Saturday, August 29, 2009

You Have To Start Somewhere

In my previous post, I discussed how my housekeeping/organizational skills fell to the wayside over the last couple of weeks. That happens to all of us,and we shouldn't feel bad for it.I do admit that once most of my house was up to speed,it was quite a good feeling,and I am now on a quest to try and maintain it as best I can. This means that when appointments comes up on specific days, I will have to restructure my weekly plan. I just have to do it, is all. However, two weeks ago we had an appointment every day for a week,and the VA hospital is an hour an a half away,so by the time I got back home,I didn't have the drive to do much of anything.
However, we are not going to schedule so many appointments in one week anymore,so I should not have that problem ever again.
We all want to be more organized in our daily lives, especially when it comes to maintaining our homes. Anything that will make upkeep easier is a good thing,and the less time it takes,the better.
After reading Flylady's website ( I sat down and wrote out what I have to do in each room to maintain it. Now bear in mind, if you follow Flylady,she had one room a week that is concentrated on,that you spend so much time out of the day in. I found if I can get this room done in one day, it works out better for me,and if need be, I will break it up into two.
I looked at his schedule for the first time in a while since nice weather began-like I said in my previous post,nice weather means more to do outside,so the inside is basic upkeep,no extras.
I have some things written down that seem silly-such as sweeping each day. I know I have to sweep each day,because I live with one cat, two dogs,two men and a boy. We have dirt driveway and walkway. It's a given I have to sweep. It's the never ending battle of my life.

Monday-Zone room,clean out fridge,make menu and grocery list,Zone mission,Sweep/dust house,spend 10 minutes decluttering one area
Tuesday-Groceries and errands,Zone mission,Sweep
Wednesday-Finish Zone room ( if needed),Zone mission,sweep/dust house,declutter where needed
Thursday-Laundry,go through magazines,sweep,Zone mission
Friday-Balance checkbook,go through any paperwork (such as bills,etc),Zone mission,sweep/dust house
Saturday and Sunday- free days

Now, bear in mind this is a basic list,and depending on what comes up when, I will have to switch things around. However, you get the idea. Zone missions are on the Flylady website.These are small extra things to do in your zone room each day. Now, not everybody can follow Flylady to the letter,and I am one of those people,so I adjusted her idea to fit my lifestyle. It is a continual work in progress.
One other thing I did was make a binder with all certain information in it so I know where to access it. It's a simple three ring binder. I have 5 sections in it:
PHONE NUMBERS- I made a list of all the phone numbers we need-emergency,neighbors,friends,Rick's army buddies,VA contacts and all extensions,military contacts, etc. I also keep a list of all of Rick's doctors,what they are for,and which VA hospital they are in ( Rick has gone to three VA facilities)
RESTAURANT MENUS- We don't go out or order out very often,but they are good to have to help make decisions.
HOUSEHOLD-This is where I keep my list of daily chores,as well as things I printed off the Internet from various websites regarding household organization.
SCHOOL-This is for info from Zach's school. Right now I still have receipts,balance sheets,and info about the Nature's Classroom trip he went on this past May. I will throw those out and start anew with the letter his new teacher sent to him this week. It has his teacher's email,and what Zach needs for school in it.
TOWN INFO- All town phone numbers,times when town hall is open,monthly town meeting times,etc.
I keep this binder next to my microwave,so I always know where it is. You will be surprised how much time is saved trying to find a phone number. We just go to the binder and VOILA! There it is. It sounds so simple,but sometimes,simple is all it takes.
You have to start somewhere!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Neglected Home

