Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lilac Jelly repost, a favorite poem and SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Happy weekend, everybody! Mary Jane here and a new friend reminded me of this interesting recipe. I first posted it back in 2014 and looking at these pictures really made us laugh. Three years ago, helping with the hot air balloons meant the older kids worked-- and the younger guys ran around with their hands over their ears. We had a good chuckle at some of these. They're seasoned hands by now and are looking forward to their fifth season crewing for the hot air balloon festival. 

Before we start, remember Purple Like the West (you can find it here)  is on sale for .99 this week! Oh, and yes, the new covers are new! They were designed and created by my talented 15 year old. :) I told her, "I keep changing the covers, and then a month later my cover girls are all over other books. I have to have something UNIQUE." And this is what she came up with for the series. LOVE. 

Now, onward to the lilac jelly....

 Although, I had a hard time choosing what to bring to the cafe, Edna helped me decide.
The lilacs are in bloom!
Did you know there are over 60 varieties of lilacs?
We have our half an acre of a backyard ringed with lilacs and there are four different varieties. My favorite are these double blooms.
So, to make lilac jelly we must have lilacs! You'll need 2 cups of packed blossoms. This means stripping the flowers from the bushes and picking off the green stems.
I doubled my recipe, but you'll need a package of Sure-Jell.
Rise your lilac blossoms in cold water.
For every 2 cups of packed lilacs, add 2 1/2 cups of BOILING WATER.
At this point I'm thinking this is going to be a big batch! 
Weigh down the lilacs with a plate...
And let it sit overnight or for 8 hours. The water around the lilacs will start to turn brown. Don't worry, this is natural.
Edna had a wonderful time with this recipe. She said it all reminded her of one of her favorite poems.

Sometimes - Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

(And in case anyone thinks Miss Sheenagh Pugh is going to sue me for using this... here's her response to whether or not we can use her poem... And I should have left her name off, but Edna made me keep it. Sheenagh can come and discuss it with Edna.)
Of course, we have lilac here and not muscadel (those little grape hyacinth), but indeed, this spring is one of these "sometimes"!
OK, put away the poetry and strain out the blossoms.
Hmmmmm.... The kids are look at this and shaking their heads. 
For every two cups of liquid, add 1/4 cup lemon juice. 
Add  1/2 tsp butter, and one box of pectin to a heavy-bottomed pan.
Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 4 cups of sugar. Bring back to a boil.
Remove from heat and skim foam. 
Let the liquid cool a bit and then add to clean jars.  They can be sealed with a ten minute water bath. (Put the jars in a pot half filled with water, and bring to a simmer, letting it boil for ten minutes.)
Letting them cool. I really do like how this color came out. I was a little worried by that brown muck in the measuring cup.
I did find some odd bits in the jelly. They reminded me of insects trapped in amber, but I think it adds to the *ahem* charm of the product.
  Here is Edna, teaching "Sometimes" to the lilac jelly jars. We're going to send them out into the world with that little poem printed on a card, and tied with a raffia ribbon. Because, "sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss" and we wish it for you!

 Happy spring, all! We'll leave you with a picture of the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede. We were the ground crew for one of the pilots and even though we had to get up at FOUR IN THE MORNING, it was a wonderful experience.
 I just saw the sun rise!
 Almost all the brothers...
 Balloons getting ready for passengers.
 Almost... up....
 First in flight!
 Goodbye, balloon!
 Someone is sneaking up on us!
 Isabel wore two sweaters and a coat, thinking it would be cold. She had no idea she would be standing in front of the FIRE.
 Another launches from behind the trees.
 Our pilot, Ingrid, needed some human sandbags.
 Ana is ready to take a nap and it's only 6 AM!
 Little dude hated the sound of the burners. And there were a lot of burners.
 Lots of rainbows!
 The inside of the Liberty Bell. 
 Kids squishing the air out of the pocket, now that the balloon is wrapped back up and inside.
Ingrid taught Jacob the Daisy Chain knot and he's been practicing ever since.
 And then we were part of the Night Glow exhibit. Not early in the morning, but late at night.
 At dusk, all the balloons are fired up.
 All at once, like a race! Up, up, up!!
 This was ours. Great pilot, he was a hoot. And again, we were human sandbags to weigh down the balloon while the pilots made the balloons glow in unison with the music the played through the speakers.
 I went back to the sidelines for a bit and took a few pictures. There were about 15 balloons and they were beautiful at night. Thousands of people came to cheer them on. It was like the Fourth of July... but no fireworks.
 It gets hot right under the burners. But if you get out, it was chilly. Cold, hot, cold, hot.

Here's our pilot telling some story we can't really hear...

And the best part was our friend Mindy was here for a visit, all the way from Savage, Montana! Talk about togetherness time. "Hey, wanna come use your body weight to hold down a giant balloon while having your hair singed by propane flames?" And she said yes, of course, because she's cool like that.

OK, snap back to 2017 and my teens are visiting Mindy in Savage, Montana at this very moment! I love those long-term friendships. I only wish I was there to hang out with her mom! SAD FACE. But we moms have work to do... which reminds me I should get writing. I've got a deadline!

 Until next time!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring: Eating Outdoors Again!

Missy Tippens

It's that time again...time to enjoy eating meals outdoors! In Georgia, we have a short period between when it's too cold to eat outside and too hot. So I'm trying to enjoy it every moment I get!

First, a few weeks ago we cleaned and restarted the fountain in our back yard. We had emptied it for winter, and I missed the gurgling sounds. The fountain was one of the main attractions when we bought the house! (Along with my office.)

Our son and his wife recently spent time getting their outdoor area ready at their rental house. They bought a picnic table and stained it.

Then bought flowers for the patio. They also strung some lights. 

They invited us over for a cookout, and we had such a great evening!

We had grilled chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa. It's so nice to be back to grilling weather!

Do you love eating outdoors? If so, what do you like to cook? Any favorite spots for a picnic?