Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Little Sunshine

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I admit it. When I see the first shipment of blood oranges piled high in the produce section at my local co-op, I go a little crazy. I can’t resist the rosy hue of the thin skin, the way these little gems fit perfectly into the palm of my hand, and of course, the tart-sweet, ruby-red flesh that stains the wood of my cutting board when I slice one open. So I load nearly a dozen into my cart and wonder if I have enough. Last year I ate them all, with a little help from my 10-year-old, who loves them too. I had gone back for more, with plans to make the best, most beautiful marmalade, but by then they were gone. So this plan has been simmering ever since.

Sunday morning I hauled the huge canner, various canning tools, jelly jars and lids up from the basement, with plans to make a day of it. It is an ordeal, and in my small 1920s-era kitchen, things get a little claustrophobic, but it is so worth it. In fact, once you’ve made your own, it’s really hard to go back to store-bought jams. Which is why I’m making Blood Orange Marmalade, Spiced Blueberry Jam, and Cran-Raspberry Jam in the middle of winter. I think of it as a way to enjoy a little summer sunshine during the dreary days of January.

If you’ve never made your own jam, I highly recommend trying it at least once. Raspberry jam (see recipe below) is a great place to start. The berries are loaded with natural pectin, so it’s simply a matter of adding sugar, simmering, and spooning into jars. We go through it so quickly that I make small batches and just store the jars in the fridge. For the blueberry jam and orange marmalade I do add Pomona’s Universal Pectin. I’ve found that the blueberry jam will not gel without it. The orange marmalade is a different story. There’s plenty of pectin in the peels, but you need to allow time to let the peels steep overnight. One of these days I’ll try that. Until then, though, these are the recipes that have yielded great results for me. Enjoy!

Blood Orange Marmalade

I love this! It’s tart, with just the right amount of sweetness. Best of all, it’s the color of the most amazing summer sunset, complete with tiny flecks of red.

6 blood oranges

2 navel oranges

1 grapefruit

3 tbsp lemon juice

3 tsp calcium water (see directions in Pomona’s Pectin)

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 1/2 tsp Pomona’s Universal Pectin

Use a vegetable peel to zest two blood oranges and two navel oranges. Do your best to remove all of the white pith from the back of the peel. Chop zest into thin strips, 1/2 inch long. Slice the peel from all of the fruits and remove all seeds. Remove the membrane from each grapefruit section. Slice citrus and place in a heavy saucepan. Add zest, lemon juice, and calcium water. In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar with pectin powder. Bring fruit to boil, then add sugar, stirring thoroughly with a wire whisk for 1-2 minutes. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Spoon into clean, sterilized jars and process in a canner for 10 minutes. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and eat within one month.


Basic Raspberry Jam

I was spoiled this summer by a constant supply of raspberries from my community garden plot. I used some in smoothies, made a few crisps and pies, but by far my favorite way to savor these beauties in a quick and easy jam. Here’s my favorite recipe, from Food to Live By.

8 cups fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar

In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries and sugar and warm to a simmer over medium-high heat. Adjust burner to low and cook for 45 minutes, or until the jam has thickened. Keep in mind that it will thicken more as it cools. Spoon into clean jars and process or refrigerate. 


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Cran-Raspberry Jam
I’m a huge fan of homemade cranberry sauce, so after making three batches between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided to improvise a jam to spread on toast or crunchy, buttered French bread. Here’s what I came up with.

1 16 oz bag fresh cranberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tsp. grated orange zest

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Add all ingredients to a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. Spoon into clean jars and add lids. Process for 10 minutes or refrigerate and enjoy within 1 month.

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Spiced Blueberry Jam

For the past five summers, we’ve spent a week at a family friend’s cabin in the Canadian wilderness, right smack dab in the middle of blueberry heaven. This is the perfect way to enjoy the sweet berries all year long. This weekend I used frozen berries, as I didn’t get around to making jam in the late August heat.

4 cups fresh blueberries, mashed

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 tsp. apple pie spice

2 tsp. Calcium water (see directions in Pomona’s Pectin)

1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar

3 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin

In a heavy saucepan, combine berries, lemon juice, apple pie spice, and calcium water. Mash berries and heat to boil. In the meantime, combine sugar and powdered pectin in a mixing bowl. When fruit mixture comes to a boil, add sugar, mixing vigorously with a whisk for 1-2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Return to boil before removing from heat. Spoon into clean jars, seal and process for 10 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 month.