One of the things that is not good about having so many appointments is that my housework falls to the wayside.
That is also true about the weather turning nice-there is so much to do outside,and after winter,we want to enjoy the warm sun as much as can,so it seems like a crime to stay inside and clean.
Not that my house was filthy by any means,but it just was....well...perhaps a bit on the neglected
Yesterday was the first day in a couple of weeks that I didn't have to go anywhere for longer than 10 minutes. What was even better was that I had the house TO MYSELF!!!!!
Zach spent the night at a friends house,and Rick and Brian left early to help Rick's friend slaughter his sheep ( his friend raised them for food).
So, I had most of this day stretched out before me. I didn't have to pick Zach up until around 1:30,and I only had to drive a few minutes.
I woke up early,and saw the menfolk off,and did my morning ritual-coffee,newspaper,and computer time.
I cleaned my kitchen,bathroom,and living room,washed my floors, decluttered my computer desk,swept my front screen porch,the steps,and my flagstone landing. I also washed,folded,and put away four loads of laundry.
The weather was nice,sunny and cool. It had a feel of fall to it,and there is nothing like the air in New Hampshire on a fall like day. I seem to be more invigorated,and get more accomplished. It certainly is easier than having the heat and humidity that has been surrounding us for a couple of weeks.
Now that I am almost caught up with housework ( our bedroom and Zach's need a going over) I can get back to my cleaning schedule.
Yes,I had a cleaning schedule!!
It all started back in the beginning of the year. My dear friend Michelle and I started emailing each other about wanting to get in better shape. We called ourselves the "DB's"- Diet Buddies. We would tell each other what we ate,get excited about good choices,and moan about bad ones. The rule was we never passed judgement-after all, we were having the same struggles! We then invited our friend Shelley to join,and the DB's became three.
Michelle then started sharing her favorite home organization blogs,and I became very interested in ways of keeping the house up and running in an efficient way.
One of the the blogs was by Flylady. She suggested writing down a schedule for the week,so you have specific days to do specific tasks. On her blog ( well, it's actually a website,I believe),she has a room ( she calls them "zones") each week that is thoroughly cleaned over that week. This does not take the place of maintaining the rest of the house,mind you. This is to eliminate the need for spring or fall cleaning. You can check out her website at
Well, Michelle felt it would work better for her if she could do a zone in one day,rather than break it up.At that point, I was spending 20 minutes a day in the zone of the week. That was part of my schedule. However, I now agree with Michelle. It is easier just to either get the zone done in one day,or break it up into two,depending on what needs to be done.
The only thing with a schedule,especially when we have so many Dr appts,is that we have to be flexible. For example, my grocery shopping day is Tuesday. I like Tuesday mornings because the store is not crowded,and ever since I was pregnant with Zach, I tend to get claustrophobic. ( You can imagine what it's like for me at Christmas shopping time-I never go on the weekends).
Well, for the last two weeks,we have had appts on Tuesdays,so I had to shop on Wednesday. This of course,throws a big wrench in my planned week,so I have to adjust. I might have to drop something I had originally planned,if it's not important.
Next post I will share my schedule.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Surprise Visitor Part II

To continue....
The bear was not walking through the yard, he was moving quickly. And he was not a small bear,either. He went about 200 lbs. He made a path in the grass that has grown tall by my garden-we haven't been home much this week to mow or weedwack,as you can see in this photo.
He ripped down two stalks of corn- I am thankful it wasn't more!!!

After his second trip to the corn, he ran across the yard toward the turkey cage. At this point, Rick saw Mr. Bear laying on the ground by the cage,with what appeared to be white feathers flying through the air. It was later discovered that it wasn't feathers, but corn husks.When he was done,he looked at Rick,and started running towards him,but Rick made a loud noise,and he turned and ran back towards the turkey cage.He hit the cage with this paw,but then thought twice,and lumbered off into the tree line. This was the point where Rick and Brian were slowly patrolling the treeline,their weapons drawn. It seemed like the bear had gone into our neighbors yard and through his field. Rick told me he could have shot him,but it wasn't the best angle to shoot him at,and he didn't want to have to chase a wounded bear while it was getting dark,even though Brian had his rifle.

Needless to say, I am a bit nervous going out into the garden in the evening now. However, Brian came up with a good idea-hit the car alarm button on my keychain before I go out,or keep it with me,so if he comes up on me while I am out,it should scare him off.However, I am going to be very aware of my surroundings for quite a while.

