Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jam Season

I love summer! All the fresh veggies from the garden and fresh fruits. Yum!!

Every year my mom and I make a couple batches of jam together. Usually we make a peach or apricot batch and a batch of strawberry. This year, I got my own canner ($10 at a yard sale!) so I have been making some different flavors than usual.

I started out with blueberry jam. Mom and I went to a U-Pick farm and picked a total of 16 1/2 pounds of blueberries in less than an hour (that's right, we would have made great migrant workers).

Here is the NO-SUGAR Recipe I used for blueberry jam

Aproximately 3 1/2 pounds of blueberries (mashed to make 7 cups of fruit)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 Tablespoons No Sugar/Low Sugar Pectin
3 cups 100% fruit juice (I used Very Cherre Tart Cherry Blueberry)

Mash the blueberries in a large pan (I used a 6 quart one), mix in the lemon juice and pectin and stir til it boils over medium heat.
*While it is heating, get your jars (my batch made about 9 cups of jam), lids and rings ready. Jars should be clean and dry. Lids and rings must be boiled in separate pans to sanitize them. Also, fill your canner half full of water and get it heating up too.
~Add 3 cups of fruit juice and stir again until a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute (stiring constantly) and then remove from heat. Skim off any foam that has formed on top (using a metal spoon) and set aside to eat later.
~Pour jam into jars one or two at a time. Use a towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean (in case you dripped any jam on them), then place the lid on top and screw a ring on tightly. Place the jars into the canner as soon as they have a ring screwed on.
~One you have filled all your jars, fill the canner full of water til it is 2 inches above the top of the tallest jar (or as full as you can). Bring the water in the canner to a boil, boil it for 10 minutes, and then carefully remove the jars to a towel on the counter. Let them cool 12-24 hours so they can seal good. If any don't seal, just toss them in the fridge and eat them first.

Xander wasn't too sure about the taste

Gabriella gobbled hers down on some freshly made GF bread!

Next was NO SUGAR Raspberry Jam
This jam is prepared and cooked the same way as the blueberry jam is. 

6 1/2 cups crushed raspberries (half a flat before mashing)
3 cups 100% Juice (I used Old Orchard Apple Raspberry)

Here is the way that I have everything getting heated up at the same time. Rings and lids go in small sauce pans. Canner and jam go on the bigger burners.

It made about 9 cups of jam

The raspberry jam turned out on the runnier side and  is pretty tart (which raspberries are generally). But it was still amazing!

We ate some that same night served over some GF Blintzes I whipped up with Matt's sister and her daughter.

Strawberry Kiwi NO SUGAR Jam

This jam is also cooked and canned the same way the blueberry is. 

3 cups peeled and mashed kiwis (about 12)
3 1/2 cups mashed strawberries
3 cups 100% Juice (I used Old Orchard Apple Kiwi Strawberry)

The strawberry kiwi I think is my favorite so far. It has a sweet start to it and then a tart aftertaste. But both flavors of strawberry and kiwi ring through. So delicious!

Here is our dish of foam we skimmed off the strawberry kiwi jam and the little bit of extra that was left after all the jars were filled. 

We've been sneaking it straight out of the bowl!

Jam making is super fun and super easy to do. Making sure you have everything ready and set up before the jam boils is the most important thing. 

Usually I make the jam at my mom's house (since I didn't have a canner) so she always helped me by putting the lids and rings on the jars while I filled them so we got them in the hot water bath faster. But I did it by myself and it was just fine. 

I love how well the No Sugar pectin works and how now we have 100% fruit jam for less than $1 per jar. Score! 

If you come up with any good homemade jam recipes or have any questions about making your own jam, let me know!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Xander's Half Birthday & Medical Update

Xander turned 6 months old on June 29th and we celebrated his half birthday just like we do with Gabriella. As tradition calls for, he got to have his first donut!

Here he is playing with the chocolate frosting on the donut right after daddy handed it to him.

A video of him eating (or trying to absorb it)

And all done, right before we headed to the bath!

He had his 6 month check-up on Friday, July 6th. 
He weighs 20 pounds 11.5 ounces (90th%), his head is 90th% and he is 27 inches tall (75th%)
He's ahead of the curve physically (already up on all fours and trying to crawl, trying to pull himself up on things and working on feeding himself). But is not "talking" yet. He growls and squeals (quite shrilly) but no words formed yet. His doctor isn't too worried about that. 

