Sunday Things: Winter Jam

Red, fragrant, delicious, I’m not talking about music when I refer to winter jam. But I might as well be, the way that this jam is music to your taste buds, hums in your throat as you swallow it, puts a song in your heart like the one you can’t get out of your head.

Winter jam, jam wherein the warmth and savor of summer are conjured through small batches of love in a jar. Some people call it strawberry jam, but this is no ordinary strawberry jam. Made in the depths of winter and with one secret ingredient this jam, in its quilted jars, sparkles like jewels, like rubies, in your hand.

To make winter jam, you need to be able to scoop at least one handful of snow off your windowsill. That handful of snow will go into the big canning pot as part of the water bath for the jars. If you can’t do that — scoop a handful of snow off your windowsill for the big pot — then what you are making is just-jam, not winter jam.*

I live five floors up and I was still able to grab a handful of snow from my windowsill because the wind blew it there.

Something about that handful of snow makes the water bubble all the merrier and the strawberries blush all the redder. Something about incorporating snow, the very stuff of winter, right into your jam-making process is magical. Just telling you so you’ll know.

Use your favorite jam recipe, cook it up (the aroma of summer will fill your snowed-in home as you do this), ladle it into jars (notice how it sparkles and throws prisms of strawberry light around the room). And if you share your winter jam with friends and family be prepared to lock the door behind them because they will be pounding on it asking for more.

Some things you can do with winter jam:
Just look at it in its jar, so red, so bright, enjoy the visual beauty of winter jam.
Eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar.
Spread it on hot toasted bread (with or without butter).
Dollop it on scones and clotted cream.
Layer it in your homemade jelly roll (my mom always made jelly rolls–the best ever!–when I was growing up).
Use it as a topping for ice-cream. Yum!

*And that handful of snow has to be fresh and clean even though it is going to be boiled in the big pot along with the rest of the water that you will submerse the sealed jars in.

An adventure (with swear words)!

So I got stuck on the iced bridge over Energy Park Drive as I was trying to get from Roseville (where I had just picked up my daughter) to St. Paul. I was driving on Snelling Ave., heading South. As I came to the incline up the hill of the bridge I saw that drivers were getting over into the right lane because the left lane had a blue van stuck in the left lane facing us–the oncoming traffic.

I would have been OK had the traffic just continued at a slow but constant pace. But, no. Traffic slowed and then stopped leaving me in the position of not being able to move forward because I have one of the very few (special-special) NON 4 wheel drive Jeeps in Minnesota. My tires spun like champion Olympic ice-skaters out to win the gold. And then they spun some more. I moved not one bit forward even though I was using all the tricks I knew. And swearing. Swearing that steamed the windows up and curled the air’s ears in embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the traffic started backing up behind me. And then, in the midst of wheels spinning, sailor-cussing, and moving the steering wheel left and right in an attempt to gain traction, drivers started passing me on BOTH SIDES.

As the cars passed me on both sides, like a school of fish splitting to go around a sunken boat and them reforming to continue downstream, this allowed a SEMI to come up behind me. Well as it turns out the semi-truck driver was my guardian angel today because he got out of his cab (my heart leaping with hope as I saw him approaching in my rear view mirror) and came to the passenger side to talk to us.

“Is she running?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said “I had to turn it off because it was getting too hot.”
“It was overheating.” my daughter explained.
“It runs,” I continued “But I can’t move forward at all.”
“Is she a 2 wheel drive?” he asked.
“Yes.” I admitted.
“I’ve got one just like her, two door like yours too.” He said. “Let me get some sand and help you out of here.”

And that is what he proceeded to do. He kept putting sand down as I moved forward until I was up on the top of the bridge and ready to roll.

“Thank you so much!” I said. He smiled and winked and hurried back to his semi-truck as my daughter thanked him too — yelling it after him and adding “You’re a beautiful person!”

Yes. Yes he was. I wish I had thought to get his phone number in the midst of the traffic backup and mayhem all around us because I would be making that man a dinner to thank him.

And here is the side-eye I had for the people passing on both sides.

Image courtesy

Something beautiful on this Wednesday

Note: I pressed ‘publish’ on this post early this afternoon and then ran out the door to an appointment. The whole time I’ve been thinking this published and it did not (I shake my fist at you, Internet Gods!). But here it is anyway at 8:18 PM.