This is not the first time we have had a black bear in our yard. The first time was in 2004,the first summer we lived here. It was late at night,and we had the windows open watching TV in the living room. All of a sudden,I smelled something horrible. It smelled like rotten garbage. At first, I thought someone had a really bad gas problem! But then,Rick,who has been out hunting bear and has seen bears in the woods,smelled it and said,"That's a bear. There's a bear in our yard." We knew he had to be close,because the smell was so strong. We looked out the windows,but neither one of us wanted to start trying to find a bear in the dark. At that point,we had no poultry or garden,just bird feeders,so it didn't phase us. The next morning we went out and sure enough! Our bird feeder was on the ground and there was fur on the tree where he had brushed against it.

Actually, I am surprised we haven't had more bear sightings in our yard. We live on a corner lot,and in front of the house across the road we have woods,with an old bear den. Down the dirt road along side our house is acres of woods,though some of it has been cleared by our neighbor.We are also within sight of the Moose Mountain range. The boys see bears up on the mountain all the time.

Now the boys will be keeping a watchful eye out,in the mornings and evenings. Chances are fairly good that Mr. Bear will be back,now that he knows he has a food source in our yard. Just another part of country living!!!!

A Surprise Visitor Part 1

Last night our local news had a story about black bears. NH has quite a few of them,and apparently the town of Bethlehem,which is up in the White Mountains,is having quite a problem with them. The town has gone so far as to pass ordinances to try and control the problem. All dumpsters must have wildlife covers on them,people can't leave their trash out,and no one can feed the bears. The also had some video of a bear up on Rt 93 in Franconia Notch ( famous for the now gone Man In the Mountain).The bear was on the side of the road,surrounded by cars who had stopped so they could see this bear close up. Some of them were actually very close. A tourist commented,"It's nice that he's not afraid." Both Brian and I,as if on cue,said,"Oh no it's not!!!" For some reason,tourists love to try and get as close to black bears as they can and feed them. They think it's cute. Then they go back to their respective states and leave us with bears who will climb on people's porches,dig through their trash,and,in some instances,try to get into homes,because they now have a taste for people food and they are trying to find more. This is not a good thing. It's also not good when bears are no longer afraid of people. Many people think that because black bears don't have the reputation that brown or grizzly bears have,that they are harmless. Wrong! People can get chased,bitten,or killed by black bears. You never want to approach a bear,ever.
After the broadcast,Rick,Brian,and Zach all went out on the screen porch to watch the weather. We were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm watch as well as a tornado watch.(Tornadoes are not common in NH because of the hilly terrain,but last year one made a 50 mile path of destruction and came only a few miles from my house-in fact,they had posted a warning for my town as one area it might hit. One woman in Deerfield was killed.)I was on Facebook,when all of sudden Brian came rushing in with Zach right behind him. "There's a bear in the backyard! it looks like he is going after the turkeys. Zach ,you stay in the house," he said,and he ran downstairs to get his rifle. I ran to window after window to try and see the bear,but the garage blocked any possible view I could have,unless he walked towards the front yard,which he did not. It was nearing twilight,and it was thundering and raining,so he blended right into the tree line.I did see Rick,with his pistol,and Brian with his rifle,aiming at the tree line and walking slowly along it,maintaining a safe distance (our turkey cage is in the back corner of the yard in our tree line). I don't know what the law is in other states,but in NH,if a wild animal tries to eat your animals you can kill it,it doesn't matter if it's in season or not ( bear season starts Sept 1 here). After checking to make sure the bear was gone,the turkeys were safe and they examined the yard to see what if any damage he had done, they came in and told me what they figured out.
Apparently,the bear was already in the yard when they went on the porch. He had gone into our corn,knocked a couple of stalks down,and brought ears behind the woodpile where he proceeded to eat. The woodpile is tall,so they didn't see him at first. ( I took the photos this morning)

Apparently, after he had nibbled on this corn,he ran up the woodpile,and made his appearance. From the woodpile he ran in between the truck and the car,down the side of the garden,and back to the corn.

