I am hoping to take photos of the jam in the water bath canner the next time I make jam and get them posted later in the summer.

After 15 minutes, remove the jam from the water bath canner using the jar lifter and place them onto a cooling rack.  The jars and jam inside will slowly cool.  As this happens, you should hear "popping" noises.  This is the wonderful sound of the lids sealing the jam jars properly.  If for some reason a lid doesn't seal, put that jar into the refrigerator to use right away.  Opened jams can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Let your blueberry jam stand at room temperature for roughly 24 hours.  Sealed jams should be stored in a dark and dry place away from direct sunlight.  They can be stored for up to one year.  It’s handy to save the boxes that the jars come in so you can put the blueberry jam back into the box, effectively keeping sunlight from it while it’s on the shelf.  Label the box so you know at a glance what jam is in each box.

Now you know how to make blueberry jam in the comfort of your own kitchen!  There is a deep sense of satisfaction after making jam for the first time.  It really doesn't take that much time to make a batch, but you'll reap the benefits for months to come.  Now that you know how to make blueberry jam, you’ll be able to make strawberry jam, raspberry jam, and many others, with only slight differences between each.

I'll be posting recipes for the other jams too, so feel free to stop back soon!

Give jars of homemade jam to friends and family members as gifts.  A jar of jam along with a homemade loaf of bread or cake is a sweet and thoughtful gift at any time of the year.

One important note:
As tempting as it may be, do NOT double jam recipes.  The fruit mixture may set up correctly.  Simply do one batch after another.

I'm linking to Trash to Treasure Follow Friday Roll Call.

Won't you stop by and see her beautiful, informative and fun blog?  Thanks!

All my best to you,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So much to write little time!

I don't know about the rest of you, but since I started writing this blog, I seem to have blog topics running through my head constantly.  Ideally, it would be great to sit down right then and get my thoughts all out on "paper".  But, life gets in the way and as a result, I have posted notes and lists to myself in at least three rooms of the house in an effort to remind myself that I had a thought and wanted to write about it.  Does anyone else do this?

As a teenager, I journaled about everything - friends, boyfriend, parents, clothes, band, choir, speech team, people who had treated me horribly that day, feelings, get the picture.  When I look back on those pages, I see glimpses of the writer I was struggling to become even then (and didn't know it).  Even in college I continued to write in my journal, but after I graduated and got my first job, I quit writing in my journal and seemed to drop all that was important to me to chase after empty pursuits.  Sad, but true.  Although, the lessons I learned during those few years are still etched in my brain and heart, so perhaps it was better I didn't journal about them.

Ok, fast forward to roughly present day.  About 2 1/2 years ago, I began ghostwriting and fell in love with writing all over again.  Who thought I'd ever actually tackle a blog?  Not me!  But, I find that the thoughts going through my mind are ones I want to share (well, most of them) and ones I would pray would encourage and inspire others.  Isn't that what all writers desire to do?  Words - the written ones and the spoken ones - have been a blessing to me in my life for years now.

Just yesterday, a dear friend of mine called me and we were able to catch up a bit.  Cathy and I have been friends since 7th grade!  She is an absolutely amazing lady who loves the Lord and her family.  I am blessed more than I can express by her friendship.  She has this amazing laugh that makes me want to laugh.  She has broken into spontaneous prayer with me when she feels the Holy Spirit leading her to pray for me.  I am humbled and blessed by her!  As kids, we would write to each other over the summer because we didn't see each other that much during those months.  I'm talking epistles!  Not just a short, "hi, how are you?", but pages and pages about this, that, and the other thing, but mostly about our boyfriends and how life was going at the time.  Cathy's letters in the mailbox were like getting a gift!  I loved seeing her beautiful handwriting on the envelope.  Those letters helped us stay connected.  Words - a blessing to me and a "language" I understand with all my heart.

The Lord is so good to me!  He sent to me a husband who loves to me.  I love that.  We talk, talk and talk some more.  Not everyday, not all the time, but we share our hearts as often as possible.  He "gets" me like no one else and I believe it's because he is willing to listen to me with not only his ears, but with his heart as well.  My Jeff is my very best friend.  He is my confidant and so much more.  Thank you Lord!

Words, both written and spoken, have been a blessing to me.  Yes, they can be hurtful too, but I prefer to focus on the good, at least for today.

Do you as a writer have difficulty getting all of your thoughts down on paper?

Are there times you find that are better for writing than other times?  Morning, evening, afternoon, etc.

Do you use paper and pen or the computer for even the drafts?

Can you remember a time when the thoughts were flowing and you actually had the time to write and then felt fabulous afterward?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!  I am not sure yet how to do a link party, but until then, I'd love to hear your comments.

All my best to you today,