My non-resolutions for 2015

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I’m not usually one to set New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s a fear of failure. Or of getting started. Or the fact that resolutions always seem to be about losing weight or going to the gym, which seems so boring to me. Or maybe it’s just that I resist the idea that there should be a single day of the year devoted to self reflection and goal setting. It seems to me that looking up and giving thought to where we’re headed should be something we do more than just once a year.

So instead of setting a single resolution, I’ve come up with a list of ten “guiding principles” for the year ahead, all based on my experiences (and a few regrets) in 2014.

1. Always make time for family. I know this should be pretty obvious, but it’s not always easy for me. With my work-at-home schedule, sometimes the boundaries between personal time and work time become blurred. When I’m on deadline, I begin to think of weekends and evenings as “extra” time to catch up on work-related projects. This means less time spent playing games with my boys, cuddling up to watch movies, going to a museum, or getting out for a family bike ride or cross-country ski. This year I pledge to include more family time in the busiest of weekends.

2. Always make time for friends. For the past couple of years, I’ve gotten in the habit of meeting a group of girlfriends for dinner and drinks once a month. I’m always grateful to have had this time to reconnect, celebrate birthdays, encourage each other, and sometimes commiserate with an amazing group of inspiring women. But when my schedule is full, I begin to fret and whine that “I don’t have time.” But I do. And I for the sake of my sanity (remember, I spend my days in my basement office, in front of my computer screen), I need to make sure I see these fun friends regularly…meaning at least once a month in 2015.

3. Sometimes it’s better to just say “no.” I don’t do this often enough. There were several instances this year where I should have said no to a work project or volunteer commitment that didn’t quite mesh with my interests or my too-busy workload. Saying no gives me some breathing room and allows time to pursue projects or activities that may be a better fit for me.

4. Purge! My sister-in-law told me that her resolution in 2013 (a good one!) was to haul one bag of stuff to Goodwill each month…or maybe it was each week? I forget, but I’m so on board with this! For the month of January, I’ll start with the Christmas decorations in that box we’ve not even opened in the past several years. Can’t wait!

5. Finish where you left off. For the month of October, I did something creative each day. Sometimes I started a new project, but there were plenty of existing projects that I picked up and finally finished. In the knitting world, these are called UFOs (Unfinished Objects), and I’m making a point of finding closure on a few of these projects before moving on (and yes, this includes many of the projects started in October!).

6. Schedule one family outing each week. Now that the boys are old enough to entertain themselves, I’ve kind of forgotten the importance of getting them out of the house on the weekends. When they were younger, it was a necessity–a change in scenery made all the difference in everyone’s mood. Now that they can quietly retreat to a corner with the iPad (where I admittedly forget about them!), we don’t get out as much. And I miss it.

7. Focus on what you did instead of what you didn’t do. I admit it…I’m kind of a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl. I can completely clean the house in one day and then feel disappointed because I didn’t also get around to doing the laundry or patching the hole in a pair of Will’s jeans. I’ll be making an effort to turn this around in 2015. And I’m adding things like “sprawled on the couch and watched a movie with the boys” to my task lists. (See numbers 1 and 6 above.)

8. Remember to look up. On the drive home from holiday festivities this past weekend, Brian and I both caught a glimpse of a shooting star as it blazed across the nighttime sky. We were struck by how brilliant it was, and this feeling of being in the moment stayed with us for the next few minutes. But looking up doesn’t always have to be this literal. For me, looking up often means taking my focus off my work to really listen to my 8- or 10-year-old as he gives me a play-by-play of his day. And then take the time to talk about it. I always say that I’m dreading the day my boys turn into teenagers and stop talking. But they are talking now, and I need to remember listen.

9. Do something outside everyday. This is one goal that comes easily in the summer months but takes real effort when the temperature plunges below 5 degrees. But I’ve found that it makes a huge difference in my peace of mind. If getting out means a 20 minute walk with the dog, so be it. Make it happen.

10. Think you can’t? Think again. My husband, Brian makes a point of trying something new every so often to shake things up a bit. When the boys were spending hours in our alley learning to ride bikes, he learned to ride a unicycle. The following year he began to take mandolin lessons, an instrument he’d always wanted to play. This past August, I finally followed through on my on-again-off-again desire to complete a triathlon, which meant I had to conquer my fear of swimming. What a sense of accomplishment! I think I need to do this more often. Piano lessons? Learning to skate ski? Stay tuned.