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Illusions…. (and not the David Copperfield kind)

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If you enjoy sewing, cooking, gardening, and crafting and you read other people’s blogs about it, you will pretty much feel like everyone does it better than you.  In particular, all the Mormon moms who have three little kids, a fourth on the way, and they still seem to be able to whip up a quilt during nap time every day, plus can all their own preserves, plus a million other things.  It’s frankly maddening and I have to be virtually slapped across the face many times by my friends for my bemoaning how much better they are than me and why can’t I do that?
Well, I’m not saying they are lying, but I have also had friends comment to me that reading my blog makes it seem like I am also able to do it all well.  And since I know that’s not true, it really is a lesson all about appearances.  Am I going to write a post that talks about getting so mad at my kids that I yell at them until my throat hurts? No, I am not. I am only going to put up the prettiest, funnest, neatest pictures and even they can sometimes be an illusion.  Let’s see that in action.

Yesterday, Tabby and I made a fun craft together for the 4th of July (that she had picked up at the library.) Look how pretty it looks in the afternoon sunshine!
4th of July windsock

And, good news! The plum tree is ripening! It’s loaded with fruit and several of them are turning a nice reddish purple.
Hooray, Ripe plums!

Although it was a million degrees yesterday we have air conditioning, so why not make jam? I’m trying to make good on my resolve this year to go ahead and make jams and preserves out of fruit that is in season that I did not grow. So I bought a couple of big containers of New Jersey blueberries and made some jam.  Isn’t it such a beautiful color??
Homemade Blueberry Jam

Pop pop pop pop

Now, here’s the reality of those pictures.

The Windsock: What you don’t see is that I said, “Here,Tabby, would you like to do your craft from the library?” and she excitedly said yes. I got out the glue and literally all you had to do with glue the crepe paper streamers to the cup, which already had the string attached.  She did about half before she said, “you do the rest” and ran away.  So I did.

The Plums: The sad fact is that you pick the newly ripe plums and they look great and then you turn them over and see this:
Booo, they're rotten!

For some reason every single plum has a sticky rotten spot covering about a quarter of it.  We will have to figure out why that is happening because it’s ruining them all and is very distressing.  We’ve also discovered (may be related) a strange fungus (Paul looked it up) on some branches that requires cutting those branches off.

The Jam: The jam. Sigh.  Here’s what you can’t tell from the artful photos.  I think the Ball canning guide may have steered me wrong for the first time.  Their enthusiastic instruction to just quickly cook it until it gels, without any pectin added, just did not work out.  And I know jam has a lot of sugar in proportion to the fruit
Holy cow that's a lot of sugar
but it did seem too sweet to me. So what I’ve got is four big jars of essentially blueberry syrup. Now, fair enough, it is pretty delicious. And the seals did seal. We all enjoyed spooning it onto bread and I may make pancakes this morning and put it on that.  It won’t go to waste, but it’s not what I intended.  Other things the pictures don’t show:

  •  Clark shouting incessantly from the other room, “Can I play on the computer? Now? Now? When? When can I play on the computer?” and me being irritated that that was all he wanted to do
  • Tabby standing on her chair to watch me, leaning forward and falling straight towards the stove which had the bubbling hot pot of sugar and fruit and the big pot of boiling water.  She crashed to the ground, broke the chair, was totally unhurt or fazed, and I nearly had a heart attack.
  • Bringing a big pot of water to boil, rather than the giant canning pot, because I thought I was using small jars and making just a few so surely they would fit. Going to put them in the boiling water bath and seeing that they did not.  Fortunately I was able to grab another pot, dump the water in, and get it going pretty quickly. But I did remember to add vinegar to the water so my glass stayed shiny and clean.

So there you have it. Things aren’t always quite what they appear to be–a lesson I need to remember! Now here’s a beautiful picture that has no backstory, no hidden flaws.  My gladiola are blooming and they are lovely 🙂

Coral Glads

*as I write this Paul just said to Tabby, “That’s a beautiful windsock, did you make that?” and she was so pleased and said “yes! mommy helped me!” Well, now I can’t be cross about that 🙂


About Sarah

I'm a librarian living with my lovely family in a gorgeous spot of New Jersey, where we raise chickens and love the outdoors. I try to find enough time to indulge all my hobbies-cooking, photography, gardening, sewing, and I write about it all on my book blog & personal blog.

15 responses »

  1. My newest favorite quote is from Teddy Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The syrup/jam sounds wonderful 🙂

    • That is an awesome quotation! I feel I should print that out and tack it up in my kitchen. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. This is my favorite of your posts so far! I absolutely love it! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has so much going on behind the scenes!

  3. It really is all in how you frame it, isn’t it? And I think a nice “keeping it real” post thrown in every now and then is always a good idea 🙂

    P.S. I would have had a heart-attack, too, with that hot stove near miss!

  4. That Teddy Roosevelt quote is perfect! Also, I think the internet needs more posts like this!

  5. How so very true. The windsock is really a neat idea and all posts of your flower photos are beautiful. Are you saying you didn’t use ANY pectin in your jam? When I made blueberry jam, I cooked berries and sugar, then added pectin and cooked some more. I’m sure it tastes good anyway.

    • Isn’t it surprising that it didn’t call for pectin? I kind of feel like I should have stuck with what I knew, but that’s how delightful (and not delightful) cooking surprises are found.

      • Honestly, every single time I have made blueberry jam (with pectin!) it has come out more like a syrup. I usually just decide that I meant it to be a pancake or ice cream topping, and consider it good 🙂

  6. This is such a timely post! I have been feeling less inspired to blog the last few months, and I think that part of the reason is that I was feeling like my posts weren’t “up to snuff” compared to the posts I read on other blogs. Which is sort of ridiculous, when you think about the fact that I started blogging for myself, not for others. I’m so glad you posted this!

  7. Oh Sarah, you certainly have a gift. I loved every word of this.

  8. I loved this post too. I think I will have that TR quote put on a mug for Bill, who is always telling me “they do such and such in the so and so household..” As for jam, I *always* use powdered pectin and got so tired of buying the little boxes I ordered 25 lbs. in bulk, so I can put 5 1/2 or 6 tablespoons in each batch (each package is 5) and ensure a good set. That having been said, last week’s blueberry jam came out a bit TOO jelled and has to be whacked into submission with a knife in order to be spread…

  9. I never knew about vinegar in canning water. Will have to try that one.

    I never use pectin — don’t like the glueyness it brings — but I did manage to get a blueberry jam to set (without pectin) last week, so it can be done. And you can use a syrup/jam on plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream too. Magnificently yummy.

    • Hey, thanks for reading! Yes, the vinegar truly does work. I just pour in a bit after it’s come to the boil and ever since then I have not had cloudy jars.


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