His tracheomalacia seems to be doing better as long as he stays healthy (no colds or coughs) and doesn't try to breathe in any bath water again. He still wheezes (on the inhale and exhale now) but only when he is sleeping or falling asleep and not every time he nurses anymore. 

He loves the fact that he can sit up by himself now and he likes to play in the tub and bat at the water. We take at least two baths a day, usually after he eats. He likes to suck on his thumb in between bites so it manages to get all over him quite quickly. 

In this picture you can see a small ridge on his forehead. It starts on his forehead and goes up into his hair and about two inches into his hairline. I noticed it a couple weeks ago and thought it was from him bonking his head on the floor from falling over while sitting up. But then it never went away so I pointed it out to his doctor at his check-up. 

She felt around his head and was concerned that he may have craniosynostosis, a birth defect that causes the bones in his head to fuse together prematurely and cause a ridge-line. (see Mayo Clinic for more info)

So, now we have to go to Portland in the next couple weeks (I will be getting a call with our appointment next week) to get it checked by a neurosurgeon to see if he needs surgery to fix it. If he does need surgery it would be because his head will be unable to grow properly which will in turn cause a misshapen head, face and brain (which will affect his development, etc.)

I have been getting overwhelmed easily lately and we had thought we were out of the woods with him on medical issues since his tracheomalacia and laryngomalacia weren't getting any worse. When I heard about what his head problem was I had a meltdown. Praise God for a supportive hubby who called my mom (after I called him crying) and she had me come out to her house. She watched both kids for me so I could go in the other room and take a nap by myself and try to relax. 

After having a few days to process this and look into treatment and how surgery would be done if needed (pulling back his skin and un-fusing the bones and correcting any bone problems underlying. Its quite graphic and burly to look at pictures) I felt better. I like to be informed about things. Knowing what we are up against makes me feel calmer about things. 

We are believing that God has what is best for Xander in mind. We know that he is a miracle baby, born from a woman who was physically diagnosed as infertile, and born during a time in our lives that was full of turmoil. He had had numerous prophecies about his HUGE future and the MEGA impact he will have on the world for Jesus. He is our treasure, and we cannot imagine loving him more. But at the same time we know that God loves him even more than we ever could. 

So we are praying and believing that his skull bones will be healed by God and that no surgery would be needed. That his little head would always be as perfect as he is! Thank you for joining us in believing this miracle!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Do You Dream of Me

~Michael W. Smith

Dreams within the still of night
On wings of hope take flight inside of me. 
There, upon some distant shore, 
I want for nothing more than what will be. 
And you and I, here we are;
I wonder as we've come this far....

If I could only read your mind, 
Tell me the answer I would find
Do you dream of me?
And when you're smiling in your sleep, 
Beyond the promises we keep,
Do you dream of me?

Love has found a magic space
A deep and hidden place where time stands still.
Now I hold you in my arms, 
You know you hold my heart and always will. 

And you and I, here we are;
I wonder as we've come this far....

And after all that we've been through
You've leaned on me and I've leaned on you,
Do you dream of me?
And when you're smiling in your sleep, 
Beyond the promises we keep,
Do you dream of me?

If I could only read your mind, 
Tell me the answer I would find
Do you dream of me?
And when you're smiling in your sleep, 
Beyond the promises we keep,
Do you dream of me?

And after all that we've been through
You've leaned on me and I've leaned on you,
Do you dream of me?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Me and the Kiddos

Matt and I were looking at Xander tonight and decided to get my photo album out from when I was a baby and see if he looked much like me.

Here's Xander at 5 months

Me at 6 1/2 months
(yes, I know I was a little pudge-muffin!)

And here I am at 2 years old
(with my first set of ponytails!)