I have to bring Zach to Ethan's house for a sleep over, so I will continue this later.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Middle of the Marathon

We are in the middle of our VA marathon week,and Rick and I are both getting tired. Yesterday we left at 6:30 AM for his 8:00 AM endocrinologist appointment. The first question he asked was the one all the new doctors we see ask:"So...why are you here today?"
My first inclination is to tell them to read their notes and referral. But I think they might actually ask to see if we know what's going on. So we told him about the blood work,Rick's testosterone and cortisol,how he's tired and has less strength,etc, etc. He looked at the blood work and right away he was not impressed with either test. He thought Rick's cortisol level was fine,and he said the testosterone test wasn't really they right one. Sigh. So he ordered a cortisol-all-in-one-everything-under-the-sun test. He is also being tested for adrenal failure. They took 14 vials of blood. Rick also had his memory therapy session,and got more homework to help with thought focus. While we were in that appt,Rick's orthopedist called the cell phone. Apparently,he read the bone scan,and basically told us nothing we didn't already know-that there is something wrong with Rick's knee bones,his kneecap,and that he wanted to send Rick down to the Boston VA for a consult. They are considering surgery. So we don't know if the doctor wants a second opinion before we get the actual results or what. Is the black areas in his knee bones dead bone like they thought,or is something else going on? Is the arthritis in his knee rheumatoid arthritis? Can they fix his knee cap,or is he too old and the arthritis too settled in like we were originally told? Lots of questions, but so far no answers.
Today we are bringing Rick for his sleep apnea study,again at the Manchester VA. Instead of driving down there,dropping him off for 8:00PM,driving back,and leaving at 4:30 AM to pick him up tomorrow morning,Zach and I are going to bask in the lap of luxury and stay at the Radission hotel,near the VA. This way,we can all have supper together and not rush. In the morning we will pick up Rick and bring him back to the hotel for breakfast,then head home. I suppose that spending money on a hotel room and restaurant flies in the face of saving money,but at this point, I am so tired from running back and forth that I need a break.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Corn We Can Actually Eat

Good morning!
We are in the middle of the hottest weather we have had all summer here in NH-ninety degree temps not including the humidity. Did I complain earlier in the season about it being rainy and cold? I think I did. Hmmm. If the temps could just be somewhere in between,minus the humidity,that would be good. However, it's typical New England weather-"If you don't like it, wait a minute,and it will change."
Zach is back from Boy Scout camp and he had a BLAST! He is already planning what merit badges he wants to earn at camp next year. He was so sweet, he bought us presents at camp- a stuffed animal squirrel with a Camp Hinds T shirt on it for Rick and myself,and a rabbit pelt for Rick's brother,Brian. Now we have to come up with names for our squirrels. I named mine Squeaky. Rick's squirrel is going to be his trucks mascot,and he has not yet decided what to name it.
We were very excited to pick our first ears of corn on Friday before we went to pick Zach up at camp. I did take some photos the week before.

As you can see, we have a small section of corn. Our neighbor down the road has quite a green thumb and always has a nice garden. When he saw we had planted our corn in early May,he thought that we had made a mistake-it was too early,and the soil wasn't warm enough yet. Now we have stalks that are over 6 feet tall and his are nowhere near ready. We mixed our compost in the soil after we rototilled the space,and planted the corn in hills,not directly into the ground. I assume that made a difference with the soil temp. We also used some plant food to help give it a bit of a boost. You can see the bare hills above the weedy paths in between. Zach is there to show how tall some of the corn is.
In the past when we have attempted corn, we planted the seeds right into the ground,no compost or anything. Of course, we had never planted corn before then and hadn't done any research into what we were doing. We figured,just plant it,water it,and it should grow. Well, it sort of grew,but the stalks were very thin and sparse. The ears were small,the kernels undeveloped,and corn worms had settled in all our ears. So this time, we tried to be a bit smarter about it.

When these photos were taken,some of the silks had begun to darken. The day we picked them,they had darkened quite a bit. However, I didn't want to blindly pick the ears just in case. So, I checked my Country Wisdom and Living Guide. Any ears that had dark silk I pulled back the leaves and used my fingernail to poke a small hole into a kernel.Ah Ha! The fluid that came out was milky,not clear. That meant the ear was good to go. Rick and I picked seven ears total. Now, not all the kernels on the ears were fully developed-the ones by the ends of the ear were still real small, but we had seen that in ones sold in the supermarket,so it didn't worry us. Yesterday we cooked them,and I am very pleased to say,they were delicious!

