food, fruit, recipes

Small-batch Strawberry Jam

I love jam; who doesn’t? Probably only lizard people trying to pass themselves off as humans. I love it, but store bought jam is a) expensive, b) almost always has corn syrup in it, and c) isn’t as good. However, jam making can be a bit of a chore. But thanks to my sister, Isabella, I found a good recipe for making small batches of jam, and its sugar content it much lower than most jams, yet it is still sweet and wonderfully fruity!

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Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Coming to a boil

Recipe:

  • 1 pound fruit, fresh or frozen (weighed after pitting, peeling, or cutting if appropriate)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Optional: herbs, spices, other flavor additions
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Cooked down and puréed
Adding the sugar
  1. Combine the fruit and water in a heavy-bottomed pan and set over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the fruit breaks up into sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. (My personal note: so far I have only used strawberries with this recipe, and they do not break down completely. I used my handheld blender to purée them.)
  2. Uncover the pot and stir in the sugar or honey. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring often to prevent the jam from burning on the bottom of the pot, until the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste, and adjust for sweetness if necessary. Allow to cool and transfer to a jar. If you’ve added whole spices, you can either remove them now or leave them in the jar to continue to infuse the jam for a stronger flavor.
The finished product

I tripled the recipe, and ended up with three pounds of jam (feels a bit odd to think of jam in pounds, but there you are). I also used much more lemon juice: it really ended up being more a strawberry-lemon jam, which was fine with me, as lemon is one of my favorite flavors. If you aren’t going to use it fairly quickly, you should freeze this jam to help it keep.

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handicrafts, knitting, projects

Knitting for the unravelled

It has long been my dream to be a knitter. Not just to knit, but to be someone who jauntily whips out a sweater with ease, who is learned in the ways of lace, who is not scared of patterns that require slipped stitches and yarn overs (yarns over?). A long time ago I knitted two scarves, and that was as far as I ventured into the dark and murky waters of yarn manipulation.

Fast forward to autumn 2017: I decided, moved by I know not what impulse, to resume knitting. I made a scarf, about which I have already posted. It was an important step in several ways: not only did it get me back in the swing of knitting, but I tried several things I had never done before: I made my own pattern, I used three different colors of yarn, and I learned how to join yarn. The success of the (rather itchy) scarf gave me the confidence I needed to move on to bigger and better things: baby blankets.

Since my mom is the person who taught me how to knit and is my main knitting resource, I talked to her about my renewed interest in the craft. She lent me a book of baby blanket patterns, and I decided the first one looked easy enough that I dared brave an attempt at it. The next step was finding the right yarn: I wanted a pastel material that was soft enough for a baby’s delicate skin. I had something of a bias against acrylic when I set out and had cotton in mind, but the yarn I ended up with was indeed acrylic, not only soft, but machine washable to boot! An important consideration for any textile that is going to be used primarily by or for babies.

Pattern: chosen. Yarn: found. Now, to begin the actual knitting. I cast on. I counted and recounted the stitches. And I tried. And attempted. And tried again. Over and over, I had to pull the yarn out. I can tell you, it is very demoralizing to tear out hundreds of stitches, redo them, and have to tear them out again. But I was learning.

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The very beginning (next stop: Frustration Station!)

Not only my brain, but my hands were in training. My knitting is generally very even, but I have an unfortunate tendency to knit too tightly, and my actual technique left something to be desired. I was using my pointer finger as leverage against the knitting needle at every stitch, which was rather painful (and Against the Rules).

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Progress–by this point I had figured out what I was doing and no longer needed to rip things out

As time went on and I became more comfortable with the pattern, however, my muscle memory developed and I was able to relax somewhat and begin to shed some of my bad habits. I came out the other side a better, more confident knitter.

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Whoa-oh, halfway there! (Whoa-oh, knittin’ on a prayer!)

The end of the saga: I finished knitting the blanket in time for the baby shower, and it is currently being used by my new niece! I am currently at work on another blanket of the same pattern, for another expected niece (I am VERY excited). Lessons learned: do not give it to fear of yarn. And keep on trying.

