Monday, September 28, 2015

Easy Homemade Plum Jam

I love homemade jam. It's sweet, but not too sweet, super fruity, and tangy.

I hate homemade jam. Every recipe I ever see involves special canning equipment that I don't own and sterilization of that equipment. Sounds like too much work!

When I saw a recipe for jam that claimed to take only twenty minutes and used no special equipment, I had to try it. So I rounded up some 99 cent per pound California plums, boiled them down with lots of sugar, took a bite, and was so satisfied. Sweet, tangy, brilliant purplish-red plum jam had arrived in my home and it took less than half an hour.

Even though the Google homepage told me it was the first day of fall just a few days ago, summer fruits are still available in Southern California grocery stores, so go buy yourself a few pounds of California plums and make some jam. The recipe yields about five cups, so you theoretically should be able to enjoy it for a while, unless you gobble it all up right away like we did! Here's the recipe...

Easy Homemade Plum Jam (similar to and inspired by the recipe found in the Sept 2015 issue of Martha Stewart Living)

1. Wash and remove pits from three pounds of ripe plums. Leave skin on to get a tart flavor, red color, and piecey texture to your jam. Chop into 1 inch chunks.
2. In a large pot, stir fruit with 1.5 pounds of sugar. Bring to a boil. (Trust me, even though there's no liquid in the pot, there will be soon and it will boil.) Add two tablespoons of lemon or lime juice.
3. Stir the pot while it boils until the mixture becomes very viscous. About ten minutes. The bubbles will slow and the mixture will fall of your spoon in clumps. (My plums weren't very ripe, so I also took an immersion blender to the mixture at this point to break it all up.)
4. That's it, that's jam! Now pour it into containers leaving a little bit of space to allow for it to expand while freezing. It can be refrigerated for a month or stored in the freezer for about a year. I recommend eating it on crackers with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Yum!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thailand - A Timeline

If you observed our lives from afar, it would appear that we decided to move to Thailand a few months ago and... zip, zap, zoop... here we are well on our way to moving across the Pacific Ocean.

This perspective is entirely incorrect. Below is a bare bones outline of the years we have spent planning this big move. It's still way oversimplified, but it gives you an idea of the time and intentionality it is taking to move our family to another country.

1980s I am born to missionary parents. Nature? Nurture? I don't know what to blame it on, but I grow up loving missions and anything cross-cultural.

2007 I find myself head over heels for a young man who has never really thought about those things. Me, "Hey love, I need to know: Are you open to doing missions someday? Because if not, we need to talk."
Michael thinks for a couple of days.
"Yes, I am open."
Me, "Ok, great."
(Fun fact: around this time, Michael was really into puns and I hated puns. Now, eight years later, I almost titled this post "Thaimline." I still hate puns. I just now join in creating those hideous things.)

2009 We tie the knot.

January 2012 Vacation to Thailand to visit Michael's mom's family and to do the touristy thing.

January 2013 I am seven months pregnant and Michael goes out of town for a couple of weeks to attend a missions conference with his students. I feel a little bored/unsettled with life and I ask God, "Shake things up. DO something." Michael calls me from St. Louis, "Hey love, wouldn't it be awesome to transplant our family to Thailand?" I hadn't thought much about missions for a few years and I feel a little unsure, but the underlying desire is still there and I respond, "Yes."

February 2013 Grace is born. We are slammed with unfathomable amounts of exhaustion and joy. Thailand, hold on a minute.

June 2013 We think, pray, talk to a few trusted people and decide, yes, we want to pursue this Thailand thing. And begin researching and networking to figure out what we might possibly do.

June 2014 Trip to Bangkok to check out some awesome potential orgs to partner with.

July 2014 I quit working a normal job so I can focus on home, kids, and getting us to Thailand.

September 2014 Hello, baby Cora!

December 2014/January 2015 Acceptance into our missions organization, begin fundraising.

Summer 2015 Michael's work with Intervarsity ends and we begin full time employment with our missions organization. We attend a training in Colorado.

September 2015 Fully funded.

Fall/Winter 2015 Get rid of lots of stuff, complete required readings, last visits with family and friends.

January 2016 Adventure begins.

There you have it. By my calculations we've been working on getting our family to Thailand for almost three years.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Cora - One Year Old

Our little Cora turned one this week. She is very quickly exiting the baby phase and entering the toddler phase. She's talking lots, taking a few solo steps, nursing less and less, sleeping through the night, and occasionally throwing tantrums. It's awesome to watch her grow up, uncovering who she is.

Here are a few things that I absolutely love about Cora these days.

The way she finally, consistently sleeps all the way through the night. 8pm to 7am. Though, I think there's still a 50/50 chance that she'll revert to waking up pre-6am again. We'll see.

Her love of the outdoors -- trees, birds, sky, wind.

The way she makes a beeline for me or Michael, crawling as fast as she can when she hasn't seen us for a while.

The way she'll occasionally take a couple of solo steps without even realizing she's doing it. Then, we'll try to get her to do it again and she refuses.

The way Cora holds a plum in both hands as if she is gripping a basketball and then chews it, sucks it, and shreds off the skin with gusto.

The way she goes down for naps and bedtime with lots of snuggling and no crying... finally.

How tiny she is. She still fits into her six month clothing.

How expressive her face it. When Cora begins to be upset, you can see her emotions spiral down. Trembling chin, pouty lip, furrowed brow, then two big tears. Or when she sees someone she likes, she makes a perfect flirty face, big eyes, coy smile, and all.

Her talking. She says little words all day long and many days surprises us with a new one.

Her dancing and instrument playing. She loves swaying and bouncing to music. She loves hitting drums, shaking shakers, and blowing into flutes.

Her hugs. When I'm holding her, all I have to say is, "Can I have a hug?" and she tucks her head into me and wraps her little arms as far as she can around me.


And so ends the first year of Cora's life. When each of my daughters was born, I wrote about them every couple of months in this space. An online baby book I suppose. Now that she's one, I'll write about her less frequently (as I do with Grace) and just enjoy and go slightly crazy having two toddlers in the house.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Six Things I Learned This Summer

How to make cheese. In Thailand, cheese is nonexistent or super expensive. Since we will soon be living there and since I already know how to make yogurt (the first step in cheesemaking), I've been wanting to learn how to make cheese. In July, my brother, who is probably the best cook I know, taught me how to make queso fresco. Now, I've just got to try making it once or twice on my own.

How to shoot a gun. My brother-in-law is a little bit hick (love you, Jason!), so this summer, when he offered to teach me how to shoot, I jumped at the chance. Jason, a few other family members, and I all went into the woods in Colorado and shot clay pigeons. I nailed a few which made me feel proud. But, then again, most were only about 15 feet away.

The origins of see-saw. Just a board across a gate. Brilliant. (The image below comes from Over the Hills and Far Away" a collection of nursery rhymes from around the world illustrated by dozens of the best children's illustrators of our day. It's one of the most beautiful children's books I've ever seen.)

I love watercolor paintings. When I see something like this painting or this blog header, I feel inspired.

The potty-train-your-kid-in-one-weekend method does not work for my toddler. Grace needs lots of time and lots of space to process any sort of transition, so what made me think she'd transition from diapers to undies in one weekend? Potty training involved one false start, lots of patience from me, and lots of unpleasant odors on our carpet. But, she's now rocking it.

My husband always teases me for being such an independent woman. And, he's right, I am. But, when it comes to anything techie/geeky/nerdy, Michael is the knight in shining armor rescuing this damsel in distress.

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