Right now I also have three zucchini and one summer squash waiting to be eaten. I haven't had much luck with my summer squash-only that one so far. The wet weather has caused rot and the slugs have been hanging around. My tomatoes have not turned red yet. Next year we are going to forgo the straight line garden,and try square foot gardening in raised beds. I have started to read Mel Bartholomew's book,"All New Square Foot Gardening," and it seems like it will alleviate a lot of weed problems. It will also stop our carrots from mutating once they hit rocks. I an anxious to see how it works.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Thing Leads To Another

Rick had some blood work done regarding his testosterone and cortisol levels. Lo and behold,they have tanked. Meaning,his testosterone and cortisol levels are almost non existant. This would explain his lack of strength,energy,etc. He has an appointment with the endocrinologist next week to test his pituitary gland. The pituitary controls testosterone and cortisol output,as well as the thyroid (which is shot as well-he has been taking medication for that for a few months now). If this is indeed the problem,he can take medication to bring these things back to normal. His Neuro/TBI doctor told us that this was probably caused by the brain injury,unless there is something else going on, like a tumor on the gland, which ,considering his history is less likely.
At least we now why he gets exhausted so easily,has lost some of his strength,libido,etc. We are anxious for this upcoming appointment to get some definite answers.
He also had his second memory therapy session. He had to decide on what type of mechanism he wanted to use to help him remember things-pen and paper,a PDA,or a mini recorder. It would have to be something he keeps on him at all times. He decided on a PDA,which the VA gave him. He is supposed to make daily lists of what he needs to do and keep referring to the lists,so he is self sufficient and not dependant on me to remind him.Work this week also focused on attention span. He has to meditate daily and try to get up to 10 minutes. Part of the problem is his brain in constantly going-assessing,evaluating,etc,so he has a hard time retaining information ( this stems from both the TBI and the PTSD). By sitting quietly,and focusing on the air he breathes,it gives him a focal point. He can let other thoughts enter,but he needs to just take note of them and just let them go. Then after he has done this exercise,he has some homework. The goal of the homework is to help keep his attention focused on one thing,which will be easier if he is relaxed and his mind is clear.
Next week is another busy week. We have 5 appts over 4 days.
Aug 17- Bone scan for his knees
Aug 18-Memory therapy and the endocrinologist (this was added this week)
Aug 19-sleep study for sleep apnea
Aug 21-Neuro optomology
Rick did recieve his handicap placard for the car. He had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it is very helpful on his bad days,on the other, it is further confirmation that he has a handicap. He doesn't like that at all.
One of the projects that we have to do soon is rebuild our porch and steps. Rick has a heck of a time getting up the steps,so we are going to also build a ramp so it's not so difficult for him. We hope to get that done by the time the snow flies.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Homesteader vs.Fauxsteader