 

humour, ME/CFS, Personal

Fear of Missing Out

To achieve the twin goals of expressing myself and showing people what life is like with ME/CFS, I’m going to start doing short posts with gifs, to add humor and a visual element.

Fear of Missing Out: we bypass FOMO and head straight to COMO (Certainty of Missing Out). It’s hard to get up to much when you’re very ill. There have been so many things, even quite small things, that I haven’t done because I just wasn’t well enough.

A small illustration: the vast majority of the time, I do not have the energy to drive myself somewhere, do whatever it is that needs doing, and drive back. Earlier this year I drove a few minutes to the pharmacy, picked up my medications, and came back. All by myself! And yes, that was a first, and a major triumph. I am somehow still surprised when people think I might show up somewhere without my husband (“Oh, is he with you?”). If he ain’t there, I ain’t either. He’s my ride.

Miranda a night out
Miranda captures the essence of a big night out

Another example: we have lived in our current apartment for more than three and a half years, and there is a weekly knitting night at our local library that I have always wanted to attend. How many times have I been able to go? Zero. Sad but true.

But things are better than they used to be. There was a point in my life where I didn’t so much as set foot outside for days at a time, and it is now rare that I don’t make it at least to the mailbox. Progress, inchworm style.

Inchworm
We can do it!
Memories, Personal

Posts of Future Past

I have hardly blogged at all this year, and I would like to change that. I recently found posts from my old blog*, which I thought was lost and gone forever, à la Clementine. Reading over them made me realize how much my writing style has changed. My personality shone through much more clearly in my old posts, and I wrote to please myself rather than an audience. My posts rarely had images, and my subject matter was varied. I simply wrote about whatever I was interested in saying at the moment, with no theme.

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I do really enjoy getting views and followers, and seeing people from around the world come to my blog is quite exciting, especially as, due to my illness, I spend much of my time at home and my interaction with the outside world is rather limited. But I think, in gearing this blog toward followers, I may have lost something important: whimsy and self-expression. I don’t like revealing much about myself online, and that has had an impact on what I am willing to write. But maybe the time has come to say more and worry less. If people aren’t interested in a particular post, they can just skip it! But it won’t just be musings. I have long intended putting up posts about projects beyond baking, such as my knitting and embroidery. Maybe, maybe, I will at some point have regularly scheduled posts. No promises, though.

*via the Wayback machine, which is an attempt to create an archive of the internet.
Awareness, ME/CFS, Personal

ME/CFS Protest of Dr. Per Fink

Thanks to Jennie Spotila, who writes at Occupy M.E., I recently became aware of something important to the community of ME/CFS patients and researchers. A doctor named Per Fink is slated to give a presentation at Columbia University about ME/CFS and fibromyalgia. Why is that bad? To quote from Jennie’s post:

Fink is well-known to the ME community because of his involvement in the case of Karina Hansen. In 2013, Hansen was 24 years old when she was forcibly removed from her home and involuntarily committed to Hammel Neurocenter as a psychiatric patient, despite her ME diagnosis. Fink was one of two doctors overseeing her “treatment” at the institution, and permitted almost no family contact for more than one year. After years-long legal battles, Hansen was allowed to return home in 2017 2016 (as documented in Unrest), and her state guardianship was only terminated this week. Given the deterioration in Hansen’s condition while under Fink’s care, one has to wonder how his other “bodily distress syndrome” patients fare.

I am equal parts saddened, disgusted, and enraged. And there’s some fear in there as well. I don’t know what people like him get out of spreading misinformation like this. Does it stroke his ego? Does he just . . . ignore the evidence that tells him he is wrong? I just don’t know. I do know that this is very wrong. He should not be given a platform at such a high profile university to spread harmful misinformation which contradicts scientific study and hinders progress toward understanding and treatment of this illness. If you haven’t already clicked the link, please read Jennie Spotila’s post, which has links to actions you can take.