Today I Took A Jam Break


When I tell my kids I’m going to do something, I do my best to deliver. I had a mountain of work to finish today and didn’t really have time to dedicate the day to all things strawberry. But I said I would take them strawberry picking and today was the last day for U-pick at the strawberry farm we go to every year, so we put on our sun block and hats and headed out to the fields.

We picked 13 pounds of strawberries pretty fast, stopped for ice cream on the farm and then booked it back home where I spent the next several hours hulling and smashing and stirring those berries into jam with intermittent assistance from Amelia. (Abby was practicing for her upcoming video game tournament debut next week at the library.)

That’s the thing about strawberry picking – the more you pick, the more work you have to do when you get home. I knew I wouldn’t get much else done today if we went to the farm, but I also know how important it is to follow through on the things we tell our kids. Most of my work deadlines are self-imposed and sometimes I get so busy that I forget why I let go of the security of working for a large company and getting a fat check every week. I let go of the money to gain the priceless freedom to not work on a Saturday and be able to drop everything and go to the strawberry patch with my kids.

It seems unfathomable that I could actually forget this, but I do. I often say: “I don’t have time”  when really I control how I spend my time. It’s crazy to think that we can get so busy that we forget that we have options. I decide how I spend my days and I have the power to stop the treadmill of endless work and take a break. I can do that, but I usually don’t. I usually just keep plowing through. I’m going to work on hitting pause more often.

Somewhere in the middle of the second batch of jam I shook off the anxious feeling I get when I have a lot of work to do and end up doing something that’s not on the list. Today I surrendered to the the rhythm of jam-making. Wash the berries, chop, hull, repeat. Smash, mix, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir. Pour. Seal. Repeat.

I like making jam. It’s time consuming work, but I quite enjoy the satisfaction that comes with recognizing the moment when the jam jells and hearing the “pop” of lids when a successful seal is achieved. And, really, is there anything more lovely in the kitchen than seeing 25 fresh and beautiful jars of bright red jam sitting on the  counter?

Today, I did some work for my family. I made us some jam. My only regret is that I rushed the girls a little bit in strawberry field. We could have lingered longer at the farm. We didn’t have to rush. The other work will get done. And it will get done better if I give myself a chance to relax and recharge. It’s so important to slow down now and then. Life isn’t a race, it’s a journey.

I hope you take the time to make some jam this summer, too. My favorite strawberry jam recipe is the one by Lydia Adams that I featured in the summer 2011 issue of CraftSanity Magazine (issue 3). And as I type, my dehydrator is drying a fresh batch of strawberry fruit rollups. I used Alana’s recipe, but skipped the cayenne pepper. (I’m going to let my kids sample the non-spicy version first. :  ) I’ll let you know how the taste test goes, so stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below about what you’re making.

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