Things just never slow down around here for very long. Last week was a busy one.
The kids and I went peach and apricot picking at a local U-pick early Thursday morning. We had a storm the night before, so the temperature was actually pleasant and not infernal. The peaches were for eating fresh, the apricots for making jelly.
On Friday morning, one of my produce peeps told me about a local produce store that was selling 8-lb flats of organic strawberries for $6 each. Typically, these flats sell for $24-32. I ended up buying a total of 6 flats (48 lbs) for our family, and decided to make jam out of a couple of the flats. The rest were eaten fresh, or washed, hulled, and frozen for smoothies and ice cream.
Solomon's piano teacher, a friend of mine, also bought strawberries, and came and joined me for making them into jam. It was fun, and took us several hours. After she left, I finished making all my own jam. However, for some reason, neither her nor my jam "set". It just stayed liquid, even after it was all cool. Having successfully canned hundreds of jars of jam in my life, this baffled me.
I remade one batch of my jam according to the directions, and again, it did not set. This was beginning to frustrate me, as I did not want to waste all the time and money that had gone into the project so far. It dawned on me that I had always used a different brand of pectin (Ball), and that maybe the brand we used this time around (SureJel) was of poorer quality, since it neither worked the first time, nor the second time around.
After searching high and low for Ball brand pectin, and finding none, I tried using Pomona's Pectin instead. Sure enough, the jam came out perfect. This was a relief, but as I am typing this, I have yet to remake and can 5 more batches of jam in the next couple of days, in addition to canning the apricot jelly now that the apricots have ripened enough to be processed.
Saturday afternoon was our church's annual Mother Daughter Tea Party at a local tea house. As always, the girls enjoyed themselves. It is such a blessing to have three daughters to go out to tea with!!! :)
By the time I arrived home, we had company (relatives of my husband, including 4 of our kids' cousins) which made for a fun evening. They all went swimming while I made cheeseburgers for dinner.
Mother's Day was really nothing extra special, which is simply due to the fact the family is very sweet to me every day. The kids often buy me flowers or candy, write love notes and draw pictures daily, and are generally very loving. For breakfast, I was served in bed and showered in cards. Miriam and her Daddy picked up chocolate cake for all of us to have as a dessert after lunch.
Today, I finally caved in and bought a commercial upright freezer on craigslist for a total steal. We already have two fridges (one side-by-side, one with the freezer on top), but with all the deals I have been getting on produce, all my freezer space was forever filled to the brim, and then some. Just last week, I got a box of "ripe" organic bananas for $4. Some of the peels were starting to turn brown on the outside, but there were no soft/brown spots on any of the bananas inside the skins. One night, I peeled all 128 bananas (which would have cost $40 or more at the store) and froze them for smoothies, baking, and ice cream. Did you know that you can make fantastic, healthy ice-cream in about 20 seconds with a high-power blender like the Vitamix??? We are SO hooked. I just blend up a bit of cream or milk, honey, and bananas and/or strawberries. I can see us burning through the abundance of strawberries and bananas in a matter of a couple of weeks.
All those jars in the door of the freezer are filled with fresh juice (orange, blood orange, and lemon), as well some homemade salsa We don't drink pasteurized juice, so this supply has to last us until the next citrus harvest starts in December.
Between the three freezers, I was able to really organize all their contents. One freezer holds all of our meat (except for what didn't fit, and had to go in the bottom of this freezer). Because we buy beef, pork, and chicken locally from organic ranchers, we have to buy them in large quantities (1/4 to 1/2 animal at a time). This new freezer is a sort of "pantry" for unopened bags of fruits, veggies, and breads. The third freezer is where I keep all the open stuff I use daily.
Plus, with the birth of baby #7 on the horizon, I really need to precook breakfasts and dinners, and stash them in the freezer. That really was very helpful last time around. Somebody is bound to ask, so I will just say that yes, the freezer came with a built-in lock, and I gave the kids a big speech about never opening the freezer unless they are specifically told to do so.
In totally unrelated news, everything is going well on the pregnancy front. My only "complaint" is that the nausea still rears its ugly head almost daily. My main triggers are heat, and lack of sleep. The heat is something that can not easily be avoided in Phoenix this time of year. I am thankful for the new windows my husband installed this spring, as they have helped keep the house much cooler. Sleep is a lost cause this time of year, what with the sun coming up around 5 am. The kids, eager to tumble out of bed and finish the last few weeks of school work, have been waking me up bright and early every day.
On that note, I better hurry off for some much-needed rest.
Have a great week, everyone.