This weekend was busy getting ready to bring Zach up to Boy Scout camp in Maine. This is his first year as a Boy Scout, so he was really excited. He has been to Cub Scout camp (with me as leader in tow) but Boy Scout camp is different. I am curious to hear his take on it.
So Rick and I are childless this week. We have two VA appointments tomorrow ( Neuro TBI and Memory therapy), but they are on the same day,which is good. The bummer is it's also Rick's 47th birthday,and the last thing he wants isto have appointments on his birthday. However, we take the soonest appointments we can get,so we can get them out of the way. Rick wants to celebrate his day after Zach is home (which will be Friday) but I might take him out for dinner or something nice. I bought him an early present,a tool box with two levels on wheels. This way he can wheel it where ever it needs to go,and he doesn't have to put more strain on his knees lifting it.
Rick and I were discussing our foray into homesteading the other day. We are firm in our belief that we can do more for ourselves,the question is what exactly do we want to do,what will it require,and will it be feasible? We already know we need to plan things way in advance to make anything work. We will have a bigger garden next year,with raised beds to cut back on weeds. I never want to look at a weed again! With all the rain that has been showering down on NH this summer,the weeds have had a field day. I plan on canning any extra food we don't eat ( I should have it down pat by then),and we also are going to have more turkeys,and have chickens. What we want to do is sit down together and begin our plan. My big concern is Rick's knees. He can only do so much at a time,and while I am certainly more than capable picking up any slack,I don't want this to become a source of frustration for him. He has enough of that as it is with regular activities,let alone any extras. He assures me,however, that he can do what needs to be done,and that he is excited about this endeavor. He keeps asking me if I am serious about it, because he has wanted to do this his whole life.
Now, I know some will read my blog and have issue with the fact that I call it homesteading. I know some people buy land,build right on it,do without,have compost toilets,etc.We have a house,a garage,a furnace (though we don't use it often),running water,electricity,indoor plumbing,and a flat screen TV. My thought of homesteading is living off the land as much as possible,living as frugally as possible, but still being able to buy something nice once in a while,as long as it's needed and practical. Mindless purchases are out.Is the term "homesteading" getting overly used? Possibly. However, it best describes what we are trying to do. I know from reading many blogs that there are a lot of people out there trying to life the best life they know how,and to me it shouldn't matter if you live in a three story house on 1/4 acre of land,a rustic cabin in the woods,or a mobile home on 40 acres. The goal is all the same-being able to do for ourselves. That should be most important thing.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trial and Error

One of the things that I have wanted to try my hand at is canning. This past week, I gave it a shot and made my first batch of Blueberry Jam.
The reason why I wanted to try Blueberry Jam is two fold- I had a bunch of berries given to me,and I thought that it would be a simple recipe to start out with.
The first thing I did was purchase a Ball's Starter Canning Set.

The set came with a combo space measure/bubble freer,tongs to lift the jars, a water canning pot,a canning jar rack,6 pint Ball jars,a magnetic lid lifter,a jar funnel,and a Blue Ball Book of Preserving ( I didn't take a picture of the book).
The recipe was suppose to yield 3 pints,so I washed three jars,lids,and lid rings in hot soapy water. Next, I made sure I had enough blueberries. The recipe called for 9 cups crushed blueberries.
All of a sudden,I was confused. Did it mean 9 cups of blueberries which you crush,or 9 crushed cups? As with anything I do that is new to me,I tried to read too much into a simple direction and wound up double guessing myself. Now looking at it, 9 cups crushed blueberries is obviously 9 crushed cups,not 9 cups of blueberries which are then crushed. However, I had exactly 9 cups of whole blueberries. I said the heck with it, let's see what happens.Isn't the heading of this post trial and error? You can guess where this is heading.

While I was crushing ( or,to be exact,mashing ) my blueberries,I kept going back and forth to the book-what do I do next? How long do I need to do that? What is my next step?
My blueberries did not all get crushed. My potato masher wires were too far apart,and I came to realize that no matter how long I mashed,I would not get them all. Next time, I will make use of my blender. I think that will work much better.
I took a quick break from mashing and went to put water in the pot so I could simmer my jars and lids at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. The first obstacle was the pot. The pot I wanted to use was not deep enough (the water has to cover the jars during this process). The only pot I had to use that would work was my stock/lobster pot. Now, this is not a small pot.I put in plenty of water,clipped my candy thermometer to the side,and when it reached 180 I put in my jars and lids. I kept them in there until I was ready to fill them.

I put the blueberries and 6 cups of sugar in another pot and heated it,stirring until the sugar dissolved. Then,when it started boiling,I waited for the mixture to sheet,stirring every onece in a while to prevent it from sticking. What is sheeting? I didn't know either,until I read the book. There are a few ways to test jams to see if they are the right consistency to pour into the canning jars. The method I used is with a cool metal spoon. You scoop up a spoonful of the boiling mixture,take it away from the steam over the pot,tilt the spoon over a plate, and when it's ready,the mixture will come off in a sheet. Well, I kept trying and trying, but it didn't look like it was sheeting to me. I kept getting drops,though they were getting thicker and thicker. I cooked that goo for an hour. Seriously. Looking back,the plate method would've probably worked better. You take a plate and put it in the freezer. When you are ready to test the jam,you plop a spoonful onto the plate,and it should turn into the right consistency. At any rate, I know I over cooked it. I also know that not having the proper amount of crushed berries had something to do with the reason why it wasn't cooking down properly-the berry to sugar ratio was off.