The sunshine is dazzlingly beautiful today. The snow is 100 watt light-bulb bright and every bird, it seems, is singing. I have been missing Florida but I have to say that the extremes of ice and bright sunshine, cold air (34 °F) and palpable warmth — the warmth from the sun touching my skin in what feels like a lover’s touch tracing the shape of my face, my fingers all the way out to the tips, every bit of exposed skin — are making me feel the love for Minnesota today.

When I first moved to Minnesota I had that odd experience that some people get, who have lived where there is a lot of sand but no snow, of seeing snow covered areas in brief flashes as being covered not in snow but in white sand, a trick of the mind superimposing the known and expected over the similarities of the new and blurring them together.

I am always interested in the way that our minds arrange our perceptions for us and, conversely, how our perceptions arrange our minds for us.

And I am thinking about the power of transformation today too and the way that something as simple, and at the same time, as cavernously complex as transformation can work a wonder on things — things that may hurt or sting or make us sad — can take those hurtful things and shape them and form them into something that we can not only live with but be happy with, find beauty and the serenity of peace with in the actions wrought through the hands of change with transformation as grace and our own will as a primitive power akin to the sea or the wind — like the glass on Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California.

Here is something beautiful to look at (besides the glorious day) on this Wednesday

Photo of Fort Bragg Glass Beach by Floris Van Breugel

For years Fort Bragg residents dumped their garbage over the cliffs owned by the Union Lumber Company and onto the beach below. They threw household refuse, glass, old stained mattresses and broken appliances.  You name it and they threw it over the cliffs and onto the beach. Even abandoned vehicles were pushed over the cliffs to crash on the beach which became known as “The Dumps” to locals.

“The California State Water Resources Control Board and city leaders closed the area in 1967. Various cleanup programs were undertaken through the years to correct the damage. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleaned the beach,
by breaking down everything but glass and pottery and tumbling those
into the small, smooth, colored pieces that cover Glass Beach.” — Source

Where can we ever get away from the consequences of our actions
here on this Earth of ours? If we put something in the ocean it comes back to lap at
our feet, if we shoot it into the air it falls back down eventually
showering onto our heads. And the same is true of trying to get away
from our actions towards others in our lives — the things that we do are not going anywhere. The only thing we can do, if we are minded to
make a positive difference, is to take the broken things, the trash, the
actions we regret, and find the beauty that is waiting to be set free like beach glass from
trash — through living our lives in good and productive ways that act like the waves of the sea endlessly enacting transformation.

Sunday Things: Meanwhile, Gnar

Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall
By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)

Continued from previous installment.

The very next morning I met Erhaiel’s entire family of three-colored whiskras: six brothers, seven sisters, assorted mates and children of said siblings and Erhaiel’s mother, a grand queen of a whiskra who stood out from her many children and her household in not being a three-colored whiskra. Her glossy fur shone singularly in gold. The whole household saw us off after a delicious breakfast made boisterous by chatter and laughter and even (if you can believe they gave themselves over to such a thing while there was eating to be done) snatches of song.

As I walked beside Erhaiel back up the winding steps which swirled with (I now knew) nothing less than dragon breath, I had no idea what would happen at the end of the trail when we caught up with Gnar and the Verms — other than that we would get Gnar back. I also had no idea of how things were going for Gnar (I was guessing since he was with Verms — bad).

Well you don’t have to wonder, because I am going to tell you what I was only to find out later.


Gnar found himself being led away, his neck enclosed in a magic dampening device of the Verms making, a specialty of theirs for dealing with Great Wolves. The Verm (rightly) feared to approach a lone Great Wolf in anything less than a mob.

Why did the Verms take such a risk to get the wolf? Because they wanted me. But thanks to Gnar and the cloak that Latham gave me, they never even saw me. They had heard that the Great Wolf was traveling with a girl (me) and when they didn’t find me with him they decided to use him as bait to lure me to them.

Why me? What could they possibly want with me? Want enough to brave a Great Wolf? Well. It turns out that they had somehow got it into their ugly heads that I had come into possession of one of the stones of Ydna: the Flame Stone.

To be continued.