Monday, July 10, 2017

Make delicious juice: It will taste grape!

Our concord grapes are ripe, and we have a bumper crop this year. So it is time to make juice and jelly.  I have a steamer that makes concentrated juice and is very easy to use. It is perfect for making jelly, but unfortunately, we don't really like the way the juice tastes. So this year, I have gone back to the tried and true recipe that my mother used while we were growing up. I have modified it a little to make it stronger and less sugary, and it is a hit. If you would like to give it a try. . . .

you will need sugar, measuring cups, a quart-sized canner, a second large pot, a canning funnel, a jar lifter, clean quart jars, lids and rings:

(funnel and jar lifter)

Pick and wash grapes thoroughly. Mine come in with lots of friendly bugs and spiders. It definitely makes the process more interesting:

Remove from stems:

Fill your canner about half full and turn on the heat so that the water can begin to warm up. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using the canning funnel to help you get the grapes easily into the jar, measure 1 1/2 cups prepared grapes into seven clean quart jars. (I run them through the dishwasher before I make the juice.) Add a scant 1/3 c. sugar. Carefully add boiling water to the jars leaving 1/2" at the top of the jars. Wipe off the jar rims with a clean cloth. Put on lids and screw on rings. Using your jar lifter, carefully put the jars into the canner. Add enough hot water to completely cover the jars.

Bring the canner water to a boil. Process (boil) the jars for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the jars and allow to cool. Using a sharpie, mark the lids with the date.

96 quarts later. . .

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Preschool Alphabet Letter Crafts

I'm feeling a little melancholy about wrapping up our preschool year. This makes no sense, since we plan to keep preschool going through the summer. Yet we've run out of letters, so the alphabet theme has to make way for something else.

I felt a little guilty, too, when I heard both my sisters made little books out of the alphabet letter crafts their children created. You know what I mean, right? For those preschools who work their theme of the week around a letter, part of the routine is to create a craft that incorporates the letter and a picture of something that starts with that letter. So my sweet nieces and nephews get to open up a binder and turn through 26 pages of their paper crafts.

Yet I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Or at least skimmed it. A thorough skim. So rather than keep my sweet SourPatch's pictures, I took a picture! And threw it in the trash.

I love them, though (possibly because I picked half of them?) So here's SourPatch's Digital Preschool Alphabet Book. My disclaimer is that some (most) of these were inspired elsewhere on the internet! For those ideas I used from other sites, please look at the preschool page for that specific letter where I have linked back to the original idea. If that letter's page doesn't exist, it means I haven't done it yet OR it wasn't my letter week, in which case you'll have to ask my talented other half where she got the artwork idea. Also, occasionally it was too difficult to limit ourselves to one alphabet craft... so there are a few doubles. Now, without further ado:

SourPatch's Digital Preschool Alphabet Book.

So proud of my little man and his creations. Here's to a happy summer full of more!

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Sweet Serendipity

The subject for this post is, admittedly, a break from tradition. But it has made me so happy--has made our entire household so happy--that I have to share it.

Several weeks ago, a pair of mourning doves took up residence on our back porch and began building a nest in the clothes pin basket that sits on the top shelf of my potting hutch. When it became apparent what they were up to, we were all a little concerned. The back porch gets a lot of traffic. Along with the potting shelf, it houses the sand table, my work bench, several planters, a sitting area, outdoor toy storage, the grill, strollers, and the hammock. And these parents were, naturally, skittish.

However, they were also determined. They built their nest, mom laid her eggs, and they settled in:

To become a little more knowledgeable about our new guests, we did a little research on mourning doves. Both parents are involved in the nest building, the egg-sitting, and the parenting. The female typically lays two eggs (yup) which incubate for about two weeks.

We quickly became attached to this little family and tried to keep our backyard noise to a minimum. However, one of the parents was definitely more jittery than the other and flew off the nest whenever we opened the back door. We had an ongoing debate about which was the braver of the pair. The men in the family were certain that it was the dad, of course. The women felt that the mother instinct kept the female on the nest despite our distractions. Since the males and females are almost indistinquishable, we will probably never know. We are just grateful that despite our disruptions, the eggs survived.

Although we couldn't see them, we realized they had hatched when we looked out the window one morning and saw the mom/dad doing a little quivering dance in the nest. Our theory is that it was internally mashing up the seeds it had eaten and was creating seed milk for the babies.

Here they are at about 10 days old. For the first week, the parents kept them well hidden, but now they are big enough that their heads pop out from under the parental wings. And, if Google is correct, they will attempt to leave the nest in about four more days. We see them occasionally, when their parents leave, tentatively sit up and peer over the side. They are clearly getting ready to experience life outside the clothespin basket.

We will miss them.