While I was waiting for my jam to jell,I started to put the water canner water to simmer-that also needs to be at 180 degrees.

Therein I encountered another obstacle-I had three big pots,only two big burners on my stove,and not enough room on the stove for all three at once.

As you can see from this photo, I have a pretty basic stove-two big burners,two small ones. I would've loved to have had a nice 6 burner stainless steel stove right then! However, I made do with what I had,and put the smaller of the three pots on the smaller burner on the front right of the stove. My pot of simmering jars in right behind it,and like I said before, it is not a small pot.The two pots did not fit together well at all-I had to have a bit of the front pan off the burner to make it fit. Of course,this was the berry/sugar mixture. I voiced my concern to Rick,who was watching me from the living with great interest ( also, I kept voicing my concerns to him,so he was involved no matter what). Is the heat still going to be distributed evenly? Rick came over and looked. He took culinary arts in high school,and was a cook at some of the nicer restaurants in Portsmouth back in his late teens. He loooves to cook,and is an excellent one.It's a copper bottom pan, so it should be OK,no problem with heat distribution,he said.

Finally, I said it was close enough. One by one,and I took the jars out of the simmering water using the tongs,put the funnel in the opening,and began ladling the blueberry jam into the jars.

I filled the jars,using the head space measure to make sure I left 1/4" of headspace in each jar.( Anything canned needs a certain amount of space between the top of the jar and the food to allow for expansion).I used the magnetic lid lifter to lift the lids and rims out of the water,seated a lid on each jar,making sure the wax ring on the underside of the lid was firmly on the glass rim of each jar,then screwed the lid rings on.I had finished two and was working on the third when I realized that I was not going to have enough to fill it. So instead of canning that one, I set it aside to use. I then placed the full jars in the canning rack,which was resting on the top of the water bath pan. I then lowered the canning rack in the water. I didn't have quite enough water in the pan to cover the jars, so I poured some of the water from the simmering pot into it. I closed the lid,and set the timer for 15 minutes. I then heaved a big sigh.

15 minutes later, I removed the jars from the pot with the tongs,and placed them on a cutting board,with at least 1"-2" between them,and let them sit. The book recommends that you let them rest for 12-24 hours. The next morning, I checked to make sure the lids had sealed. There is a small raised bump in the center of the lids,that becomes flat when the jar seals itself. My bumps were flat! At least I had done that right!!! I wrote what was in the jar and the date I made it on the lid ( you cannot reuse the lids. Jars and lid rings,yes). I then put them in my cabinet.

I tried the half filled jar.I could hardly get the jam out of it. It was very sticky and verrrrrrry dense. However,it tasted great! We figured we could heat it up a bit in the microwave to soften if up if we had to. It is completely edible,and tasted really good on toast,though I had to put it on in clumps.

Sooooooo......what did I learn?

1) Don't read too deeply into a recipe. It will only cause confusion. It is what is says it is. Any changes will affect the outcome greatly.

2)When making jam or jelly,use the frozen plate test.( I still don't really know what "sheeting"looks like). If it seems like it's taking too long to boil down,it probably is.

3) Find a pan deep enough for the jars,but not so big that it crowds other pans on the stove.

4)Next time will be much better- I have a better idea of what I am doing now.

What's to can next? My garden isn't really big enough to can anything out of it this year. Pickles might be easy for a follow up......

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Has it already been almost a week since I blogged? I didn't think that much time had gone by already.

We have been fairly busy this last week and a half,so today I get to play catch up.