And Gabriella at 2 1/4 years

Monday, July 2, 2012

June Freebie and Coupon Wrap Up

June was a great month for couponing! I am so stocked up on EVERYTHING that it is crazy (and I am loving it!) Here are some perks that we have found since I have been couponing/getting free samples:
1. Our gas bill was 10% lower in the month of June
2. I haven't had to run to the store ONCE all month because I just needed one thing
3. Our monthly expenses were $200 lower than normal (score!)
4. Seeing a cashier's jaw drop at my purchase total is priceless
5. Gabriella yells when she sees coupons now "I see coupons!"
6. I only have to go to each store once per week

Here are all my freebies from the month of June that I received in the mail. 
I had 4 days all month where I didn't get something in the mail. 

I got all of these items FREE via mail-in rebate. 
TIP: When I am in the store (no matter which one) I always walk down all of the aisles looking for "Try Me Free" peelies (stickers that you peel off for mail in rebates or coupons). In June General Mills/Fiber One had a great rebate program where you could try all of these products free!

I paid $8.69 for all of these items
They are regularly $62.57
(the Pedia Sure Sidekicks were a free mail in rebate)

Walgreens and Rite-Aid are great stores for getting awesome deals (so is CVS but we don't have them up here). They have Register Reward programs for a lot of their items that you pay cash for and then they give you a voucher to use the same as cash in their store on your next purchase (excluding alcohol and pharmacy). 
The two boxes of fish capsules the kids vitamins were free this way. 
Example: Each of those items cost $10 and then you got a $10 Register Reward back. 
Here is how I bought them:
I bought 1 fish oil and then paid $10 cash and received a $10RR
On my next transaction (TIP: Splitting your purchases into separate transactions is a great way to get more than one of a special deal) I bought the kids vitamins for $10 and paid with my $10RR from the fish oil. I received another $10RR. 
In my third transaction I bought the second fish oil and paid with my $10RR and received another one back. On my fourth transaction I bought everything else and paid with the third $10RR. 
When everything was said and done (after mail in rebate, coupons and RR) I only paid $8.69 out of pocket (I received $10.99 back in rebate money in the mail to cover the initial $10 I paid on my first transaction)

Paid $9.46 when regularly $61.42

Paid $20.98 when regularly was $50.96
These two deals were my favorite from the month!
Partly cuz I liked the make-up and because I made the deals by myself!
I had been using Clinique's Almost Make-up for foundation because I liked the light coverage (so it didn't look clumpy and pastey) plus it has sunscreen protection in it so I never had to smear sunblock on my face. Well, they discontinued it and I was super bummed, til the June P&G (Proctor & Gamble) Brand Saver coupon booklet came out. 

The Venus Razor deal was awesome! 
I had a coupon for BOGO (Buy One Get One) Free that was for buying the cartridges and get the razor for free. 
A BOGO Free CoverGirl Lash Blast mascara
Covergirl products in the store were BOGO 50% Off (paired with two $1/1 coupons)
The Olay Face Wash was on sale for $2.00
And a FREE Olay Body Wash when you buy any Olay face care item coupon
Next came the Register Rewards (I was at Walgreens)
I got a total of $16 back in Register Rewards (for buying covergirl, olay and venus items together at the same time)
Plus Proctor & Gamble had a rebate program in June when you spent $50 (before coupons) on qualifying items then you got $10 in mail in rebate. 
(My total on these items was $60+ before coupons)
Such a great deal getting all that for the cost of one of the mascaras!

Next was the foundation and mascara deal!
Fred Meyer had coupons for spend $10 on Covergirl items and get a free Lash Blast mascara. 
The two foundations were $15.99 and I had one $1/1 coupon left. 
Next, I spotted a Mail in Rebate offer in a magazine that I had for $10 back on $20 worth of Covergirl & Olay items (which the foundations were). So instead of buying a couple eye shadows, I decided to try the foundations instead. 
I did the transaction twice and got two foundations and two mascaras for $20.98 after coupons and rebate. 
I LOVE the foundation! It works just as good as Clinique's did and was WAY more affordable. 
(Plus I traded one of the mascaras to my mom for 3 dozen canning jars!)

Couponing seems daunting and intimidating, but once you get the hang of it you can start making and finding your own deals (then you feel like a rockstar!) Its like a fun game/contest to me to see what I can find in the store for free or on great deals. 
My family is now able to use name brand EVERYTHING (fancy make-up, brand new on the market toothpastes, etc.) for way cheaper than buying generic at Walmart.