Rick has had alot of appts during this last month,and we added three more to that list.
We were hoping when he saw the orthopedic surgeon for his knees that we might get a surgery date. Well, much to our disappointment,that didn't happen. His dislocated kneecap will probably go unfixed. The problem is he had bad arthritis in both knees and he is almost 47. Apparently,they usually do this kind of surgery on younger people before the arthritis gets bad. The success rate goes down when the age and arthritis level goes up. OK. The arthritis is causing the terrible swelling in his knees-a couple month ago they drained 50cc's of fluid out of his left one. The MRI also showed a tear in his left ligament. However,because he had meniscus removed from both his knees ( one in the late 80's,the other in early 90's-stemming from his Airborne days),they cannot be sure if it is actually a tear,or if that is just what it now looks like from having some meniscus removed. They also saw some dark spots on his bone,that could be areas of dead bone,so he ordered a Rosenberg xray of both his knees (which we have done)and a bone scan (which we will do Aug 17). From there they will make a determination as to what they can do,it there is indeed anything they can do.

Rick says he just wants a firm diagnosis,and if he has to live with the pain he is in,then he can deal with it. He just doesn't want to hold out hope for some relief if there is none forthcoming. We have applied for a handicap placard for the rearview mirror of the car. Some days it will come in very handy so he doesn't have to walk so far to the store. Once he's in,he uses the cart to take as much weight as possible off his legs,and it helps. It took awhile to get him to want to get the placard,and he is adamant that he does not want to use the little scooters that people with walking disabilities have.We will only use the placard on his bad days.

Rick has also started speech pathology. The goal is to get him to use techniques to help his memory. He has had one appointment, so it was spent working on word memorization. She would say several pairs of words. Some of them were associated with each other,and others weren't. He did OK,but missed a few. Then she read him a paragraph,and he had to tell her what it was about. It had specific details in it. He got the jist of the story right,but omitted most of the major details. He also had to tell her all the words he could think of that began with a certain letter in the span of a minute,etc. Part of the problem is that he spent a good part of the time trying remembering what he already said so he wouldn't repeat it,that he only was able to come up 4 or 5 words.

His goal for his next appt is that he has to come up with a method of keeping a daily list,whether it be pen and paper,PDA,or a small recorder. It has to be something that he will keep with him at all times,however. He has to make a daily list,and he had to try not to rely on me to remember his goals for the day. We have all three techniques,the problem is getting him to remember to use them. And unfortunately,I don't always remember to remind him,either.
This month our appt load isn't' quite so heavy:

August 4- EEG in Jamaica Plain,MA. He had to stay up past midnight so he would be really tired and start to fall asleep.His neuro TBI doctor wanted this set up. We don't have results on this yet.
August 11 ( Happy Birthday,Rick!)- Neuro TBI appt. The dr is determining what physical problems were cause by his brain injury. So far they determined he has lost some taste and smell,but only a small amount.He also has a speech pathology session.
August 17-Speech pathology and the bone scan.
August 19-Sleep study. His neuro TBI dr ordered this because ever since he came home he snores like there is no tomorrow,and they are concerned that he might have sleep apnea.
August 21-Neuro Opthamology in Jamaica Plain,MA. When Rick got back home, he noticed his distance vision was a bit off,somewhat doubled. We chalked it up to getting older,and needing glasses,and glasses did help out. He also had some sensitivity to light.Once he had his stroke ( a year ago Aug 4) his double vision worsened,and now he sees things in a 3D effect all the time. He claims he is getting used to it. He also has to wear sunglasses outside,in stores, etc. They have tried glasses,drops,etc,and so far nothing has worked. He had a test that determined that his has "cracks" in his eye lenses,which they feel is accounting for the problem with the vision. There is a theory that this might have been caused by the head injury,so this Dr is going to work with Rick to see if there is something they can do to fix this problem,and,we hope,get a definite diagnosis as to how this occurred. If they can't work it out with another kind of eye drop,then they might remove his lenses and replace them with plastic ones. However, it might not work.
August 24-Cornea clinic at Jamaica Plain,MA. His other eye doctor makes a follow up.

Of course, some of these appts could spur on others, but so far that is our agenda for the month.